Guiding: He’s an Idiot & R Kelly

Eric Lamar
3 min readApr 15, 2024


Students and those who come with them

The city and its environs are awash with students from afar.

The kids have “adults” in tow; the various species include teachers and parents. Parents fall under the genus chaperone, a misnomer if ever there was one.

A week ago, I had a group with about twenty students and an equal number of parent-chaperones, a recipe for trouble. They have a simple job — keep the kids with me and walking on the right side as we (hopefully) progress. Most chat or type away on their phones while occasionally pausing to give me advice about what to do or say, “Aren’t you going to tell them about…” I’ve often done just that but they were too distracted to notice.

The best groups have a few seasoned teachers and no parents. (I once had a teacher who told students 15 minutes into the first stop “You’re starting to piss me off.” I knew I was in good hands with her.)

But teachers can be a pain, too.

One recently said to me, as I gently tried to prod the group out the door of the hotel to begin touring, “You have to understand, we’ve never been here before.” I wanted to ask who besides a guide would be more likely to understand that? Instead, I smiled beatifically as if I had just received great wisdom.

This same teacher then referred to another teacher as an “idiot”; only with great restraint did I not mutter “takes one to know one.”

Thankfully though, it’s all about the kids.

After telling one group that the National WW ll Memorial cost about $100M to build, one student observed, “That’s as much as four Olive Gardens.”

Long ago I realized that with 50 kids, someone will always have to pee and it’s not my problem. One rascally youth came up to me as we walked up the hill to the Capitol and exclaimed, “Billy Bob really has to pee.” I assumed he was referring to himself (or perhaps a specific part of him) and I replied, “You, my friend, are about to build some character” as the next bathroom was a good 20 minutes away.

Six-graders, having left the sweetness of fifth-graders far behind, can be surprisingly snarky. At the Capitol we stopped at the memorial tree for Anne Frank and I quizzed them about her and her place in history. Twenty minutes later, once through security and inside the building, one little urchin, waist high to me, came up and asked if R. Kelly also had a memorial tree. I gave him my best “go away, you’re bothering me” look in return.

But hey, I can still pull it off: I was with eight-graders at Arlington Cemetery last week. I’ve worked to condense the story of the unknown soldiers at the Tomb into about three terse minutes. As I finished up, I saw one young student with a single tear running down his cheek.

History felt, mission accomplished.