"Jumping rope is for girls."
I was prepared for this. I had a list of plenty of macho sports type figures who used jumping rope as part of their training. I felt that it was important for me to be able to take that edge off the activity we were about to experience in PE. Our school is about to embark on The Heart Healthy Challenge, in which they will be supporting their own aerobic health as well as bringing awareness to kids across the country who suffer from heart defects and difficulties.
Wouldn't you like to grab a jump rope and show the world how fit you are? Just like Muhamad Ali. "Who?" I meant Lionel Messi. "Oh. Messi jumps rope?"
And so on. The really tough nuts were the kids who, even at nine and ten years old, had never tried skipping rope. I have some distant memories of being the round kid with limited native coordination and feeling like jumping rope was a distant dream, and not a simple reality of the playground. These extend to an image of pony-tailed girls literally twirling and dancing with their jump ropes in circles around me.
That is why I chose to be sensitive to those who might feel a bit of a pang about working out their own jump rope demons in front of their peers. Scott was one of these. A third grader who is generally quite affable and willing to take on something new, he shied away from our colorful new plastic ropes. He waited for the directions to be given for the activity, Jump Rope Four Square, before coming up to me and quietly confessing the truth: "Mister Caven, I don't know how to jump rope."
For Scott and those like him, I was offering a safe space adjacent to the more competitive crew where students could take their time working out the mystery of what I was asking them to do. I alternated between the game, which mostly ran itself once kids started to figure it out, and the small group that was taking on rope jumping for the very first time.
About halfway through our fifty minute period, I noticed that Scott had given up on the solo practice and joined one of the lines for Jump Rope Four Square. As I watched, he made his way through and managed to keep up with some of the other kids. Not the hardcore, but the amateurs. When the class was over, he made a point of coming up to me. "That was fun, Mister Caven!"
And that was good.
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