Class Dismissed

February 01, 1990 4 min read

Twenty-five years ago, that challenge got the elementary school boys in Idaho Falls, Idaho, hopping mad. It got them hopping, too: They began training with then-physicaleducation instructor Terry Jensen for the districtwide jump-rope competition he was organizing. Today, the annual event draws more than 1,000 boys and girls from 13 schools and rivals the district’s track meets in popularity and prestige. Official medals are awarded Olympics-style to the best male and best female jumpers in three grade divisions.

“I started this event because of the boys,’' says Jensen, now the district’s physical-education and athletic coordinator. “I knew jump roping was a super, all-around exercise not just for cardiovascular health, but for coordination and balance, too. The boys thought it was a sissy thing to do. Putting it in competitive terms did the trick.’'

And speaking of tricks, jumping rope--which has caught on across the country and earned the endorsement of the American Heart Association--now has lingo and maneuvers to rival basketball’s: Hot peppers (fast jumping) and Double Dutch (two ropes turning simultaneously) have been joined by the CanCan, Wounded Duck, and other freestyle dance moves executed as the rope whips around. The most difficult feat involves three separate ropes: Two children turn a long rope as two others jump in and turn a second, shorter rope; a third jumper then slips in and jumps solo between the two middle jumpers. “Those who end up the winners know it’s a great honor,’' Jensen notes.

While the competition is only open to 4th, 5th, and 6th graders, Jensen makes sure the jump rope remains part of the athletic program throughout high school. Players on all sports teams--boys as well as girls--train with 2-to-3 pound ropes to keep in top form.

Hounded By Bush

Millie, the nation’s “First Dog,’' will have no private life at all if President Bush keeps visiting schools. The President has been using his talks with schoolchildren to confess the sins of his mischievous pup. He told one class that Millie likes to roll in smelly things. To another, he revealed that she has caught rabbits, squirrels, pigeons, and a rat since moving into the White House. Maybe the next time the President visits an elementary school the world will find out whether Millie has fleas.

Mommy, It’s A Modigliani

Parents and teachers can now help upwardly mobile toddlers get a head start on their cocktail-party conversation skills. A new handbook, Mommy, It’s a Renoir!, introduces children ages 3 to 12 to the wonderful world of art appreciation through games played with postcard reproductions of famous works. The postcards come in four sets, from easy to advanced.

“The earlier this exposure [to art] occurs, the more likely that genuine taste will become truly a part of a person’s nature,’' the guide notes. According to a spokesperson from Parent-Child Press, which distributes the postcard reproductions and handbook, “quite a few’’ school systems-- including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee--are using the sets.

Sticky Questions

Over the decades, chewing gum has plagued teachers-- both in the mouths of students and on the undersides of their desks. Then along comes Robert Young, an elementary school teacher and freelance writer from Eugene, Ore.-- obviously the kind of guy who sees a silver lining in every cloud. Young has written The Chewing Gum Book (Dillon Press, Minneapolis) and suddenly the annoying substance has become an educational vehicle.

Teachers can now send bubbleblowing students to this book to discover all sorts of facts about the sticky stuff: For example, swallowed gum takes from one to three days to pass through the digestive system. And for those who’ve always wanted to know the size of the biggest bubble ever blown, or the most popular flavor of gum, the answers to these and many other pressing questions can be found in this book.

Unsafe At Any Age

Some years ago, an elementary school teacher apparently figured out in time what General Motors didn’t discover until too late: that Ralph Nader could be trouble.

According to Rose Nader, mother of the consumer advocate, Nader was able to read and write by the time he was 3 1/2 years old. Shortly after he entered the 1st grade, his teacher came to her and said: “I think he’d better go to the 2nd grade. He asked me today if he could help me teach.’'

Things Could Be Worse

Your teaching contract may not be all you would like, but it probably looks pretty good compared with what teachers at a southern school had to sign, circa 1920. Its provisions included:

I promise to take a vital interest in all phases of Sunday school work, donating of my time, service, and money without stint for the uplift and benefit of the community.

I promise not to go out with any young men except insofar as it may be necessary to stimulate Sunday school work.

I promise not to fall in love, to become engaged, or secretly married.

I promise to sleep at least eight hours a night, [and] to eat order that I may be better able to render efficient care to my pupils.

Can I Carry Your Candy To Class?

Here’s one notebook students won’t leave at home: It looks like the classic Rorschach-patterned composition book, but it’s a package of Sneaky Snacks candy in disguise.

And according to Topps, the company that makes Sneaky Snacks-- and Bazooka bubble gum--the shenanigan is only the beginning. The company plans to follow up the “notebook’’ with a pink candy-filled “eraser.’'

“We didn’t set out to create ways for kids to sneak candy in class,’' says Kenneth Liss, a spokesman for Topps. “Kids are always trying to get away with little things, and this candy is just in the spirit of that fun.’' In keeping with that spirit, the company has printed one of 12 sassy slogans on each box. They include: “Just say no to lunch!’' and “Approved by the Bored [sic] of Education.’'

A version of this article appeared in the February 01, 1990 edition of Teacher as Class Dismissed