It’s Jog-a-thon time again folks! School jog-a-thons are great! (Run, Forrest! Run!). Forget about raising money for the schools and building in a life full of healthy exercise habits for the children, because nothing beats these school-wide events for the fabulous experiments in childhood personality testing that they are. They are simply designed to reveal the psychological make up of these future citizens of the world. Today marked my 7th annual jog-a-thon. Since I have six kids that means there are only 26 more to go! (I said run dammit! Don’t stop. Don’t ever stop.)
I am happy to report that today’s event had all the usual cast of characters: there’s the kids that totally buy into the process and give it their all, competition etched fierce and intense on their faces as they compete against their own personal best. There’s the one’s who try and game the system cutting around the inside of cones to shave the distance until some authority figure steps in with a lesson in accountability. The are the one’s who treat the whole things as a social event, chatting and waylaying anyone who crosses their path as they check their hair and clothing, and there are the one’s who try to minimize their enforced participation in the whole event by loafing at the water station until they are flushed out by an observant teacher to run another lap.
Some of them live totally in the moment, the Forrest Gumps, god love them. You say “Run!” and they do…backwards, the wrong way, across fields, swarming around teachers, off they go, startled into action, never once asking questions about why they are being made to run in endless circles. And then there are my personal favorites, the ones who pass you on each lap, giving you that look that says they’re going to give up every state secret they know. They’re not sure how it’s happened to them, but they know they have somehow stumbled into some school-sponsored program whose design was first conceived at Guantanamo.
I’m always late to volunteer for these events and that places me at the water station (I guess the thinking here goes, “if you can’t get organized enough to volunteer on time, how will you ever be organized enough to mark laps on the back of their bibs?”). But whatever, I’m just glad to help out. And it’s always the same at the water station. After approximately a lap and a half the entire grade level hits that water station all at once, panting like little Olympians. Kids are great the way they can run a ¼ mile and still look as if they were in the final 100 meters of the New York Marathon. From there on out, they will collectively stop for water on every single lap, and manage to look progressively worse every time you see them until you are finally forced to ask if they’d like the paramedics to be brought onto the field. All this takes place to the high-energy sounds of Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas. The dissonance is thick by the end of it, I can assure you.
And when they’re done they get…a Popsicle. I wouldn’t take that deal any day of the week, so you’ve got to admire their willingness to get behind a call to action, and I’m a big fan of randomly tormenting the children. It gets them ready for life in the
rat race glorious world ahead of them. When the music finally dies down and the Popsicle sticks have been collected, they round up these sweaty, sticky, over-stimulated little people and return them to their classes for the rest of the days education. I’ve often wondered what that looks like, but I’ve never had the courage to stay and find out.
Another especially good example of this kind of behavior-revealing activity can be found in the science class. Want to get to know your child and his friends at their deepest level? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Frog Dissection! In our district this year, the 5th graders were broken up into groups of four, given sharp implements and this guy…
Let the mayhem begin! Here’s what I saw during that exercise; some kids excused themselves to step outside in discomfort about 38 times, and though many of them just seemed to use it as an excuse to wander aimlessly around, a couple of them stayed out there for the entire class due to a true inability to embrace the spirit of animal autopsy. A few of the kids were very scientific as they went about the business of cataloging frog parts and a small number were unable to complete the dissection due to the gross out factor. And at least one table, made up entirely of girls, never even began the dissection because the group kept breaking down over leadership issues and personality conflicts. And lastly, there were a few boys at work in that house of horrors who did things to those frogs that made me think of a scene from the movie “Con Air” where Steve Buscemi’s character Garland Greene says “One girl… I drove through three states wearing her head as a hat.” Those are the one’s who will probably become doctors one day.
Think back…which one were you? In the mean time, volunteer, you can’t beat it for the opportunity to learn and be horrified. Plus, it helps out the schools.