“Miss Soha, we got jump rope this week?”

Day in and day out, I would be asked this question, inwardly groan, and respond wearily, “Yup. Thursday afternoon, just like always.”

One of the responsibilities I have as a Health and Fitness Advocate at Penrose Elementary is holding after school clubs. Over the year, we have done everything from Chess Club to “Kidz Fitness,” some only lasted for a few weeks and others have run all year. Jump Rope Club was one of the longest running clubs and extremely popular among the students. Unfortunately, that did not mean it was my favorite club. We met for an hour and half every week but Lisa, my fellow member, and I got to jump for maybe ten minutes. The rest of the time was spent breaking up fights, calming crying students, trying to get everyone quiet enough to listen to directions, or chasing down truant students in the hallways. Countless times, we debated ending the club permanently but always were swayed by how much the kids loved Jump Rope Club. Many of them were overweight and looking for a fun way to exercise. But the club was so difficult to run that it could not continue unchanged.

We decided that every week we should start by sitting all the students down and reviewing our expectations for them. Most of them were fairly standard- don’t hit anyone, don’t call anyone names, ask for permission to leave the room- but by repeating them over and over, the kids got better at following the rules. We also had to add stricter consequences for not listening to the rules- the first time you got a warning, the second time you would leave the club. Finally, using the principle that you can get a kid to do almost anything if you make a game out of it, we decided the student with the best behavior would be the week’s winner. It was incredible to see how the students’ attitudes improved with these changes. They began teaching each other how to double dutch, sharing the equipment, figuring out games they could all play together, and congratulating one another for a job well done. The last Jump Rope Club was last Thursday and I was surprised at how maturely the students acted for the last few weeks and how sad I was to see it end. The best part of my position is that I get to see all the students develop over the year and it is even more thrilling when this occurs in the most unlikely of situations.

-Soha Shah, Health and Fitness Advocate

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