And do you know what I’m doing in PE?
Yes, a RO… DE… O.
It involves bringing in things like stick horses and lassos and stuffed, sheep-like animals, that aren’t really sheep. The thing about third graders is that they can use their imaginations.
“See this stuffed Simba from The Lion King? Well, today… he’s a sheep.” The third grade brain giggles… and accepts it.
The rodeo involves making posters and having children sign up for the events that they’d like to participate in, and then timing all the participants in all of the events, and making sure that the kids sitting on the side of the bull pen aren’t so bored that they begin throwing stray basketballs into the arena and tripping the barrel rider. A broken leg on a stick horse never pans out well, and then I have to call parents and explain that we put Black Beauty down in PE. Bored kids on the edge of the bull pen are not something that you will survive easily, so you’re constantly giving them odd jobs to do at the fairgrounds, just to keep them busy.
“Listen… Simba the sheep, who’s not really a sheep… had a little digestive issue back there, so it would be mighty swell if you could shovel out the pen.”
And then there are the medals, because I have no idea how to make belt buckles, and it isn’t something that you can easily find on Pinterest. Apparently, no one is really all that interested in MAKING belt buckles at their dining room tables as an afternoon craft project. Our little, private Catholic school has zero-point-zero dollars in the budget for PE Rodeo Belt Buckles, but listen: I can buy metal washers from Home Depot, spray paint them gold, silver and bronze, string them up on ribbons, and we can stand like the winners at Olympic events, on tall chairs and medium chairs and short chairs, while everyone hums the National Anthem.
My rodeo winners in the past have all worn their DIY gold, silver and bronze medals around their necks all the live-long day at school, with pride. There’s just something magical for a third grader to stroll through the lunch room, with her gold and silver medals clanging against one another ’round her neck, while all the kindergarten children “ooh” and “ahh” and proclaim that they cannot WAIT to be a big kid and get to do a rodeo in gym class. Also? Well those little 3rd graders have no idea that their PE teacher stayed up into the wee hours of the morning, inhaling toxic fumes from the silver can of spray paint, so that their second-place finish could be distinguished for all to see from the third-place finisher.
We spend a lot of time in my gym during our two-week-long rodeo saying things like, “Yee-haw” and “Giddy-Up” and “I’ve Got Something Sticky On My Cowboy Boot.”
The rodeo is a lot of work, y’all, but it’s a lot of fun, too. It’s a lot of work… and my biggest regret is that I never remember to call food trucks, to see if the funnel-cake makers and the corn dog makers can park out front.
And this year… for the first time… I’m doing my rodeo in May, because my March Madness tournaments back in… well… MARCH, ran long, because OH, MY GOODNESS!!! FINISH THIS GAME ALREADY!!! My March Madness unit, with the giant brackets drawn up on the wall, so that we could LEARN HOW TO DOUBLE-ELIMINATE SOMEONE, turned into March Hysteria, because our games to twenty-four points took sixteen years to get a winner.
And that is why May became the month of the rodeo.
I won’t lie. May PE USUALLY looks exactly like a bunch of dodgeball games, followed by some “recess cleverly disguised as PE outside in the sunshine,” during which I evaluate every child’s ability to swing, cross the monkey bars, illegally tackle someone in soccer on the grassy field, when we are a “no-tackling during recess” kind of school, and listen to complaints of, “It was my turn to be King in Four Square, and he cut in front of me.”
THAT is how May PE is supposed to be. By May, every teacher in every school has already given everything she has, and all she can think about inside her head during class is, “Seriously? I just went to the grocery store yesterday, and I know I forgot to buy grated cheddar, which is what I need to make that casserole for dinner tonight. Oh, well. I guess it’s the Nacho Bell Grande from Taco Bell for the family.”
Next year, I think we’ll start the rodeo in August, when everyone is fresh and eager and still ironing their clothes before bed each night.