Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jump Roping Tutors?

Is it possible, you ask?

In Seoul, any kind of tutoring is possible. In this city of strivers you can pay for jump roping lessons in English or in Korean.

Why, you ask?

So your child can win the annual jump roping competition at school.

I was invited to lunch today at sixth grader Yoo Jin Seo's house.  When I arrived she brought out a binder full of certificates and a stack of medals displaying her awards in penmanship, book reports, English summer camp, and jumping rope.  She also performed a speech for me -- about her dream of becoming an anchor for CNN who will be "at the center of world events"-- that recently earned her first place in a speech competition.

I was impressed by her many accomplishments, including her job as a reporter for the Blue House student newspaper. But I was very curious about the jump roping.

She explained how the competition works: Boys and girls are separated. When the teacher says "start," students jump rope. When they trip or stop, they must sit down. The last person jumping gets top prize.

How long can this last?

Yoon Jin, now 12 years old, said she jumped for 40 minutes one year, until only she and one other friend were left.

"I didn't want to lose," she said.

"She just kept jumping," said her mother.  "She wouldn't stop."  She was so exhausted when she finally sat down that her teacher called home to see whether she should call the paramedics.

Yoon Jin says she did not get a tutor for her jump roping. She practiced alone in the parking lot in the weeks before the competition. But it's not uncommon to get coaching ahead of the big day. "Why not get a tutor? It's nice to help your children earn some distinction," a friend of Yoon Jin's mother explained to me.

Yoon Jin's silver medal in jump roping may not help her a lot in her future academic career, but she keep them proudly displayed in her collection of accomplishments, which she plans to submit when she applies for specialized middle schools or high school or even college.

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