Before Tuesday morning, Peruvian Park first-grade teacher Calbert Beck, a former track and football star whose nickname once upon a time was “The Rocket,” had lost an end-of-the-school-year foot race to kindergarten students for 11 years in a row.
Make it 12.
That scenario played out again — similar race, similar results — when Beck forgot to heed a lesson the students obviously picked up while recently studying “The Hare and The Tortoise Aesop Fable.”
Just like the hare in the famous age-old tale, Beck the Bunny always jumps out to a huge lead. Speed isn’t the problem, even with the former University of Utah football player wearing a full-body pink bunny outfit.
Beck’s struggle in this race is just like the hare’s in the fable. He gets so far ahead of the students with hand-crafted paper tortoise shells on their backs that he foolishly thinks he has enough time to take a nap just before crossing the finish line.
While the hare is asleep, the tortoises creep and creep and creep until slowly, but surely, they pass him up and cross the finish line first.
And just like in the fable, Beck the Bunny wakes up just in time to see that he’s lost the race.
This year, Edgemont Elementary students joined the fun; Edgemont and Peruvian are sharing the Crescent View building while their two schools are being rebuilt. When Beck greeted both schools’ victorious tortoises at the finish line he flashed a big grin and shared one of the mottos the soon-to-be-first-graders will take from this race and adopt next school year: “Slow and steady wins the race!”
Along with the “Hare and Tortoise” reenactment, Beck and his helpers then stage two bunny-free races for just the first-grade students — one for the girls, another for the boys — around the school’s playing fields.
The fun part about these races is that everybody finishes and everybody cheers for the final student to cross the line as much as they do for the first-place finishers.
It’s a fun way for kids in both grades (and from both schools) to learn lessons about perseverance, which is why the energetic and creative ex-track star doesn’t mind if his overall record takes a hit each spring.
“We’ve got a culminating event that touches and feeds off our growth mindset mentality lessons,” Mr. Beck said. “I tell our first-graders their motto is, ‘First-graders should never quit.’ By the end of the year, I tell them, ‘The secret is: you never quit.’”
The kids, who guzzled water and ate fruity snacks during the time out in the sun, were excited to participate and cheer others on.
“It’s all about perseverance and the grit we want to install in kids before they get a bad taste in their mouth with life or academics or anything else,” Mr. Beck said. “That’s what it’s about. It’s not who’s in first. It’s who finishes, and we finish what we start.”
Some bunny just finishes behind everybody else.