White Men Can't Jump...But Levitate?

It’s true. It’s been my sad and woeful battle with gravity for years. My jumping suggests that perhaps gravity has an abnormally negative effect on me. Sadly, there is no Rare Gravity Abnormality Syndrome (RGAS for short). Big pharma hasn’t made a pill that will leave me depressed and incontinent to improve my jumping. Extreme density is just nowhere to be found in the medical community. But, I am a sufferer. Maybe the condition will be named after me in years to come.

“I suffer from Bowen’s Gravity,” a jump-less adult will say as they discuss their medical history with a new physician. I once noticed during a pick-up basketball game that a few times when I jumped, my toes never quite got off the ground. Technically, not even jumping. More a very low level ballet move than a legitimate leap.

Oh, but levitate? Sure. I levitate. That’s an easy one. My room of struggling readers laugh when I insist I can levitate.

“But, how can a dude who can barely even jump levitate?”

“Different muscle group being used,” I explain. He’s not sure how to take this. I downplay it all just a bit. “Now, I’m not a master. I’m no Yoda, but I can get a good three or four inches off the ground and float there for quite a while.”

“Three or four inches?! But that’s higher than you can even jump!” We laugh pretty good on that one.

“Different muscle groups,” I say, committed to my story.

“Where did you learn to levitate?”


A girl who has actual family in India smells my bluff.

“Where in India?” she asks, demanding an answer.

“The monks asked that I never disclose their location.” I act mildly agitated. “Look, I’m sorry I mentioned it. Can we just get back to our article?” A hand goes up.


“No one believes you can levitate. I mean NOBODY. Your mom don’t believe you can levitate, your daddy don’t believe it, none of your aunties believe it.” I shrug.

“Prove it,” someone calls out.

“That’s too vulgar a display of power,” I reply. And that’s a line straight out of The Exorcist. Google it sometime.

“You know you can’t do no levitations.”

“Fine. Move back a little. I need some room.” With a sense of urgency you rarely see in a teenager, desks and kids are moved away from me like I’m parting the sea. “And this does require some concentration. Like I said, I’m not an expert. So I’ll need it to be quiet.” Instantly, only the hum of the air conditioner and my deep trance-like breathing can be heard. Promise a good show and the puberty crowd will shut up for you. Or course, to keep this a viable tool in your arsenal, you have to deliver. I decide to chant. I’m really feeling it. It’s a very bad impersonation from a CD I once had of Tibetan monks. They can’t possibly appreciate how bad it is. They think it’s legit.

I stop. Mid-chant. A room of breathing thirteen-year-olds seem to collectively hold their breath. And then it happens. I rise from the ground. I am levitating. There is a loud, uniformed gasp. One girl, lost in the spectacle, yells “Oh Sh*t!” I let it go. One, because clearly I am in a trance that should not be broken. And two, it’s not every day your teacher floats above the ground. I let out a final breath and slowly lower to the floor. Kids are shocked. A thunderous applause goes up. I bow.

Now, a good magician never reveals his tricks, but a good teacher does if it leads to some high interest reading.

“How did you do that?”

“The monks prefer I never speak of it.”

“Come on.”

“Want to know how I did it?” And they clearly do. “Here you go.” I hand out the summary I wrote from the levitation DVD I purchased early in the year. I’ve been perfecting this move for several months. I even purchased a pair of shoes a size too big so I could slip out of the back shoe rather easily. That’s some serious lesson planning, if you ask me. But the pay-off is huge. Every kid is riveted by the secret I have given them. I didn’t quite get the same response from the book’s article on helicopter parents. Getting them to write their brief summaries of the article is easy.

“So, I guess monks didn’t write this, huh?”

Critical thinking and prior knowledge tapped. Anyone that wants to come in and try it out in front of the class can do so for a serious helping of extra credit. I get a few takers over the next month or so. I get even more extra credit performers next month when I teach them a great card trick. Card decks are a buck a pack at The Dollar Tree. That helps.

And think about all the skills involved. Listening. Reading. Rereading for clarification. Speaking. And the classroom capital I garner from this? It’s considerable. And when I need it, I spend it freely. Kids have done assignments as a favor to me. Capital well spent.

Interest. Curiosity. It’s common sense, but sadly often overlooked. It’s the great intrinsic incentive. And we squash it at every turn. It’s a muscle that must be strengthened, and a habit that must be formed. Make it a habit and some of them may even start to grow curious about the topics that you deem important. For some, they might even seem magical.


For more inspiring classroom stories, please check out Mr. Bowen’s recent bestseller, Our Kids: Building Relationships in the Classroom.


Feature image courtesy of Unsplash, dan carlson.

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