Sunday, August 12, 2012

Gym Class Memoir

It's Sunday afternoon and I know I need to workout. I don't want to. It's hot and I feel like taking a nap instead. That's my way of avoiding a workout. Instead of a taking a nap I decided to write a blog post because it will make me feel silly for procrastinating. So a thought has taken over. Why was I not properly educated in physical fitness? I took gym classes from pre-K through 10th grade. It seems that I should have understood something.

Honestly, I don't have any good memories attached to physical education past the 2nd grade. 3rd grade is when I remember running the dreaded "mile". We would line up on our field, our coach would tell us how many times we had to run around to complete a mile, she would blow her whistle and we were off. For a girl who enjoyed riding her bike and walking, running felt weird. My teacher never encouraged me. She would just snap at me, "Keep going." She never said it in a positive way either. My best advice came from another classmate would told me to bend my elbows and keep them at my side so I met less resistance.

Fast forward to middle school. Chunky Karen had to run in front of her peers. I inherited my mother's knees. There is nothing wrong with them but they have a distinct shape and the back of them aren't magazine-cover ready. Oh and I should point out that I wasn't completely out of shape in middle school. I took jazz classes, Irish Step Dancing classes, was part of the town cheer leading squad and was part of my school's competitive cheer leading squad. I could dance like nobody's business but I could not run for long periods of time.

I had a really great gym teacher, but of course he focused his energies into the boys and girls who were athletic and could already master running and other exercises. He cheered me on when I did 40 push-ups in a row and told me I could complete that mile no matter what, even if I had to walk. There was the positive I needed, but I wish someone had taught me how to pace myself when I ran. How to start small and build up to completing a mile run in under 15 minutes - that is usually how long it took. And when I did feel confident the resident girl bully make sure I felt ten times as small. I remember her whispering, very loudly to a popular girl in our class who I used to be friends with, "Why do the back of her knees look like that? Yours don't and mine don't." It was humiliating.

Now I am in high school. Once again the dreaded "mile" run is the fixture for 10th grade P.E. and I sucked. There are no other words than that. And once again my P.E. teacher took to the students who were part of sports teams and could already perform with outstanding times. Once again I wish someone would have taken the time to train me, to teach me.

As an educator I realize how important is to celebrate the successes of the students who understand a concept right away. I was trained on how to keep them climbing up the success ladder. On the other hand I have to realize how important it is to focus on the student who is struggling. It's not that the student will never understand the concept being taught it's just that he or she needs more guidance. I'll give that student equal attention to make sure that he or she is successful. It's differentiated instruction, it's scaffolding, it's support. Why did my gym teachers never do that for me? I grew up thinking I was just not meant to be good at anything athletic. So now that I am trying on my own it's really hard. I still have that mind frame that if I fail at my exercises it's because I was never really meant to be good at them any way. I am just the book smarts kind of girl.

I'm 24 and I feel like I have to start training myself to get more physical activity in my life as if I were 6 again. So be it. I hope that children out there who were like me growing up are getting better learning opportunities in health than me. I hope that there is a gym teacher out there who believes every child can achieve physical fitness but some may have to have more guidance along the way. Personally, I am going to teach myself to be better so that I can teach my own children. I don't want them to end up like me in their young adult lives.

Well that was all the encouragement I needed. Here's to day one of C25K. I'll tell you all about that. I am so excited!

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