Today I had the luxury of being able to take out 60 kids at my school for a solid 80 minutes of running around time. Yeah, you hear me right: the luxury. Sometimes you just need a good solid length of time to really get something going with a class, and to have two classes together in an open field on a warm, sunny day is really a wonderful thing. Some people might get annoyed at having to quiet down all those kids by repeatedly blasting at them with a Fox 40 whistle, but it’s worth it to me.
The irony is that, as a kid, I hated gym class with a passion normally reserved for holy wars. Maybe I didn’t have the best gym teachers (mostly jocks that resented my gross-motor stupidity and anemic colouring). Maybe it was the fact that I was always in gym classes with hypercompetitive lugheads (the kind of guys that you sometimes recognize while watching episodes of Lockup).
Whatever the reason, I left high school vowing never to enter a gymnasium again if I could help it.
Something changed in teacher’s college. My gym teacher was an Olympic medalist from the LA games. By her résumé, she was exactly the kind of person that I would have hated as a kid. But when she taught us – a motley crew of new grads and second-career types – she showed us how to make Phys Ed more than just playing sports. She took the imposingly gigantic gym with all of its cryptic lines and boundaries and unforgiving hardwood, and made it a safe place. She made things fun for me.
These days, I treat teaching gym as a chance to be a kid again, both for me and for the class. This time, however, there is no big dumb jock to make fun of me (I really did hate that grade 8 teacher). I can make up games with goofy rules that don’t favour the swift, the strong, or the coordinated. I can bring out a parachute and have teenagers laughing at flinging dodgeballs with it, the same way that they did when they were in kindergarten. We can play Duck Duck Goose and not care when we get beaten to the open spot because it’s fun the keep saying “Duck, duck, duck,” while gently cuffing people in the back of the head.