"You’re the best gym teacher ever!"

Today I was roaming the halls during my one lunch break/prep period (probably refilling liquid in my system while unloading the old liquid from it) and a kid says that to me.

“You’re the best gym teacher ever.”

I said what you can assume one should say in such a situation. “Thanks.” Which sounds weird in a bathroom. He’s not the towel guy.

On many other occasions, I’d been on the receiving end of other free-floating and unsolicited opinions regarding myself, my work, and – quite dubiously, since the students can satisfy this curiosity by looking at my left hand or quite possibly asking me – my sexual identity.

Aw, but now the expectations are high, the bar is raised – supposedly to my favor. Yet, not only can I not live up to the hype, I can’t even justify the title. Not “Best”, nor even “Gym Teacher”.

I am a teacher. That’s my trade. That’s my life, my vocation, my calling. And I work in the gym room, for a course called gym, or physical education, as it were. But I’m not really teaching gym in the way that I was (and hopefully, will soon again) teaching English and reading, or math, or life skills to special needs kids. I’m not doing any direct teaching. I am not drilling the students, I am not telling them how to participate in – say- floor gymnastics, in volleyball, or in the life-altering and subtle, suave and dominating game of badminton. The only teaching I do is incidental. It’s mostly through a bit of experience, a bit of coaching, a bit of mediating, a bit of playing ball with the students that I do get some form of teaching in.

What I try to do is to set up a space for the students to play in a safe environment. And this, I feel, is what I would term “good work.”

and at the very least, stressful. And the pay, well, it’s not wonderful. No benefits. But it’s the right job for right now.I’ve had three substitute (actually, four) positions within the last year. And this one is probably the most fun for me, with probably the lowest expectations. Which is not to say that it isn’t scary In fact, it’s something more.

What I am in practical terms is a bit of a mixed bag. I am a facilitator, a gym room custodian, an equipment manager, a sports consultant, a lecturer, a games facilitator, a coach, a baby-sitter, a conflict-resolution counselor, a bouncer, a soccer player, a referee, a reporter, a whistle-blower (of course), a basketball player, a volleyball player, an adult presence…

It’s all a bit physically exhausting for a fat man (who is still weighing in at 240 lbs. on a good day and has a beer belly like Roseanne) who was getting used to sitting down most of the day and still has yet to buy adequate tennies. I get out at by an earlier hour than I am used to, which allows me to daily spend about four hours with my daughter. But even that can be a bit tiring (the other day I could barely hold her going up our steps).

Ultimately, though, I can’t believe that I’m actually paid to do this! I used to volunteer to coach kids. Heck, I used to volunteer to do a lot of the stuff that I’m doing now, but now I have a bit more experience, training and knowledge under my belt and I’m gaining more experience as it comes. I’m playing basketball with people I can beat and train at the same time AND getting paid for it! This is the definition of good work. Doing what you feel is good and right, that fits in with your skills, that challenges, that leaves you feeling a bit graceful, a bit in need of grace, doing what helps others and leaves an impact. Although I’d like a bit more control, a bit more teamwork and a bit more creative license in the future – things that were out of anyone’s control by the time I ended up at this position – that’s the kind of work I want to continue in.

[Note: This post is a preliminary rough draft of the newest chapter in the book I have been working on for the last year. Other, better written drafts or excerpts should appear within the next few weeks/months.]


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