If there are people who feel that teachers are just slackers who only want to work for 180 days and have summers off then gym teachers are to teachers what teachers are to everyone else.
One of my first experiences in the classroom was as a substitute teacher who was called in to substitute for a Physical Education teacher. I was certified in Speech/Theater and English and was promised that I would only be called in to substitute for teachers in the discipline for which I’d been trained. This by the way is the first disillusionment that all teachers must face when being hired: that you actually will be asked to teach something that you have been trained to teach. The second is the belief that a classroom full of students will be naturally inclined to listen to you.
So when I answered the phone that morning and was told that I would be substituting for a gym teacher my immediate response was, “but I don’t know anything about teaching gym.” Obviously I’d given myself away as a rookie. I’d used teaching and gym in the same sentence, and the sub caller replied. “Don’t worry. When you get there you’ll meet with a supervisor and complete plans and instructions will be provided for you.
So off I went and when I arrived at school I was met by another Phys Ed teacher who handed me a clipboard and, noticing my apprehension, looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, just take attendance and say, “play.” Substituting for gym became my favorite assignment.
And who could blame me? Who wouldn’t want to go to work everyday in shorts and wind breakers and play? It’s like being a professional athlete without having to be an athlete. Funny how society likes to pay to watch people play well together but doesn’t like to pay people who teach others how to play well together…anyway, I understand why we ask our gym teachers to also be our sports coaches and athletic advisers, they already have the wardrobe, but I’ve often wondered why we ask them to also teach health?
Back in the 1960s it was our gym teachers/football coaches who taught us that experiencing blurred vision, hallucinations and extreme thirst during two-a-day football practices were not signs of dehydration and possible stroke but rather were signs of a young man’s desire to want to become mama’s little boy again or better yet wanting to trade his penis in for a young girl’s sexual organ!
“I’m thirsty coach. Can I get a drink?”
“What are you a baby?! Whadda we have here, a bunch of goddamn girls?! Now drop and give me 20!”
“But I can’t feel my arms coach!”
“Then give me 30! And no water until practice is over you little babies!”
Coaches were never on the cutting edge of scientific theory as far as I could tell but still we always put them in charge of health. Instead of getting Gatorade during practice we used to get salt pills! Perhaps the science departments would be better suited to teach our young children these classes. After all I think we can thank science for Gatorade. Coaches maybe invented spitting and sweating… Just a thought.