My first memory of phys ed was Miss Chen yelling at me for not being able to serve a volleyball over the net. It was grade 6, my first year in a new school, and I don’t think I’d ever held a volleyball before. In fact, I don’t recall having physical education classes at all prior to that year. The small town elementary school that I’d come from was overcrowded. When I was in grade 1, the gym had served as our classroom and after that, I only remember going there for school-wide assemblies.
Miss Chen also taught us health. She was an odd and intimidating person. I remember her standing at the front of the classroom doing callisthenics while she taught. Her explosion on the volleyball court did nothing to persuade this uncoordinated, timid child that physical education was a good thing.
In high school, I was the gawky kid who hated phys ed, all except gymnastics. I remember the year that each student had to plan, practice and perform her own gymnastics routine to music. I chose the 1967 hit, Love is Blue. Though I wasn’t able to manage some of the more difficult gymnastics moves like walkovers and handsprings, I remember that my routine started with an arabesque and incorporated other ballet poses and moves that I’d learned in the dance classes that my mother had insisted I take when I was younger. My teacher loved it. It was my shining moment in phys ed! She even wanted me to enter my routine in the high school talent show that year, but I was too shy.
Over the years as a teacher in a small rural school, I taught almost every subject at one time or another, but never phys ed. How remarkable then that one evening this week, I found myself in my basement teaching a couple of friends the exercises that I begin my days with as well as the weight lifting routine that I follow three times a week! Me, teaching anyone phys ed? Wow! Take that Miss Chen!