Dear Former Gym Teacher,
So on Sunday, I set out for my scheduled long run. It started out rough as it was staying darker longer and I was trying to get out earlier to beat the heat. Well after about 30 minutes of tossing and turning and fighting those inner demons in my head, I managed to pull myself out of bed and get ready.
As usual when it comes to my long runs, I tossed around different routes in my head and which way did I want to go today. Down the paved trail where I would find rolling hill after rolling hill, or did I want to go through the park, where it was mostly flat, however I would have to circle passed my parked car at some point? I ended up choosing the paved trail so I wouldn’t have to go passed my parked car and be tempted to call it good.
I’m sure dear former gym teacher, you would be so proud, I chose to go the path less traveled and “most difficult” in my mind. So my run started out like any of my other runs despite the fact that it was already warm and a little too balmy outside.
Dear former gym teacher, you have to understand that on my long runs, my thoughts range greatly. Most of the time, it is with great ideas and things I want to do. Today it was a little different. My thoughts went “dark” so to speak. No I was not running in the dark for those that thought that. I started thinking about growing up and being that “fat kid.” I mean come on, I weighed 186 lbs in 6th grade (and you know, I haven’t even ever told my husband this). I started thinking about when I did I start to feel self-conscious about myself and about my abilities or lack of abilities rather when it came to team sports and physical activity. When do I recall that I started to hate gym and physical activity? I plodded along thinking and thinking and thinking.
It was you that made me learn to hate it and to dislike myself. It was you that made me feel inadvertently self-conscious about myself and my body, even after I later on, became an athlete. Definitely not a choice I made due to any encouragement from you that’s for sure.
I tracked it down to one particular instance. ONE. It only takes on time right? This is it.
I headed to gym like any other day dear former gym teacher with my class and after our daily warm ups, we were instructed to go out and run two laps around the cinder track. TWO. For some, this may not seem like much, but for the 186lb 6th grader, who wore a size 20, this was a lot. Yes, I get that your job is to instill good health, nutrition and fitness in our youngsters, but how you went about it in my case, was NOT helpful
So I remember taking off running to keep up with my classmates, because that’s what all kids do right? Well about a quarter of the way around lap one, I, gasping for air had to stop and walk. I felt defeated but I was determined to keep going, I remember thinking I could walk a bit then start running again. I never saw myself different from others before, until this day. So there I was having to stop and walk because I was gasping for air, when I heard you yell out my name along with a few others and sent us to time out by the football field posts. Coming from the kid that had never gotten in trouble at school, to being reprimanded (in my mind), because I was too fat and couldn’t run 1/2 a mile without having to stop to walk like all of the other kids and your football players. Really? Did you try to come out and run with me, to ENCOURAGE me to keep going? No. Instead I had to sit there in time out, while other kids ran passed me, laughing, giving me “those” looks. Yeah I knew they were talking about me (or at least in my mind with their actions they were) I never held it against them, only you. You were the one that called me out. The shy and quiet kid.
Here, you put me in time out and I was sent home with a letter to my parents telling them all about it (and in my mind that your child is overweight and not good enough). I dreaded having to take that letter home. I was devastated and upset. I was furious and in tears. I remember handing that letter to my mom at bedtime and crying (yet again). I had went all day postponing the inevitable task of announcing my sorryness as a child. I remember my mom reading it and not saying a word. She didn’t get mad at me. She simply signed the paper and hugged me. She loved me no matter what. You on the other hand, dear former gym teacher, did not.
Not only did I have to bring that ridiculous piece of paper back to you signed, but I was reprimanded and had to run that 1/2 mile again WITHOUT walking while the other kids did something else. I remember taking off on that nasty looking, old, beat up cinder track and running, slow this time, because I wasn’t having to “keep up” with anyone. I cried the entire way around those two laps (without stopping yes). I was gasping for air, my legs and knees hurt, my lungs and throat burned, face red I’m sure, but yes I did it. Not because you had motivated me or encouraged me dear former gym teacher, but because I was FURIOUS and because if I didn’t make it, I would have to do it again another day. I. Hated. You.
The time when I needed some encouragement and someone to SHOW me how to be healthy, you did not do that. Instead you reprimanded me for something I couldn’t do. I hated gym ever since. Did you ever think to look that at home what I was dealing with? The fact that my dad suffered from diabetes and was going on kidney dialysis? The fact that I needed some guidance but my parents had too much going on with my dad’s health to help me. Did you think about the long-term effects your choice of “fixing” the problem would do? Did you think about how the kids would treat or see me after that? Did you think about the fact that I needed help, and not being put in timeout? Did you even know I was shy and quiet? I got my feelings hurt easily back then? Did you know because of you, I became aware of the fact that my dad was ashamed of my size? No….
I. Hated. You. It wasn’t for you that’s for sure, that I chose to go out for volleyball. It was because of you that after middle school volleyball, I didn’t try out for high school volleyball, simply because there was a timed mile run and because of you, I was afraid. Afraid of running. Afraid of failure. Afraid of being made fun of even despite the fact that I had a wonderful volleyball coach in middle school that encouraged me and knew I would try my best even when I made mistake after mistake and would have to run laps on the bleachers. He saw that I would try even when I struggled. I kept trying because he did not reprimand me and put me in time out.
It’s not because of you that I excelled at tennis during high school. Instead, I had an amazing coach that made it fun and turned it into a game. A coach that was patient and encouraging. Not one to point out that I was still bigger than all of my friends, one that pointed out all of my strengths and what I had going for me.
It’s not because of you, that I later became a long distance runner and to this day have run numerous 5ks, six half marathons and one full marathon . It’s. Not. Because. Of. You.
It’s because of you, that I was ashamed of myself growing up and afraid to go to gym. I dreaded going to gym every day. Even in high school when you were no longer my gym teacher. The seed was planted. I recall loving to play kick ball in grade school, but after THAT day in 6th grade. No longer did I want to play any team sports or go to gym.
Dear former gym teacher, I hope that one day that this finds its way to you and that you take the time to read this and know, that’s it’s NOT due to you that I have learned to love running finally. It was all of those other people and coaches in my life that encouraged me. Please don’t take credit for something you didn’t do. I no longer hate you, don’t get me wrong, but I still don’t like you. There are far better ways to get someone to accomplish something especially a young mind, which you were put in charge of on a daily basis. Life isn’t fair and kids are mean, I fully know this, BUT you are a teacher. You were put in your job to help encourage young minds and shape them. You are put there to TEACH them. Teach them to love themselves and each other, not to hate themselves and what they are. Dear former gym teacher, I hope this finds its way to you and you learn that “tough love” doesn’t work all of the time. Being a therapist, I know all about “tough love.” It has a time and a place, once you get to know the person’s personality and if it’s appropriate for them. Tough love isn’t for everyone. Sometimes it can be more damaging than anything else.
Dear former gym teacher, it is because of you, I shed tears on Sunday’s run. I shed tears because I recall how I felt just like it was yesterday. I shed tears because I let you get to me like that. I shed tears for all of the inner turmoil you caused throughout those years.
I have changed greatly since then. I am no longer that shy and quiet kid. I am a grown woman with kids of my own now and I will not let a teacher like you, do what you did, to my kids. I am stronger and tougher than I used to be. I am proud of what I have accomplished, all despite what you helped instill in me. I am strong. I am happy once again. I run for myself. I run for others. I run to SHOW others that they can do anything they want to. I, a former 186lb “fat kid,” am a MOTHERFREAKING. RUNNER. No thanks to you.
Your former fat student