Anyway, I also remember the teacher who ran the weight room after school. He was way into aerobics. I had to pay a price to lift weights whenever he was around – I had to run on the treadmill (or sometimes the stair master) for fifteen minutes.
That sucked. I was there for the bench and the squat cage. That’s what I wanted to do. That was what I found rewarding. That was where I knew what I was doing and learned to wear mesh shorts, not Umbros, to the weight room.
I am no longer remotely fit – don’t let the skating helmet fool you. I need a summer in the woods with Adam Burk and a bear threatening to eat me if I don’t do at least PS, like, 20X.
However, I still have a treadmill. I use it occasionally, and it still sucks.
And the treadmill makes me think that school – the way it is – sucks, too.
School is our curriculum treadmill. No matter what our kids want to learn, at school, we put them on the treadmill. No matter what our kids find rewarding, we put them on the treadmill. No matter what our kids know how to do, we put them on treadmill, and we set it to the pace of the school year.
We can say what we want about differentiation, but as it stands the school day is the school day, a class period is a class period, a marking period is a marking period, and a grade level is a grade level. Kids are not allowed to touch those pacing controls, no matter how variable their skills or interests.
Those barely ready to walk are made to run and told to get up when they fall down and get hurt.
Those ready to run do what we expect and we remain uncritical of them, ourselves, and what else we could be doing.
Those ready to run faster speed up and slow down and try to change their stride to play around on the track, but they have no where to go and no guarantee that any or all of their teachers will adjust the controls for them.
No kid gets a break. No kid gets to try a different piece of equipment. No kid gets out of the gym on our watch. No exercise done outside the gym counts.
We insist, and kids learn, that the treadmill is what’s good for them – that being on the treadmill is learning. We try to convince ourselves and our students that the treadmill is what causes learning – that the machine is in charge of their time with us – that its internal systems is responsible for the exercises we do. Those who fall are made to feel crummy for it. Those who are praised try not to cringe (mind like a tree trunk!). Those who are left alone finish their time and leave.
Moreover, we’re setting our clients’ goals without consulting them.
It’s Spring in North America. Throw a wrench in the curriculum treadmill. Throw away the little tab thing that lets it start. Kick off the gym shoes and get outside the gym. Let learning run free.
My strength coach embarrassed me sometimes, but he helped me accomplish my goals in the gym so that I could accomplish my goals outside it in playing ball and standing up to the bullies on my team.
The weight room advisor just made sure that I did what he wanted – that I ran – before I did what I wanted.
They both lasted a long time in the same school system. That’s the way it goes; teachers have competing values.
And here I am, wrapping up my tenth year. It’s no longer a question for me of who I want to be.
It’s a question of who I am willing to be.
I’m still tweaking those treadmill controls, but I’m also looking out the gym door. My students and I have some ideas to talk over with management despite all those funny looks from the other trainers, those captains, and the treadmill in the other room.