Hanging with my son today,
A rabbit hole of self-discovery,
One and the same,
A hanging and realization
That he and I are cut from the same mold,
Only he’s much smarter than me.

We braved the Easter world of new diners
In fancy new buildings,
Of course, it wasn’t up to diner standards,
Or maybe our palettes are changing,
For mine was overly fried, sloppily arranged,
His barely adequate for dipping
And the waitress’ hickey,
Offered a little too much information.

Off to a music store,
A chain of six-string proportion
Where the stores out west and the local outlet
Seem to have a liberal employee sharing policy
That only serves to demonstrate
Having a skill, be it musician, gamer, athlete
Means nothing when providing service
Or whoring every serviceable offering from the store.

Throughout the philosophy of life raged,
My simple, maybe even rudimentary wisdom,
Put up against his limitless vision,
Unbounded by the chaste philosophical stoicism
I’ve created to protect myself from the practical life
I was rebelled against in school.
A fork became payola money,
A spoon was the gatekeepers of creative opportunities,
A straw wrapper, torn and tattered, was a band hoping to make it,
And rising from the table, a knife
Enlightenment, genius, higher planes of thinking,
That creatives hope to achieve
Without needing a knife or fork.

Our debate was more Sienfeldian than Silva,
As we tried to figure out
How to have this and that
Without bending the knife
To satisfy forks and spoons.
My truth is,
I do whatever the eff I think is good,
Like it or don’t
Just be nice if you don’t
And sincere if you do.
Then again, my creative obstacles are not driven by forks or spoons,
Perhaps age has helped me come to grips with that.

But then, it got real for me,
Not philosophical, but sort of spiritual,
Am I allowed to say “sort of” on Easter,
We listened to some music from Africa, not Toto,
Solid, mind stopping, conversation halting music,
Then came, Comfortably Numb,
I drifted off in that good way guitars bring a nod,
Only to be pushed further into passenger seat ambivalence
By Spiders, and the hyped distortion of Wilco
Then came, Bad Love from Clapton,
I faded into guitar solitude,
Dropped further by She’s Gone, a Michael Hill’s Blues Mob anthem
And finally massaged back to a non-drooling state
By Europa, the Santana version.

That could have ended my day right there,
Except that I had a rambling brain,
Something triggered my heart rate,
It jumped without any stimulation, probably caffeine or sugar
From the diner or just maybe
I was rising from the cloud of contentment
That is such a poison to growth and development.
Each song had put me closer to euphoria,
Each one leaving me with visions of the guitar guys
Loving what they do,
Having the music stop their time
While allowing us to experience every second, beat, note,
Whatever,
And feel our auditory erotic version of their ecstatic moments.

Being the musical village idiot,
I knew I would never achieve that feeling with a Strat, but,
Why couldn’t I find a higher awareness through running?
Why not become so immersed in what I’m doing from a mental standpoint
That my physical experience rivals those I have
Listening to Floyd, Clapton, Santana, and the others.
My heart was beating so fast, I took a couple of breaths,
Knowing that my challenges are to push the mental, emotional, and spiritual boundaries,
To get over the just running, losing weight, trying not to get hurt, each
Experiences I’ve been settling for.
I need to exercise in a guitar solo energy,
Wrapped in time, each muscle tuned to the next move, producing results
That takes me somewhere else.

Game on…

Before you read any further, know that this is part of an educational rant and part training journal. The two go together even though the ranting is about Physical Education and the journal is about training for my ridiculous marathon plan.

Still here? Good.

Some background: I have been a teacher for 23-years. I started in elementary school, moved to middle school, and currently teach high school. For a few years, I was also an adjunct to a well-respected teacher preparation college. My subjects are Health and Physical Education. I teach people. I’m opinionated about my profession and believe that my opinion is subject to criticism. Take this as you will…

The delivery of a sound educational program is grounded in some sort of theory. From that theory, programs are developed. The programs must be assessed against outcomes. I cannot cite the article that I learned that from, but please know that this is the foundation for many of the decisions that I make in my job as a GYM teacher. (Those of you in the profession who are offended by “GYM teacher,” I make no apologies. “We are what we are and what we are is an illusion…” Le Cage Au Folles, I believe…). For those of you not in the profession, PE/Gym teachers spend a great deal of time trying to improve the image of what they do. We have a professional organization with a cute name, “SHAPE,” (Society of Health and Physical Education) that works as an advocate for all things health and physical education. State departments of education have created standards, cultivated by physical educators, that stand on a buffet of themes that include, team sports, individual sports, dance, science, decision making, problem- solving, and fitness. All of the standards are meant to show the money brokers that physical education matters in an educational context. It’s as if the profession cannot stand on its own, so it took a shotgun planning approach to say, “Look at all the ways we matter.”

And still, the profession struggles for respectability. There are too many reasons to go into, but the major things that seem to keep people from liking PE are: that people see no reason for a gym class, that people do not want to sweat, or PE is not fun. The “PE Council of Higher Education” will say that the problems stem from a lack of coherent instruction or poorly designed programs. Practitioners will say that the schedules are messed up and that there is a disconnect between what professor types think should be happening in schools and what the constraints of PE in the real world are all about.

“Chris, what does all of this have to do with your marathon training? I don’t need an essay on education. Heck, I went to school. Duh…”

“I hear you. I’m also with you. Remember, I am ranting.”

Learning is a highly complex and messy process. My theory is that the messier the process the better, so I teach, I am purposefully vague with instructions or I place barriers up for students to work around. A member of fictitious PE Council of Higher Education asked me today if that meant, “handing kids a racquet and shuttlecock and sending them out to play badminton without any prior instruction.” My answer, “Why not?” was not received well. Here is my reasoning, people need to learn how to think and make choices. I see badminton as a tool to help my students think and as a means to have them moving around. Through all of that, I want them to have fun. Experience, learning, and research have shown me a few things about how people learn. First, people are capable of more than we believe, so we have to remove ourselves and allow them to grow. I am not suggesting that PE teachers leave a class to chaos, but I am saying to PE teachers that their students will find the answers and develop skills if we give them both the chance and time. We are not coaching a team, so our approach does not need to be limited by skill development, game strategy, or herding students into a large group game. We are facilitating learning experiences, so it’s okay to concentrate on outcomes beyond the physical. How about developing self-efficacy, decision-making, resilience, or sweat equity (I just made that up…)?

Second, the most powerful person in any class is every student. If they don’t buy into what is happening in class, the program will suffer and the profession will stay second class in the minds of the people bringing the next consumers of our product to life. Allowing and expecting that students find a way to understand the importance of physical activity (on their terms) is a very important aspect of what we do. Doing so allows students to participate in a self-directed and personally meaningful experience that has a real opportunity to tap into real life skills and social constructs like self-efficacy, resilience, or joy. Let the program be more than a bunch of rules or “official” looking sports. Allow the program to be flexible and in tune with the individual needs of the students. That individuality is how adults exercise. There is value in team sports, but the edge of the cliff for team sports participation rapidly approaches by high school.

Finally, all of what happens in PE can be around a culture of fun. Dodgeball is fun. Dance is fun. Team sports are fun. Experiencing all of those may not be fun for all students, but finding the types of things that students like should be something that PE teachers strive for. Fun makes everything else easier, more enjoyable, and I believe more meaningful.

“Okay, Chris, do you have data to support your theory and program?”

“Why yes, smarty pants, I do.” (Insert proper emoji)

The quick report on a study I did last year was to measure the general self-efficacy (belief a student can create success) through participation in a strength and conditioning class. Without all the educational research mumbo jumbo (doctoral terms!), the students’ self-efficacy scores rose from the pretest at the beginning of the year to the posttest at the end of the year. Think about this, though, I didn’t make a big deal about standards. I wasn’t cranky about perfect form. I didn’t even ask them to tell me about the scientific appropriateness of plyometrics training on the regeneration of muscle tissue. (I guess that’s a thing…). Strangely, though, students who were unable to sign up for the class again this year talk about how great that class was and how they are still exercising. There you have it…

I know that this rant about physical education teachers is exhausting, but too much of what we do in the gym (and in education in general) forgets that we teach people. We do not teach subjects. “Education through the physical” is my mantra. “Education of the physical” is a side dish for me. Getting students to feel good about themselves because they realize that they can create success (whatever their metric is) is my goal. The rest of this stuff, standards, scripted learning, public versus charter versus private is just BS…

“Marathon journal, yo?…”

“Here it is and thank you for staying with me.”

“Finally…”

Take this marathon I’m running…it’s one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever had. I’m running a marathon on an indoor track. Who does such a thing? Better than that, I’m only halfway training. I could care less about my time. There won’t be a crew, nobody will be getting paid overtime, and there won’t be any litter to pick up after I’m done.

It’s going to be great!

I started out on this journey simply wanting to prove that at my advanced age and level of ignored fitness that I could complete a marathon. My long run right now is about six miles. I’m running in about a month and should have a long run closer to twenty miles, but I don’t really care. I’ve got all day to go the distance. I’m not worried about a standard, pace, or a mileage/skill progression. I’m running for the fun of it. I’ll benefit from the exercise, but I’ll savor the accomplishment.

So in the name of denying essential content, as a protest against something with a #, and in the spirit of anyone who remembers a great day of dodgeball in gym class, I RUN!

Not really, I’m just doing this to see if I can. I believe it so.

Thanks to my PE teachers who understood what was important…

hildebrand-pic-660x350-1425972365

When a philosopher retires,
Does a philosopher stop thinking?

How about a man who knows
A thing about escaping heat?

Would he find retirement
To be too cool?

After facing Hitler and dodging him across Europe
Would a simple non-working life be enough?

After writing bunches of books
Could he sit back a see what was in the tea leaves?

No matter, for Dietrich von Hildebrand
Was one voice of inspiration.

 

Photo Credit: Google Images

Capitalism is hope’s way,
But money is a bit fickle.
Socialism wants its say.

Profiteers promise riches for every doorway,
Believers tout an economic trickle.
Capitalism is hope’s way

Sometimes the markets go gray
Because the economy can be fickle.
Socialism wants its say

Market corrections do not bring doomsday
Even when crashes cut like a sickle,
For capitalism is hope’s way.

Few are laughing with money to throw away
Because foreclosures do not tickle.
Socialism wants its say.

Optimism can be a difficult foray
Especially when making bank equals a nickel.
Capitalism is hope’s way.
Still, socialism want’s its say.

They sat, huddled over a blue recycling bin,

Much the way that cowboys or cavemen

Might have gathered around a fire.

Neither did the men have the beans to grub

Nor wild game to rip from the bone,

They had peanuts, Viginia’s finest roasted in the shell and

Salted just right.

The sound of the shells’ cracking was the wisdom of the nuts

Inspiring conversation on a higher plane

Than that normally expected from the muscle minded trio

Raised in the gym teacher legacy.

Their personalities different,

One a settler, suited perfectly for the pasture or 

A life of being handy.

Another an orator, blessed with a lightning fast tongue and

A contacts list bulging with connections.

The last a dreamer, lost in the alchemy of pragmatism and hypocrisy

Where black and white squashed gray.

Once the conversation moved beyond crosswords and condiments,

Serious sociological analysis followed with debate of

Finding trouble or being found by trouble.

The Settler opined that there was no trouble

When attachments were not made.

The Orator spoke rapidly of trouble being an opportunist

Able to attach itself to people without cause.

The Dreamer wondered why he got in trouble

When others did the same stuff with barely a reproach.

Through it all the shell crumbs and shards of peanut skin covered the floor

And another lunch passed with large issues

Discussed but not solved.

The golf these play
Makes me dream
Of hitting that little white ball
With the power and accuracy
They seem to find
Effortlessly

Maybe that’s the key
To everything
Find the effortless way
And be drawn into excellence
Soon I’ll try to score low
Without trying much at all

This balance
Taoistic
Libra
Thing has taken
An anatomical turn
Weak runner’s hamstrings
Tired of being neglected
Begged for more attention
And couldn’t handle the new work load
So they complained
All the way to the lower back
Leaving a determined and overly prideful
Ego
To decide about quitting or forging ahead
Lunges it would be
Straight back, controlled descent
Asking the quads to shoulder the load

Twenty four hours later
A peaceful calm exists
With tempers still threatening
The return of the muscular militia
That fought for the lower ground
The hamstrings at the negotiating table
Being stretched to change their ways
But giving very little
The quads, sore
And maybe pulling enough
To keep peace in the region

The body
So amazing in its construction
So particular in its ways
Maybe today I’m over thinking
The balance of tension
With this striated soap opera
But it sure is fun
Trying to understand
How everything works