September 12, 2012 by travelinggrits
I still receive the occasional look of surprise when I pass students in the hallway, but today I received more puzzled looks than usual at my post-lunch wardrobe change from collared shirt and slacks to T-shirt and shorts. Hello, Christina Teacher—where are you going?
On Wednesdays, all of my classes are before lunch. Rather than idly half-working, half-web-surfing the afternoon away, I had asked the gym teacher if I could participate in one of the P.E. classes. I thought it would be a great opportunity to bond with the students outside of class in a relaxed environment. I hoped that playtime together might lessen the intimidation factor that my foreign tongue often carries within the confines of the classroom.
I met the grade 1, class 7 students outside the gym, mingling with the line filing into the room. Within minutes, I was already giggling with the girls at the gym teachers’ reprimands to be quiet. We took off our shoes and climbed onto a giant mat.
In the group warmup, we jogged in a circle around the room, making sudden direction changes at the blow of a whistle and squealing as we chased the student in front of us. The boys and girls separated, and then the boys took a seat while the girls played the first game.
The gym teacher selected team captains, and my middle school experience came rushing back as these alpha females sized up their classmates and selected their lineups. I was the first to be chosen—and I felt the same sense of adolescent glee as I did during my own days of school sports.
During this game, each team formed a line and grabbed the shirt of the person in front of them. The lead of each line lunged for the girl at the tail end of the other. At one point, I almost felt like a part of a Chinese dragon, loping around the room with a trail of girls hanging onto my shirt. The last round, I was the tail, but I managed to escape capture and bring my team to victory.
Next, the girls took a seat while the boys played a game of knee ball (essentially, the same concept as water polo but while stumping around on one’s knees, although this handicap still made moving as difficult as wading through water). Then the girls took a turn, and again I was picked first. They made many passes to me—but my greatest play of the game came when I handed the ball off to the girl who was chosen last for the team. After she scored, she turned around, beaming, and I gave her an enthusiastic high five.
My knees were slightly bummed up and red afterwards, but no serious damage done. My students seemed honestly concerned, however, brushing the dirt away. One student turned to me, pulled a Kicker (the Korean knock-off of the Kit-Kat) from her pocket and offered it to me as a gift. In spite of its half-melted condition, I felt humbled to receive it. I later put it in the teacher’s lounge freezer; one day when I need a pick-me-up, the memory of its benevolent presentation will bring me as much energy as the sugar.
The boys came up next for a game of “chicken.” They hopped around the room on one leg with the other crossed over the quad muscle. I wish I had been able to take a picture of them as they vigorously bumped and battled around the room. The final two were a mismatched pair: a small, skinny boy with glasses and a larger boy who had already received his growth spurt. I secretly cheered for the underdog, and I was happy that the game ended with them simultaneous collapsing onto the mat out of fatigue.
Forty-five minutes flew by, and before I knew it the students gave me a respectful insa en masse and the gym teacher ushered us out the door. I waved goodbye and trekked back to my office, a little reluctant to take a seat and resume my teaching persona.
Today was certainly a reminder that the best relationships between teacher and student aren’t built in the confines of the classroom. And if I rehearse my plays, make the right passes—it’s possible for both teams to win.