Looking back to elementary school, middle school, and high school, one thing remained constant. Gym teachers were always given a crypt for an office.
I couldn’t tell if they were protecting the gym teacher from the rest of the school or the school from the gym teachers.
Their offices never had a window that let them see outside. The best they got was some glass that would peer out into the gymnasium its , covered in incandescent lighting. Other than that, it was feet upon feet of cement brick walls that made their
bunker Phys. Ed. office more secure than the Oval Office.
If you got summoned into the gym teacher’s office, it was on par with Clarice Starling visiting Hannibal Lecter’s cell. A uniformed individual awaiting you on the other side of the glass. Making your palms sweat and clam up. You not wanting to get too close to their dank, crypt-like cell; just wanting to get out before you squirmed right out of your skin.
But now as an adult, I often wonder what it’s like to by a Phys. Ed. teacher. I don’t know any in “real” life. All I can do is put myself and my own neurosis into their shoes. There must be some sort of animosity bubbling just under the surface between gym teachers and the rest of the staff, even if it isn’t a conscious thing. It’s just human nature, when you’re the excluded member of a group.
And do the gym teachers worry that when they leave the gymnasium, whether the smell of sweaty pubescence and locker room still lingers on their own clothing … unbeknownst to them the way farmers no longer detect that of manure on the farm?
I rarely saw my old Phys. Ed. teachers associated outside of the gymnasium with other faculty members. Maybe the Shop teachers, but that always seemed a little forced, like the boyfriends of two best friends awkwardly conversing with one another for the sake of their significant others, even though circumstance is all they really have in common. For gym teachers, if they want to chat with other faculty members, they really have to make a conscious effort to do so by seeking out the other wings of the school. It isn’t as easy as a math teacher who can step across the hall and pop his head in to the room and see how the other math teacher’s day is going.
I would love to spend a week in a high school, shadowing different faculty and departments each day to watch how they converse and survive, rather than the students. Not writing a story about what it’s like to be a student. Not what it’s like to be a teacher after hours, dealing with papers and budget issues, etc. But the day-to-day dynamics of teachers and the connections they have or don’t have with one another. That’s the story I don’t hear enough of, and am fascinated by.