Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Last Kid Chosen: Slice of Life Tuesday #SOL15

Slice of Life happens each Tuesday through the hard work and dedication of the team at Two Writing Teachers. Check out other slices here

"You need a partner."

I dread hearing those words. My stomach tightens. My feet rivet themselves to the floor. I turn my head but not my torso and scan the room for someone--anyone--standing alone. Since I'm at the front, seeing poses difficulty.

I'm transported back to grade school. Reliving those cringe-worthy days. Again, I'm the last one chosen. I'm 56, fairly accomplished and confident. I'm a failure in this moment. The diplomas, degrees, accolades of my academic life no longer matter. Only this moment in this class at this gym possesses meaning. Even the old ladies--like me--have found a partner.

The instructor motions a middle-aged man over to me. I recognize the mortification on my face in her reaction to mine.

We had just finished the 5X5 kettle bell rotation and move on to floor exercises, which is why we need a partner. I'm required to hold the man's ankles and he mine in one exercise. I'm uncomfortable standing by his head with his hands grasping my shoes to avoid touching the bare skin of my lower leg.

During my turn, he tells me, "You can quit."

"I never quit," I retort.

And I don't. I endured the rotation.

The instructor informs me at the conclusion of the next 5X5 that I "can find a new partner" if I'm uncomfortable. Tears seep from my eyelids. I try to speak but can't locate the words I need to tell her that looking for a new partner when everyone else already has one would draw attention to my plight and cause me more duress. Only tears speak my anguish.

At the next floor rotation, the instructor motions another instructor attending the class to partner with me. This means that she'll have to give up her partnership with a strong male for one lesser than. Her original partner, a young man in his 20s, is assigned a somewhat geriatric, flabby man in his 50s.

I am incompetent. I am rejected. That's how I felt. That's how I feel.

The change takes another route. A gracious woman of my generation approaches me and says she's partnering with me because she can't keep up with her first partner. We give one another an understanding look that says, "We may be old, but we're not dead, and we're doing the best we can do."

The class proceeds with my new partner taking a restroom break during one floor rotation.

There's a deja vu quality to this class, both in terms of its internal structure on this day--five kettle bell exercises repeated five times with the 5X5 rotation repeated five times after each floor rotation, which are all different--and its ability to transport me back to my childhood where I relive being the last kid on the playground picked for all team sports.

At the end of class, the instructor approached me: "Thanks for sticking it out. How did it end up working out for you?"

"I almost didn't," I respond. "It was like being back in grade school."

"Well, I'm sorry. I really am." She walked away. I followed both her departure and her pained expression through my own tears.

*Side Note: Last week I read a professor's post on FB about her son's AR reading program and the way it marginalizes some readers. I thought about the pain children experience when we turn reading into a playground competition that chooses some kids and leaves others standing alone. Then Friday I attended kettle bell (my favorite class w/ my favorite instructor, BTW) and had the experience I wrote about today.

As I return to school next week and greet students August 26, I want to remember that no kid deserves to be the last one standing and searching for someone with whom to learn and talk and share.

14 comments:

  1. Wonderful post, Glenda that brings to mind the traits of grit and perseverance are two words needed by all learners this year.

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  2. Aack! I am in pain with you. I suspect these situations are even worse with our young students b/c there is rarely the empathic, understanding classmate who helps you end your torture...and young students do not have the self-assuredness to say forthrightly - "I almost didn't, it was like being back in grade school." May your kettle bell instructor reflect on a better approach! May all teachers heed your wisdom...there is a better way to learn and talk and share. Thanks for this!

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    1. Ah, my kettle bell instructor is a wonderful, kind woman. I admire her a great deal, and we don't partner up often. I know there are those who like having partners, and they deserve that opportunity once in a while. It's just my least favorite thing, and none of my gym rat friends were in the class last week. I really feel for former students who get stuck w/ me. It has happened.

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  3. That was a powerful read - the classroom connections are so important to keep in mind when we return to our classrooms. Great slice.

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  4. That was a powerful read - the classroom connections are so important to keep in mind when we return to our classrooms. Great slice.

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  5. I give you credit for staying with the exercise class. I think I probably would have twisted my ankle and limped out never to return. Your students are lucky to have a teacher who understands humiliating circumstances but also has the character to overcome.

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    1. Thanks! I love kettle bell, and there was something good about that class that I left out of the post: I moved up to a 25 lb. kettle bell.

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  6. This was a powerful post. I felt like I was right there with you. Your students are fortunate that their teacher understands what it feels like to be left standing and searching for a partner.

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  7. As one who was always picked last I share your feelings about partnering. Your true character comes through in the fact that you stuck with it. Congratulations and congrats on moving up to 25 lbs.

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  8. Your intro in the comments caught my interest because I was never comfortable in gym class. You did a wonderful job digging into the emotions you felt and connected it so well to what happens in our classrooms... a valuable reminder.

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  9. Your intro in the comments caught my interest because I was never comfortable in gym class. You did a wonderful job digging into the emotions you felt and connected it so well to what happens in our classrooms... a valuable reminder.

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  10. Great post! I could totally feel all the emotions you were feeling. I felt it in grade school, too! I also hate being partnered up at the gym if I don't have a friend with me! I love how your experience translated to your thoughts about students.

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  11. Great post! I could totally feel all the emotions you were feeling. I felt it in grade school, too! I also hate being partnered up at the gym if I don't have a friend with me! I love how your experience translated to your thoughts about students.

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  12. I love the layers here, Glenda. I can see why the partnering up brought you right back to childhood. I could feel your hands on his ankles and your struggle with the set. Love that you stuck with it and found something to take away. You remind me to buy a bag of life savers and print out some pairs of things (famous characters or the like). I keep such things handy in class and give them out at the door when I want to randomly pair students up in the first weeks of school. Finding your match gives each kid a specific someone to look for--it takes away the pressure of pick me.

    We are going to have a great year!

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