I was a PE Teacher when I was twenty-two. Hard to believe. Sister was a teacher. Uncle too. Me and him were teachers at the same time, him in Larnaca and me here. I think he was pretty proud of that. I know I was. Some of the old-time PE Teachers never even raised their voice. A lot of folks find that hard to believe. Robert Lewis never raised his. JV wouldn’t ever raised his, apart from in excitement when watching school sport. Noel just about had respect from everyone he ever taught, but he was a hard man. Down in the West Country. I always liked to hear about the old-timers. Never missed a chance to do so. Todd over in County of Somerset knowed how to teach every activity under the sun. Mason brought me to a place I didn’t think existed. You can’t help but compare yourself against the old timers. Can’t help but wonder how they would’ve operated these times.
The old timers stayed in the classroom. They stayed because they wanted to teach and make a difference. To master their craft and they were respected. Lauded for it too. Spending time in Robert Lewis’ company was a lesson itself. Just being around him, I became a better teacher. A better person. Some like Noel and JV stayed in the classroom too long. They pushed their chips forward and died in the job, but they knew what they were doing. They would have said, okay, I’ll be part of this world. I was at their funerals. You couldn’t get into the church because of the throng of past pupils. They touched a lot of lives. For the better. Today it seems the role of the leader is more privileged than that of the teacher. Move on up out of teaching. Out of the gym and out of the fields. Out of the sun, and the rain, and the hail and the wind. Move to the comfort of the office. To manage and to lead. To oversee and to organise. I bought into that message too. I believed PE teaching was a young teachers the game. A stepping stone to something bigger and more important. I forgot the old timers. What they said, what they did.
I’ve been at a crossroads for a number of years. Now I’ve picked a path. I told my Head about it. Told him that I wanted to stay in the classroom. He said I lacked ambition. He said I lacked motivation. I don’t know what to make of that. I surely don’t. Your worth you see now, it’s hard to even take it’s measure. I’m not afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to make sacrifices in this job. Not to be glorious. You preach movement to these youngsters. Talk about the benefits of movement. Where are the old timers who live and breathe more than these words with actions? Wickham, Prince, Manley as well. There used to be many, but now it seems they’ve all gone. Replaced with teachers on a different path. A fast path out of the classroom to leadership or beyond. How can a youngster trust your words, if they don’t see an old timer showing them what movement can bring to their lives? Where are the old PE teachers who have embraced the richness that movement brings, living their words?
Had dreams recently… Two of ’em. Both had Noel in. It’s peculiar. Anyway, the first one I don’t remember too well but, it was about meetin’ him in a house somewheres and he was on his death bed. He couldn’t move. He could hardly talk. I had come back from abroad to see him and when his wife was out the room he whispered to me. I leaned over and put my ear to his mouth so I could hear what he said. He told me not to lose my way. I think I lost it. The second one, it was like we was both back in my first year of teaching, we were on the playing fields. There were children around us playing. It was getting dark and the wind was picking up something bad, but they didn’t care. They were lost in the moment. Lost in movement. Behind us was the office, with its warmth and light. I asked him if we should go back in? He walked past, towards the children. And in the dream I knew he was goin’on ahead and he was fixin’ to stay with those children out there on the fields in all the dark and cold, till they had enough. And I knew that whenever I got there, he’d be there. And then I woke up.