Sunday, February 28, 2016

Baile Rochel, "What? Me an Athlete?"

Nu, yes, I know, I haven't blogged a Baile Rochel for years. You probably thought she'd died or something, like maybe I lost my touch, my sense of humor. Well, maybe I did... I lose lots of things, pretty much everything but weight.

You may be wondering what happened to make me resurrect her again. Could it be a Brigadoon thing? The truth is even stranger. My best friend from childhood, from Bell Park Gardens who moved away well over half a century ago when we were eleven, (oops! Now you have an idea of how ancient I am...) found me, resumed our friendship, discovered my Baile Rochel articles and requested oh, so sweetly that I bring her back to life.

So, I tried to think of the most absurd topic possible. That's a no-brainer for sure.
"What? Me an Athlete?"
Way back when, I used this building, when it was
roofless and windowless as a "gymnasium."
I can't get over the fact that people here really think I must be an athlete. That's because every once in awhile, you can see these young mothers with their kids pointing to me and whispering:
"That lady over there was my gym teacher, the one who taught me..."
Yes, for thirteen years I was the girls gym teacher here in the Shiloh Elementary School. I never applied for the job; I was offered it. It's one of those "only in Israel stories." Some background, we moved to Shiloh the day the school opened. 

As the second year of the school was being organized, planned for, the supervisor from the Education Ministry informed the committee that especially with a Fourth Grade they were required to offer PE-Physical Education to the students. That created quite a dilemma, because there were no qualified, gym teachers in the community. Actually, there were hardly any qualified teachers at all. Some who were offered jobs hadn't yet gotten Teachers Licenses, due to badly timed due dates and the difficulties the young mothers had in completing all exams and papers. But they were permitted to teach, and the students had done very well the first year of the school.

Decades before these ancient tools/artifacts were discovered, I
taught my classes right here, at Tel Shiloh.
Someone remember that I had been a Creative Dance teacher in Jerusalem and had hoped to teach dance here in Shiloh, but the Coordinator of Afternoon Activities had rejected my offer, because she wanted a Ballet Teacher and didn't understand what Creative Dance is. Almost nobody in Israel did; I was probably one of the very first. Yes, so they went to me, and although athletic skill had never been my strong point, I agreed.

To be perfectly honest, I was considered one of the worst athletes in my school career. When team captains would choose up teams, I was the "booby prize" the one left over, whom they were stuck with. My enthusiasm never made up for lack of speed, poor upper-body strength and a history of being on the losing team in most games. And to be super honest, even my dancing has always been more enthusiasm than raw talent (or great body.) Considering that not everyone my age can easily still walk distances and dance, today these genetic abilities/gifts give the impression that I'm more talented than I had ever been.

Ironically, my creative streak and enthusiasm were the perfect talents and skills to teach "sport" in those early years. We had no equipment and no gymnasium. Who else but yours truly could invent games using dead balls? If I remember correctly, I made up a version of volleyball on rainy days, in which the students sat in the main hall when we had a proper building (sans gym,) boys against girls. They had to reach and stretch (remember I'm a dancer) to "tap" the ball to the other side. The boys' teacher was rather relieved that I could find solutions to our "situation."

Another of my favorites was relay races. They'd have to jump or skip or whatever I could think of to the end of the wherever we were and then run back and tag the next to go. Since I was so traumatized about always losing, I'd tell them to keep going.
"Teacher, how do we know who won?"
"Who cares?  Just keep playing!"
I was never big on competition. Losing is so awful. My aim was to produce women who loved to be physically active, regardless of talent.

I graded according to how many times they wore sneakers/sports shoes and wore sweatpants under their skirts for modesty.
"Athletic skills come from Gd, and I'm not giving Gd grades! I will only grade you on your efforts."
At one point my former rabbi, Rabbi Wolf of Great Neck, NY, donated boxes and boxes of bright yellow tennis balls he'd collect from around local tennis courts after his retirement. He had tried to return them to the players, but they told him that they "only played with fresh, hard barely used balls." So he began a project to donate these perfectly good balls to Israel, especially to me for the Shiloh School.

No, I didn't teach tennis. I hadn't a clue as how to play, although tennis had been on the PE curriculum in Great Neck North when I was a student. The gym teacher concentrated on helping the students who already knew how to play to make them better players. The Great Neck motto was to encourage excellence. The rest of us were sent to a wall with a bunch of balls and some racquets. We were told to practice hitting the wall, but we kept lobbing the balls over it. It wasn't until a good decade later when we were living in England and I watched Wimbledon on television when I realized that serving in tennis is not the same technique as in Badminton.

My veteran neighbors remember my jogging days. So do I. A few months after my youngest had been born, friends and I had taken a hike in the nearby mountains, and they were horrified at my lack of fitness.
"You must get back into shape. We should jog together."
That sounded easy, so for over four years I tried to keep up with her. But somehow, no matter how hard I tried I never got faster, and it never got easier. The only thing I got was injuries.

And here I am decades later, still overweight and still consider walking and dance to be the only "athletic skills" I can do.


Rickismom said...

I was also always the last picked for the team.....
Walking is I think the best all-around exercise. Much better on th joints than jogging. I don't jog...too afraid of injuries. It is good to add in strength training 2-3 times a week. Can be done easily at home in 15 minutes with weights and/or a band

Batya said...

Would never have known...
I also carry a backpack most days which is a good weightbearing way to walk/exercise.