A few years ago I wrote this story as part of a teachers’ book called “Fueled by Coffee and Love” by Mary Venturino. It’s in Amazon
Back in my Day “The Atomic Ant” My Inspiration
The first day I met my physical education teacher in high school. Her name was Aurora and I must say that I did not like her at all. Aurora was very strict and told us all how the rules would be enforced. At the time, I felt the rules were way too exaggerated. One example was that if you got to class one minute late, you would be facing some consequences.
Aurora was small, but quite strong. She couldn’t sit still and was always engaged in some physical activity. In those days every teacher would drive to the high school. Not Aurora, she rode her bike every day despite the weather and ignoring the hills that were in between her house and the high school.
We used to call her “ La Hormiga Atomica” “The Atomic Ant” because she was always doing some sort of exercise: Playing tennis, running, biking, swimming, and to date… she still is.
It felt like she put the bar quite high regarding her students’ performance expectations.
That being said, my initial kind of negative opinion about Aurora, having us running outside even in the snow and being quite strict with us, changed in a single day.
I am from Madrid, Spain and therefore I studied in a public high school in a city called Majadahonda, in the outskirts of Madrid, where I used to live. As part of the physical education curriculum, PE teachers organised a field trip for us and, on this particular one, we travelled to the mountains to spend the day skiing. Since skiing is quite an expensive sport, I never had the chance to try it before, so the very first time I actually went to ski I was 15 years old.
I am not sure if you can remember your first-day skiing, but in my case, I felt quite hopeless at the beginning, having to choose all the equipment, carrying heavy skis and poles while trying to find the best way to the meeting area. I took a chairlift with some friends up the mountain to go down the slopes but once I had arrived up the mountain, I realised I had no idea of how to ski or just how to get down safely.
Fortunately, one of my friends had some basic knowledge and she tried to teach me, but I kept falling down and losing my skis every time. If you have ever been in that situation you can picture how frustrating it is to try to go down the hill making some sort of triangle with your skis, and, as soon as you want to turn, you lose your balance and one ski goes down the slope, and you end up having to walk to get it, being careful that no crazy person is running you over as you try to get to where your ski is. Then you need to get all the snow off your boots, so you can actually click the skis back on again and try for the tenth time in 40 minutes to go down the green slope, especially made for beginners.
So there I was, after several attempts to go down the beginner’s slope and having fallen down multiple times, quite exhausted, more mentally than physically, and feeling quite upset with myself for not being able to ski, but how could I? Nobody trained me. I had just joined some friends on this field trip who were definitely more experienced than I was.
Anyhow, while I was about feeling ready to give up, Aurora, my PE teacher all of a sudden showed up. She told me that she was looking for me because she knew that I was a beginner, and from that moment on she stayed with me and my group of friends the whole day.
She taught me how to ski. She would patiently go slightly ahead of me on the slopes and outline the route for me the follow with her skis. She did it in such a way that it certainly gave me confidence and strength. She made me believe in my skiing learning ability that I was actually enjoying the day from then on.
After that day, my view on Aurora had completely changed. I realized that the reason why she could be very strict with us, especially at the beginning of the year, was to be respected, not to be mean to us. She did all sorts of things for us learners. One example was that she gave free after-school dance lessons, self-taught, so she could actually teach us.
When I was in my last year of high school, I wasn’t really sure of what career I wanted to pursue. Finally I decided that I wanted to study Physical Education. In Madrid, in order to study Physical Education in College, you have to have a good grade in your admittance exam, plus you have to pass several fitness and physical tests that require quite some practice. I only learned at a very late stage that most people train for a year to pass those physical tests. I practiced for two weeks, with Aurora. As soon as she found out that I was thinking of studying Physical Education she offered her help.
The above-mentioned tests include: swimming, endurance, strength, flexibility, agility, and several more. You must pass all the tests with the minimum grade (or higher) or you are out. No second chances.
The day of my physical tests was July 18th. It was really hot out there in Madrid. I was in quite good shape after two weeks of training my body non-stop.
I started very well, passing all the initial tests. There were two tests that I was feeling less confident about: Agility and Endurance. I had managed to pass the agility test and all of the other disciplines and now only had to face the endurance. We had to run one km in less than five minutes, and it was almost 6pm. It was really hot, but I didn’t care. I knew I could do it. And I did!
Thanks to Aurora and her inspiration, I studied Physical Education, became a PE teacher and started to share the passion that she had shared with me with my students.
I have to say that like Aurora, I am firm in my classes, but at the same time care very much about my learners and their personal development. I am an advocate for health, physical activity and wellbeing not only with my students, but also with my colleagues and of course with my family, friends and the community.
I always have loved nature and the outdoors and that ski experience, really helped to guide me to who I am now.
I have become an international educator and I live in China now. Every summer I go back to Spain to spend time with my family and friends. Aurora and I became friends a long time ago. We get together to run in the forest close to where my parents live. Every summer we meet at the very same forest and run together as we catch up. She is always full of energy and we love to catch up and share with each other our life adventures.
Gracias Aurora, La Hormiga Atomica: You are my inspiration!
On May 9, I took part in the #PhysedSummit2020 and also presented about “Student Voice and Peer Feedback using a platform called Flipgrid”
You can access the program here and mine here. The reason why I am linking these two facts, it’s because I told Aurora about it and she tuned in from Spain, joined the Unhangouts and commented on the backchannel chat. I was so thankful and so happy.
To end this post I just wanted to say that “Relationships Matter”