The Gym Teacher’s Handbook for Physical Education Conquest

The exodus of classes from school buildings into the online realm creates a tough dilemma for gym teachers all around: how does one teach physical education when physical closeness is the very charm of gym class? 

After all, in pursuant of Section 1512.1. of the Pennsylvania School Code, each school must “establish a curriculum aligned with Pennsylvania academic standards on health, safety and physical education that…requires pupils enrolled in the district to participate in physical education.” Even in a pandemic and several minor political crises, one must not forget to do bureaucracy’s bidding, especially P.E. teachers.

Fortunately, genius has struck the gym teachers of Harriton High School. Students were in for a ghastly surprise when they clicked on the Zoom link to attend the first gym class of 2021; the teachers were equipped with several military strategies to take on the gym crisis. 

First, P.E. teachers swiftly defined the rules of war in their favor. One: it is mandatory for students to turn on their cameras. Two: it is mandatory for students to angle their camera to the floor so that the waist down could be seen on Zoom. 

This was an effective sneak attack as this is the utmost dread of all students. Public opinion agrees that gym is the ideal class to slack off. Popular activities that occur during gym class include texting, eating, or disappearing entirely—of course, with both Mute and Video off. But this was utterly sabotaged. 

Second, the gym teachers seized the right moment to secure control. While students were too startled (or too tired) to disobey, the attending teachers grasped the opportunity to assert the workout directions: a card would be pulled from a deck of cards. The number and suit will determine the number of reps and type of workout respectively.

Third, teachers allied in pairs to run the gym class. As one led the workout routine (the “Drillmaster”), another guarded the computer (the “Warden”), who patrols the Zoom rectangles. This is intended to create an intense feeling of unease amongst students. This fear was further heightened by the fact that the reflection of the Warden could be seen by students on Zoom through the floor-to-ceiling mirror in the weight room, contorting his or her neck to get the optimal view of the virtual classroom. Undeniably, it was uncomfortable, but a very effective tactic. 

Thus began the workout expedition. Most obeyed the commands. Some attempted to neglect their duties but were easily found out. In my class two were accused of dim lighting; another was slapped with allegations of inertia. There was even one report of a teacher reprimanding a student for not wearing socks and sneakers. 

Occasionally, one could evade a few push-ups from the number drawn from the card, but it was a risk many were not willing to take.

Eventually, the card deck was exhausted, and the class was over. An armistice was agreed upon—that is, until the next gym class. One thing is for certain: the imagination and ingenuity of gym teachers should be feared.