Back to School Interview: Noelle L.

It’s been a fun week here at Magnificent Nose. If you’ve been following along, you know that we’ve been delving into a different side of the back-to-school story by getting in touch with teachers. There’s been quite an intriguing variety! We thought we’d finish out this theme week on a fun note, by speaking with a gym teacher. Ms. Noelle L. teaches at my daughter’s public grade school in suburban New Jersey. We might all have hoped for such a gym teacher. She is adorably perky and impossibly fetching in coordinating orange neon tech-shirt and sneakers. It’s enough to make any working adult jealous. After all, who wouldn’t love to go to work in their play clothes? However, I would never have guessed that beneath all that vivaciously attractive and outgoing appearance is a serious teacher with a job far bigger than merely adjudicating games of kickball.

As for the perk of wearing play clothes to work, it occurs to me that I write and I’m a nurse. When I write, I can wear anything at all. (Yes, this does include my pajamas, though usually not.) Nurses’ scrubs are just as comfy as play clothes if not quite as fashionable. Maybe I’m not that jealous after all.

Noelle is originally from Pittsburgh. She always wanted to teach and was always very active in sports. Volleyball was her favorite. She played right through college and enjoyed being competitive in sports. With that in mind, majoring in Health and Phys. Ed. seemed like a natural choice to her. She loves to be active even if she isn’t playing volleyball any more. She is interested in all aspects of healthy living.

Magnificent Nose: So, everyone knows that teachers love to ask students for essays about what they did on their summer vacation. We thought we’d ask teachers what they did.

Noelle: Well mostly a lot of very active outdoor things. I’ve been running daily to prep for two half-marathons I’ve got coming up. My boyfriend is also a Phys. Ed teacher, so we run together. It gives us time together and it’s when we talk about our day. (Note: This author is thinking that running half a block is about enough to put me into cardiac arrest, never mind having a conversation while doing it!) We also kayak a lot together. We spent a few days in Cape May, NJ. There was also a trip to upstate New York for some hiking and camping. I also did a Tough Mudder race. [Note: A cooperative obstacle course type race, designed by British Special Forces. Participants have to be fit in many different areas both physically and mentally. –KR]

Oh, wow. That’s pretty impressive. Camping I can relate to. We camped in Acadia and did some rock climbing on Otter Cliffs. But the Tough Mudder is in a whole different class. Why that?

Volleyball was a very competitive outlet for me. Now that I don’t play anymore, I needed something fun that would give me a challenge. The Tough Mudder was it. I’ve done it before and it was a lot of fun.

Anything else keep you busy?

Actually, yes. We bought a house in the spring, just before the end of the school year. So there was a lot to do there. Boxes to unpack. I have a huge garden to tend to. We have a German Shepherd-Husky mix, and we got a puppy.

Awww. What kind?

We got a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, which I had never heard of before. It’s a hunting dog, so my boyfriend is training it [to go] hunting with him.

What kind of hunting does he do, and what do you do with what he catches?

We end up eating a lot of venison, which I don’t mind. I’m not so crazy about geese and duck.

So with all those things to keep you busy, what’s the hardest part of making the transition back into the school year?

You know it’s actually really nice to come back to a routine. I miss the free time, but I always stay active anyway.

Now that the school year has started, what are you looking forward to this year?

I’m really looking forward to new ways of being creative with what the children are learning. I try to incorporate the things they are studying in their other classes into mine. For the very young ones, that might involve active story telling. For others, I look for ways to incorporate math or language using movement.

Can you tell us more about that?

One example is to use relays to spell a word. They’re busy running around, but the physical activity helps them absorb what they’re learning in a different way.

I get it. It helps the kids who are kinesthetic learners. I am truly surprised. I had no idea this was something a gym teacher would get into. Did they teach specific classes on that as part of your college program?

Not really specific classes. But we did a lot of work with developmental issues. For example, we would get in the pool with people with developmental problems and use that activity as a way to help them learn. Then we were critiqued for our work. Our instructors would ask us lots of questions about how we did different things and why. They wanted to push to get us thinking in creative ways about teaching other skills. Often being physical while discovering a concept helps make a connection that wasn’t there. So in the example of spelling, the kids will remember all the running around having fun, or the songs and stories we act out to build on the skill.

So you’ve got to work with every other teacher in the school–from Kindergarten to 8th grade–to keep on top of what’s happening in their classrooms. That sounds much more challenging than I ever dreamed.

I don’t think it’s too bad really. All the teachers keep me up to date on what they’re doing. Even a quick chat before my class starts gives me ideas to work with.

That is really interesting. I learned something I would never have known doing this interview. Thanks so much for taking the time!

You’re welcome.

Who knew being a gym teacher was so much more complicated than just teaching assorted sports? Keeping up with all that information and continually finding fresh ways to engage all those children at all different levels is a huge job. Good thing Ms. L is such a terrific bundle of energy. As for me, I think I needed a nap after I finished my interview. No wonder my daughter likes her so much!


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