Children’s image of adults reflects example set

Kids’ images of us, meaning of us adults, are funny. Those of us who have the privilege of working with them on a regular basis know this. The rest of the world occasionally is surprised by it.

Thus, the setting: Ninth-grade algebra class, which in my case only has four students. The subject: Algebra, which they attempt to get me off of on a regular basis. This time, the question used had to do with what I might do when I got home from school. You see, at that age, they still think we are unplugged and stored in the staff lounge until morning. Well, obviously they don’t, but to some extent, that idea of teacher as non-person still lies dormant. The idea that we might actually do something when we are done never really crosses their minds.

I suppose since I am primarily a Biblical studies and history teacher, they imagine that I will go home and read Biblical commentaries and history books. Sometimes that happens.Not as often as they might think.

On the day in question, however, I shared that I had plans to ride my bike, a response which elicited gales of laughter.

I was not sure of the cause of the laughter. I know that I do not look like an Ironman competitor, but I like to think that I look reasonably fit, certainly like someone who might ride a bike for fun. In fact, since I have been prepping for a hike up Pike’s Peak, I like to think that I look fitter than I did four months ago.

I came to realize that the response was tied to their cartoon image of me riding a bike: looking like a little kid on a little kid’s cruiser, complete I suppose with basket and bulb horn, maybe even with blue streamers flying off of the handle bars.

But wait, there’s more.

The very idea that most of their teachers try to squeeze in a time for physical activity left them open mouthed.

As I thought about it, it made sense in a way not entirely complimentary to us, the adult population of Clovis. Drive through Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Austin, Lubbock, Amarillo. You see bikers and runners, walkers, everywhere. Certainly you see a few bikers and runners or walkers in our town, and it’s true that those are larger cities. But the tough truth hit home that part of my little darlings’ laughter had to do with the reality that they are not used to seeing grownups (that’s their word for us adults) staying fit as a matter of habit.

That, my readers, is an image that is not funny — that they perceive we adults as not walking, running, biking, because they are not used to seeing us do so. It means we are setting a not very good example.

Oh, I know, it’s been hotter than frog sweat for the past — not weeks, but months. But we do have a decent city for those activities. There are far worse parks than the ones we have, and there are far worse streets than our fairly safe ones. Except for the robot driving the red Domino’s delivery car (I guess it was a robot cause it seemed powerless to steer), Clovis drivers always seem to swing over into the left lane when they pass someone riding a bike, thereby even giving extra room and courtesy.

Since we were studying statistics, probabilities, and variables, the attempt to get me off topic failed miserably — we turned it into a live experiment, interviewing teachers about their favorite form of exercise.

It does, though, leave me with awareness that, if we want our kids topractice fitness, we have to set an example.