The other day I had a surprise encounter at the gym... with an entire class of first-year students.
Yes, I use my school's small gym to work out four days a week. It has treadmills, free weights, and a small but sufficient selection of machines to use. Normally, I am the only person who frequents the gym in the afternoons. All the students are in class, and the other teachers have much more work than I do. Occasionally I'll run into the school groundskeeper, and I insa him when I see him. I also insa the school custodial staff, who use the gym's shower room but don't work out. I've gotten used to having the hour mostly to myself and my mixtape of American pop music, and quite enjoy it, actually.
So imagine my shock when I'm doing leg lifts and suddenly see, through the windows, an entire class of students exit the gymnasium in their gym clothes and head toward the weight room. I just sat there and didn't know what to do. I was wearing a tank top and was probably more than a little bit sweaty. Most of my students have never seen me outside of class and in street clothes, much less in the thoroughly unflattering getup I had at this moment.
Yes, it was SUPER AWKWARD at first when they all came in, along with the gym teacher, who is a nice, bro-ish guy. I asked him nervously if my outfit was all right, and he just nodded and motioned for me to go business as usual. But the gym had just been overrun with my students, and how on earth can you go about business as usual when that happens?
Of course my students were staring at me and appreciating the awkwardness as much as I did. I tried to ignore them at first, but inevitably the influx of people using the machines led to waiting time, and then I noticed that most of my students had no idea what they were doing, swinging dumbbells around haphazardly and not adjusting any of the weight machines. And that is when I decided to turn this into an opportunity for cultural engagement: I gave my students workout tips! And I did bicep curls with them and showed them weightlifting techniques and dared them to do pull-ups on the pull-up bar. I resorted to smiling on overdrive whenever I caught a student's eye instead of looking away like I was embarrassed, even though I was.
In the end, it was, in fact, quite fun. I turned up Beyonce and had a great time. I think my students, did, too. I do hope, however, that the image of me pounding on the treadmill in a sweaty tank top doesn't scar them too much! Perhaps I should invest in a workout shirt with sleeves.