Tribute to an Amazing PE Teacher and Some Crazy Rope Contraptions

Lot’s to chat on today! Well, running-wise it’s been a rather rough couple of days. My last two workouts bit the big one, you know what I’m talking about, just not hitting the times you want. I know we all have them, nature of the beast, but it’s easy to get pretty hard on yourself. I’ve gotten a lot better at this, telling myself it’s not the end of the world (I mean, honestly, Cait, it’s not like you’re even actually training for anything! haha), tomorrow’s another day, there’s always plenty more things to be had. But it still grates on you, ya know? Janae wrote a REALLY great post about dealing with crappy workouts and all those things she’s mentioned are true. So time to be a’mooooving on!

At any rate, got the run done and finished, I felt at least a little better than the disaster of two days ago, and finished with some arm weights and lunges. Checked out Katy’s blog and it looks like I seriously need to go play with one of those TRX Trainers! I’ve seen other people rave about them but have yet to get my hands on one…I’m a tad scared I’ll wind up somehow bound to a pole or instead left hanging midair until someone finds me. Like I said, I’ve got no coordination or skills! hehe. 🙂

The next thing is that today my littlest bro is graduating junior high!! Aww, lookie at him, aint he so cute? I also learned that one of my FAVORITE all time teachers, Mr. Tindall, is retiring. Now, I might have been a little rough on PE earlier, but Mr. Tindall is no ordinary PE teacher and also at the time I wasn’t training on any other sports teams. (Sorry the pic down there is the only one I could find of him, it’s with his wife!) So in honor of Mr. T I wrote up a little tribute to him explaining just what makes him the rocking man that he is! So, sorry that it’s pretty long, and since I’m sad he’s no longer teaching it’ll be in boring, somber black. That also means that if I’m too boring you can just scroll on down baby…but at least give Mr. T a moment of respect and tip your wide brimmed hats to him! (Don’t get that joke? Well then you’ll just have to read my tribute! BAM…lookie there I’m gonna make you read it…jk)

I also wanted to say first that I know lots of teachers out there and want to just say how much of an impact you guys can make. I know we all have those teachers that stand out in our minds and have influenced us for the better. (ummm, I also know how horrible it is to be stuck with a really bad teacher…lol) It’s often a thankless job, and I hear the pay aint all that it should be, but I know there are tons of kick @$$ people out there gettin it done! So without further adieu…let’s bring on Mr. T!!!!

Let’s face it, junior high can really suck sometimes. Alright, alright, don’t get me wrong Olympus Junior High is a GREAT school, the teachers are awesome, the facilities are clean, and you don’t have to walk through metal detectors to get past the front gates. I was lucky to attend such a nice school. But the whole awkward age thing, the pimples things, the wondering why there are only certain lunch tables you are allowed to eat at and then wondering who exactly elected these people deciding the seating arrangements. You’re left wishing you were at that meeting and had had a vote.

Ah, and the mortification at having to dress down in the locker rooms in PE for the first time. So yes, junior high can bite the big one sometimes. When I came to Olympus, my best friend of course was going to Cavitt Junior High, I was fresh off of band camp, my grandma had been the one to take me back-to-school shopping…need I say more?

I made some friends, accepted my lunchtime table seating and did my best to fly under the radar. My parents believed in keeping my siblings and I involved in sports and staying active, but I had no coordination whatsoever. That was okay with my rec soccer coach, he was more than happy to have a forward who was happy enough to run up and down the field without actually getting the ball. That was okay with me so long as I still got the aftergame snacks!

But come 7th grade all of my friends made the competitive team and if I was going to still play rec I’d have been the oldest by far and it’s a little embarrassing being the only person not in grammar school. So soccer was out. Now PE I had mixed feelings about; I absolutely HATED the whole locker room thing, I think I could set the record for the fastest dress and undress time. I enjoyed most of the things we did but couldn’t really show it too much because that just wouldn’t look too cool. So I allowed myself to do just well enough to get an A (I was neurotic about keeping my 4.0 gpa) and indulge in some fun but not overdo it and come off looking like I actually cared.

Now, every Friday Mr. Tindall and Miss Taylor would drag two classes worth of winey adolescents to line up and run two laps around the campus, this worked out to be a mile. To all of us it felt like a marathon and Fridays were dreaded for this reason. Mr. Tindall would send us off and hold a stop watch; he’d read us our halfway splits then clock our finishing time. You had to run certain times to pass and then earn a certain grade. I was anal about my grades so I was deadset on getting an A. I’m not sure what the ranges were exactly, but I think to get an A you had to run under 9 minutes. That was going to be a stretch for me.

At first I hated Fridays too but I was eeking under the 9 minute barrier. Then I started getting faster. Now, Mr. Tindall is not your ordinary PE teacher who dons the pale blue jumpsuit, toots the whistle and makes you do the ropeclimb until you’re crying and bleeding. He has an enthusiasm that is infectious and is genuinely fired up about his job and that rubs off on even the most too-cool-for-school kids. He also wears one kick-butt wide brimmed hat. I’d call it a straw hat, but it’s not exactly that, it’s a nicer one but in that sort of style. I’d like to know if it’s the same straw hat that’s been a mainstay on his head all these years or if he’s had to retire them and get new ones. If it’s the latter I hope there is a proper burial for each and every hat.



But I digress. Mr. Tindall will cheer each and every kid in from the ones who are first to the stragglers that are giving it their all but come in around 12 minutes. He also kindly heckles the ones who are obviously not trying and walking it after 15-plus minutes and not even getting a passing grade. Even those kids love Tindall and joke right back with him. So, being a mid-packer, Tindall would cheer me in.

Then something really strange started happening, I wasn’t a mid-packer after awhile, I started moving up. I broke the 8 minute barrier, then the seven. Miracle upon all miracles I started to be one of the first kids across the line, ahead of boys and sportier girls alike. Tindall started to really get me fired up, I wanted to be the first girl in. That was a tall order being that the overall first person in the class was, in fact, a girl. She was an 8th grader, a year ahead of me, and from what I’d heard ran on the track team.

But both of my parents were runners and, not gonna lie, I wanted something to brag to them about. However, the end of the school year was closing in and time was running out. I never did beat her that year, she graduated, but I’d been the second fastest kid in the class and had to settle with that.

The next year I came back, the year before I too had started running for the track team, which Tindall coached. I swear to you, I tend to zone out during races but one thing I never missed was Tindall in that wide brimmed hat cheering me down the homestretch. I like to think I was able to kick it in just a little harder thanks to him. So that year, he was good-naturedly telling me how I had to rock that PE. I joked back but there a fire in me that had started burning. Somewhere along the line something had clicked with me, I no longer dreaded the Friday mile challenge but anticipated its arrival like an animal going out for the hunt. I had experienced that rush that running gives you, those endorphins, call it what you will, but I was hooked.

That year I was the first girl across the line, the first person across the line. I don’t think even my parents enjoyed this more than Mr. T because it gave him full liberty to really give those boys a hard time. As the year progressed so did my mile times, and soon I was staring down the 6 minute mark. To me that seemed insane, an unobtainable feat, but Tindall started telling me to go for it. The school record was set by my unbeatable harrier from the year before, but it wasn’t under 6 minutes. After enough goading from T and his wide brimmed hat I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, it was possible.

6:06…6:03…6:03…6:03. Week after week Mr. T would take me aside and give me a little pep-talk, we both were sure it was going to be THAT week. He’d read me my split midway and cheer me on; he’d also yell at the kids strolling along to move aside and clear the way. But each week I’d come in at six and change. I started thinking 6:03 would be the bane of my existence.

5:58. Then it happened. Like I said, I tend to zone out during races so I don’t have much to say about that day except this: T in his wide brimmed hat telling me before the race something about how it was good that it was a warmer day because cold weather makes your lungs burn when you breathe really deep, that I promised myself if I broke six minutes I’d buy a pepperoni pizza from cafeteria (this was a big deal because my parents never let us spend money there), and Mr. T’s reaction as I headed home.

It was epic. I don’t know if I’ve heard a louder HU-RAH in my life. His wide brimmed hat probably would have fallen off his head as he leaped into the air if it hadn’t been cinched below his chin. I think he might have even stopped the watch by accident, which he wasn’t supposed to do because he was still timing the rest of the class. There are a few moments that will forever stand out in my mind, and this was one of them.

No, it wasn’t a world record, it wasn’t a national record, it wouldn’t have even won some of those age-grouper races, but Mr. T and I had achieved a goal we’d set. Though, Mr. Tindall and his wide brimmed hat gave me something much more, not just in that day, but in the journey. He’d lit a fire inside of me, one I didn’t know I’d ever had, and even more. He’d led me to a great passion of mine, a desire to set goals and chase them, and to find the best in myself even if it took a heck of a lot of digging. I managed to lower my time a bit more by the end of the year, and since then another person owns that school record, but that 5:58 was still one of the sweetest miles I’ve ever run.

Mr. Tindall also made a generally really tough time more manageable. I’d found a little niche; no I wasn’t the popular girl, I ate at the same lunch table, I was still a dork, but I had an easier time. Not that I’m big on labels, but I was that girl who could run and even though it didn’t make me the coolest it did get me at least a hello and head nod from some of the actual cool kids. I was if not accepted, tolerated.

Thanks Mr. Tindall, and your wide brimmed hat, for making junior high suck a lot less not just for me but for countless others who are struggling to find their own niche too.

Alright guys, to all those also fully embracing summer break congrats and enjoy it…to those poor folks still left with a few more days, well, sorry but you’ll get there soon! Enough from me for now. 🙂

1) Are you training for anything in particular right now?

2) Do you have a favorite teacher that comes to mind?

3) Hats? Where do you stand?

I don’t like anything on my head…I’m weird like that.


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3 thoughts on “Tribute to an Amazing PE Teacher and Some Crazy Rope Contraptions

  1. Oh my GOD. This post made me cry. What an amazing tribute to a teacher who probably doesn't even know the impact he had on you!! Tell me he is going to read it!?! I totally agree that it does majorly SUCK to have a bad teacher. These kinds of letters make all the difference in an educator's life. I always joke with my kids to bring me a gift and they say "but I can't legally buy wine" (hahaha) so I say "a hand written card is great". And actually some kids actually do (or I force them).
    Thanks SO much for the shout out!!! Whoo hoo!!! I'm not training for anything right now (dumb knee) but I would like to do a duathlon this summer. I have a few favourite teachers- all Phys Ed! And I love hats for running- shields the sun and keeps my hair from matting on my massive forehead.
    I'm so buying one of those brimmed hats. I think the kids will really dig it.
    5:58 mile? You are a freakin champion.

  2. I am just amazed you ran sub six in middle school. you crazy speedy girl!!!! I also ran like a billion 6:03s (but that was in hs) and then ran a 5:58! Funny how mental it is. Great post.

    Also, you comment about one grape eating another on my blog was awesome. Really awesome.

  3. awww, katy girl you're such a sweetie, and thanks for the kind words regarding my little tribute. and TRUST me all ur students are lucky as H-E-Double hockeystick to have YOU as a teacher. umm, and the kids u coach are even luckier cuz they're double dipping in the best barrel. 🙂 wow, i'm on a corny sayings kick! that said, they should make an exception on that whole buying booze underage for those kids of yours. 😉 keep me posted for when u're ready to rule that duathon and i'm still sending all my fast healing vibest to that knee of yours! oh, and ya, we've gotta get u a sweet @$$ wide hat for u to wear!

    margs…hahaha, glad u liked my little grape theory. ur posts never fail to crack me up! 🙂

    PS- you both deserve some kind of medal for reading thru this whole epic post! u guys rock. 🙂

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