I’m a teacher and although I may not always be one in a classroom, I know that I will always be an educator. I am one of those people who believes that my best work really happens outside of the classroom, when I can speak more frankly with students, many times in a smaller setting than the classroom allows.
Now that I am on summer vacation, I cannot count the number of times I’ve had one of those real teachable moments with students during the school year. This article will be an extension of one of the topics I speak about the most, “You know… you can be pretty, athletic AND smart… right?” Usually the girl stares at the floor with a smirk on her face. Maybe thinking about how I just don’t understand, so I tell them that I do get it, I totally get it.
Growing up I was what I like refer to as a “tomboy with princess tendencies.” My mother was constantly at a loss for words as to how and why I would return home to her with completely blackened knees (as I got older I started to question my mother’s, and all black mother’s choice of putting their brown babies in white stockings anyway). I loved to run, jump, crawl, climb, and well… play. As an only child I had to learn how to keep myself busy, pretending to be a Mighty Mophin’ Power Ranger (usually the pink ranger, because everyone wanted to be the pink ranger). Taking flying jump kicks from atop our living room couch, then landing into a roll across the floor barely missing the coffee table and/or my mother’s feet. I’d look up and flash my mom the huge grin on my face and she’d respond usually with a shake of her head and a partially scared, partially proud look of “What have I created?”
Then there was the dancing; Michael Jackson was of course a staple. I can vividly remember seeing the “Remember the Time” video for maybe the fifth time and getting so excited right before the dance breakdown. I would get up from sitting next to my mom on the couch; round the back of it and wait… here it comes. *SNAP*I would spring up from right behind the couch and my mom, snapping my fingers fabulously along with the dancers in the video (#kidsthesedayswillneverknow the struggle of learning music video choreography without a pause or rewind button). I’m pretty sure that it was right around this time that my mom put me in my first ballet class at the local YWCA. I was three; I was being social, active, and pretty cute.
In order to ensure that this is not just my life’s story…
Let’s do a quick synopsis of the next 23 years…
(Dance is sprinkled ALL throughout this time.) Soccer: 5-6 years old, Softball: 7-10 years old, Track and Field: Middle School, Cheerleading: 8th grade – freshman year of college, Currently: Dance/Physical & Health Education teacher and Health Coach.
During this time it was easy to recognize me as quite the athletic. My mom, maybe once a year, still brings up the way nurses would ask if I played a lot of sports and/or danced because when trying to give me injections in my uh… gluteal muscles, they would comment on it’s toning. Yes, I am definitely, an only child. Yes, she really does still bring it up.
What many did not realized (aside from my mom) was that I was a huge nerd. Even as I look back, I really wonder how I was the last to find out. My mother would wake me up on weekends to go to church, or sometimes even dance class, and it was a battle. But all she had to say was… “Robyn, it’s on.” I would roll over on a spot on the couch and open one eye to take in the glorious Pokémon. I collected the cards, had a plethora of games, a Pocket Pikachu, Tamagotchi, and played The Sims as if I were actually the Goddess herself. Looking back, I was gamer before I could game.
Does anyone else kind of want to start these up again?
My dad and his friends were gamers before that was really a thing. Sega genesis games of Madden NFL 95 were a big deal in our home, and I would watch the games intensely. Sonic was usually what I go to play, along with Safari Hunt (Sega’s answer to Duck Hunt). Finally in the 5th grade I got my Nintendo 64, and my dad got his Playstation. At mom’s it was Mario Kart, Mario Party, Golden Eye, Perfect Dark and more. At dad’s it was Crash Bandicoot, Diddy Kong Racing, Tomb Raider, Twisted Metal and whatever else he’d let me play.
Although being a nerd is now generally a lot more accepted now than it was even 10/15 years ago, the struggle is so real for many kids, especially girls. “Are you having a hard time starting to like boys, and not wanting to play as well as you can in class?” My sixth grade female student nodded yes. I empathized with her, she was figuring out that she liked someone and could but did not necessarily want to beat him at kickball. We spoke for a while and I suggested that she watch the Women’s World Cup that month. She did watch them, then stuck to my side for the rest of our time together, begging to get in the game when she was not in the appropriate clothing. She told me “I watched the game.” I asked her what she thought, she told me that those girls had really big legs, that they were really fast and kicked the ball really hard. Then asked if she could play in her school uniform… “Please? If I get another girl to play? I counted the number of people playing. it would make it even. Please?” I was impressed, and she played… really well.
“You know… you can be really nerdy and athletic, right? Like, it’s OK to be really good at and into different things!” This particular student just smiled. I have spent a lot of time talking to her and her friends about manga, anime, comic con (most of my students have never been and are rather jealous that I go yearly), TV shows, feminism, and how much weight I lifted at the gym the night before.
I wish these girls knew how big and wonderful my world sometimes feels because I was given the space and permission (thanks mom!) to love all that I love. But it is hard, really hard. I mean it’s still the “WOMEN’S” World Cup. Which gets no attention in comparison to the (Men’s) World Cup. This is not to say that there cannot be different divisions, but the fact that one is always the standard and the other has to have an identifying letter/noun at the beginning just says well, we’re the “other”.
And when doing a google search for the best female athletes of the year, the first hit is for the list of the hottest female athletes of that year. Even when searching just “College female athletes”, the top hit is for “25 Insanely Hot Female Athletes You Should Be Following…” There are lists for geek, the smartest, and most nerdy male athletes… I could not find similar lists for females.
We have to make sure that girls know better than this. We should be talking about the fact that in order to be a physical education teacher I had to take human anatomy, human physiology, applied kinesiology, a course on motor skills and more. Many of these classes I took with pre-med and exercise science students. My degrees are both of science, and although many physical education teachers in school do not show their knowledge (many times we do not have the opportunity even if we wanted to, with class sizes at 50:1), many are experts in the human body, how it learns and how it moves. To be honest, I do not think even I mention that enough out of fear of sounding defensive of my position as a respectable educator.
We can also take a look at sports fandom. Everything from the clothing to season tickets to fantasy leagues. Fanatic sports fans are just a nerdy as Whovians, and wannabe Jedis But because of gender roles and norms we have been pinned against one another. I mean, how many times do those who are not sports fans create and post memes about how they do not care about the current championship game or even what sport it is? What if you could just have an appreciation for both, just respecting the fact that we all have our favorite types of entertainment?
Although I do not share my personal life with students, maybe it would be helpful for them to know that I am pretty sure the person I am romantically linked with was into me from the moment I told him I got to comic con yearly. He was worried that I would judge his video game habit. Now we take time to bond over gaming, a bit of healthy competition during racing games and the like, and practice using good communication skills while killing Nazi zombies. Then the next day we go complete the Crossfit WOD at the box we are both members of. I can’t say that this makes all the things that were difficult about find pride in who I am, but it is definitely a perk.
Because I am a nerdy jock girl, I feel as if I have the best that life has to offer. I really wish we would stop denying ourselves so much. I feel I am at my best when I am physically active, watching what I eat, nerding out, and feelin’ hot. I think we’re all capable of finding the place where we feel our best. We need to remember that there are six dimensions of wellness that all make us a whole person, do what it takes to make sure you are not neglecting ANY of them.
A picture my mom took of me at my grad school graduation. Yes, I took my light saber to the ceremony at which I obtained my (Jedi) Master’s degree.
Me deadlifting 198lbs.
Being a nerdy jock can be confusing to many people, as they cannot fit a label on you. Women continue to force the world to take them seriously as contenders in all realms, from the Playstation network to the UFC octagon. Not only that but, nerds are known for doing the unexpected. In a time where it feels like everything has been done, nerds continue to keep the world in awe. So keep it up ladies.
May the force be with you all. Please, use it to kick ass in RL too.
She offers health coaching for geeky girls through GeekGirlStrong.com. Follow her on twitter and request her on Instagram @ms_stormyriot