An Open Letter To My High School Gym Teacher

Dear Senior Year Gym Teacher,

We only met briefly on the first day of the semester, then for the next third of it the seniors went to health class during the gym period. Our next encounter was at a meeting with my parents and all my other teachers as well as an administrator about my upcoming absences due to a hip surgery. You were annoyed to be there clearly. Well I was annoyed to be missing part of my senior year due to surgery but if your attitude stopped there I would have been okay.

After the seniors came back from health you asked anyone who had a doctor's note to come speak to you. I was very proud to walk over without the assistance of crutches for the first time in five weeks, a whole week sooner than predicted. The nurse had already emailed you informing you of my inability to participate in class. You asked me if I exercised outside of class, apparently you were unimpressed with my new found ability to walk. "Yes," I responded with a smile, "I go to physical therapy 3 times a week." After all what else were you expecting me to say?

It became clear you disliked me, maybe you thought I was only trying to get out of gym. However if you had taken a moment to know me or talk to my previous gym teacher you may have looked at me differently. Did you notice my knee braces? Did you know I had knee surgery the year before? Or I was headed to hip surgery number 2 just a couple days after graduation to avoid missing any more school? If you had just asked you may have found out I was fighting an incurable autoimmune disease that had taken years for doctors to diagnose, leaving me with multiple joint surgeries. I know you probably thought I was just a teenage girl who didn't want get sweaty in between her other classes. However you did not realize how badly I wanted to be normal and fit in. It was bad enough I stood out with my crutches and joint brace through so much of high school, I did not need a gym teacher to make me stand out even more.

I ask that in the future you do not judge your students who cannot participate in Gym because of  medical problem, even the ones who look okay, maybe even especially the ones who look okay. Treat your students with respect and kindness. Please remember that if a student is unable to participate in gym for a whole semester (or two years) they are probably facing a challenge no teenager should be.

A girl who was trying her best

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