Anyone who knows me can tell you that I adore high heels. I’m not prejudiced either; I love them in all shapes, colors and styles! My clock is a red high heel. I have a high heel shaped tape dispenser (thanks, sis), wine bottle stand, cake server, calendar… Even my spoon rest on the stove is a red high heel. I also have a few real pairs… (okay, I’m being modest). After my husband accepted the fact that he’ll never get me to stop buying them, he built me a closet for them.
I originally took my teaching degree to teach Middle Years students, but jobs are scarce in my small city, and if you want one, you take what you get and you don’t get upset! Long story short, I ended up becoming an Elementary Phys-Ed Teacher for a couple of years. That’s not where I thought I’d end up, but being the perfectionist that I am, I set out to do the absolute best job that I could, while still being myself, of course.
Myself – wears heels. I was the gym teacher who wore heels every day.
My students quickly became fascinated with my shoes. They would wait to see which pair I’d have on each day. A rumour went around my school that I’d never worn the same pair twice, which I’ll assure you is not true!
“How many high heels do you have?” I’m often asked this question. My students could tell you the answer I always give. “I refuse to count.” There are some things you just don’t need to put a number on.
Another frequent question I hear is, “how do you walk in those shoes?” My answer to that one is, “the same way you do. One foot in front of the other.”
“Those can’t be comfortable,” they say. Honestly, they’re not always comfortable, no. If what you value most in footwear is comfort, then heels are not the shoes for you. If you value style, I would argue that there are stylish shoes in any heel height, right down to pretty flats and funky sneakers. Wearing heels is important to me. I feel good in them, even if my feet don’t always feel good. (However, at work I am practical in my choices; I do have several comfortable pairs of heels, that I can wear all day, be active in, and my feet are fine at the end of the day.) Some women do a lot more difficult things in heels than teach! You get used to them.
It was inevitable that someone would eventually comment on my ability to teach phys-ed with heels on. Some wondered how I could possibly do a good job if I wasn’t in runners. It’s amazing to me some of the things that people decide to care so much about. Is my shoe choice really that big of an issue that it needs to become a topic for gossip?
I kept a pair of runners at school for the days I needed to demonstrate a skill; I was the teacher – I knew when those days were coming! With my hobby job and certifications in the fitness industry, I also knew the importance of modeling proper footwear for my students when doing physical activity. On the contrary, anyone who’s ever taught a phys-ed class knows that the teacher’s main role is not to get in there and participate in every sport. It isn’t summer camp, and I’m not a counsellor; the teacher’s role is to educate, supervise, support, build relationships, and assess (plus so much more), much of which can be done in heels. It can – I did it.
My boss thought I did a great job. The kids thought I did a great job. Any parent that actually spoke to their child in my class knew that I poured my heart and soul into being the best phys-ed teacher I could, while still being me. One of my colleagues suggested I do a professional development at a conference titled, “How to Teach Phys-Ed in Heels.” I didn’t get the chance, so I’m writing this in honour of her now. She knew I was fulfilling my professional duties, while still expressing my personal style. (Thanks, Heather!)
My heels can tell stories. I remember where I was when I bought them, or an experience I had while I wore them. I have shoes from places around the world, and when I look at them, they remind me of that trip, or that place, and that brings me joy. My heels were a point of connection for my students to ask about my stories, and my life. They were a discussion starter, and a symbol of me, to them. Now, because of those cute, honest conversations with kids, some of my heels have become reminders of my students, to me. When I see certain pairs, I can see their beautiful little faces.
I’ve had parents tell me more than once that my name gets brought up when their kids see high heels on movies, shopping, or on trips. It warms my heart; it’s nice to know they think of me.
I asked my husband once if it’s dumb that I’m known throughout the school for my shoes. I said, “that’s a really trivial thing to be remembered for.” He reminded me that my shoes are just a fun part on the outside, and how any student that has actually worked with me will remember me for how I impacted their lives. Upon receiving their farewell cards this spring, I can see that they will remember me because I helped them learn something, overcome something, because I listened, because I showed them love. The heels are just a visual reminder.
Whether I want to admit it or not, wearing heels has become a part of who I am. I feel like myself when I have them on. People can think what they want about that. As educators, we teach kids the importance of ignoring negative criticism, and fully embracing their own little (or big) personalities. We try to instil values in them like independence, strong self-esteem and acceptance of diversity. We teach that doing things to help them feel great, beautiful, confident, or like they’re being true to themselves is important in presenting their beautifully and wonderfully created selves to the world around them. Why should we not do the same?