Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ray Major

I met Ray during my high school years at the Windsor Central School District when he was teaching and coaching and I was competing in cross country and track and field. As is often the case, I didn’t fully appreciate his tremendous sense of humor and everything he had to say until after I moved away. Although he now lives in Texas, we have remained good friends and I consider him an absolutely remarkable man. Ray has two distinct passions in his life; education and lifetime fitness. Currently, he teaches Physical Education and Health at an elementary school in the Plainview Independent School District in Plainview, Texas. Enjoy his thoughts! - Joseph Norman

In the classroom today, what are a few things that you try to pass on to your students?

The number one thing in my classroom is that everyone has value and everyone deserves to experience some kind of success. And, I tell them that. I really believe that we all have different abilities and we all have strengths. Even though we have weaknesses, we all have strengths too and that is what we should focus on.

I’ve even pushed this farther by teaching my students and athletes that you have to have a love for it. You have to enjoy it. If you aren’t doing something for you, then maybe you aren’t doing it for the right reasons. It’s that extensive. I take it from my coaching right down to the elementary level where I now teach.

What got you into education?

Gary Vail was my PE teacher in the mid to late 70s. I wasn’t a very athletic kid, I didn’t play other sports well, and I was always one of the last people picked. But I just admired the way he did things. He would post the win-loss records of all the classes in the locker room and I thought that was impressive. So, 1) I’ve got this teacher that I absolutely admire, and, 2) I’m not a very athletic kid so I’m not really getting the playing time in PE that I probably could have. From that time I was thinking about going into Phys. Ed. for education.

Now, as for my running, I got my origins from a man named Gerry O’Donnell. I always admired him because even in his late 40s he was still running with us. And, he always believed in me. I didn’t make it to the state meet but he took me with him. He wrote me a really nice letter at graduation. And, I think that is where my love of running started.

At that time running was a little more extrinsic and just for the rewards. Now it is more intrinsic, but at that time I had things I wanted to accomplish with my running. That’s what kept me running back then.

Why physical education?

I was always the one that organized the pick up games when I was a kid. I even kept stats during the games. If my brother ran the ball, I would step it off and mark up a piece of paper that he just got five yards. Who does that? My old friends still joke about it.

And, I was the type of kid that could never sit still. I was constantly moving. My grade school years I got in trouble because I could never sit still.

As I recall, almost everyday you eat lunch with students. Tell me a little bit about this habit of yours...

The number one reason I do it is for the pure enjoyment of seeing the kids get excited and looking forward to something. And, the second thing is a bit selfish, but it is the fact that I get to be with a small group. It might be two kids or it might be twelve, but just the pleasure I get from having a small group at some point during the day is a wonderful reward for me because I usually have classes of 40 or so.

What keeps you running?

Early on my running was more extrinsic. You go to a road race and win a trophy or something. But, collegiately the value came more from the opportunity to travel and enjoy the camaraderie with my teammates. After that it really got to the physiological high that you get from the runs. Quite simply it became an addiction. Now it is more of a stress reliever and social thing. There is still the love for running even though the obstacles of old age and angry joints are there. So, where I’m at now is just enjoying the connection with nature.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ray is known for his rhymes. This is the beginning of a recent rendition he gave to his parents at parent-teacher conference night in Plainview.

Health and fitness is important all the time
That’s why I wrote the following rhyme
I was watching CNN
I think it was around ten
The news was about a flight attendant who made up a rap
Because during a safety debriefing, the passengers sat their like saps
I figured if he can do it on a plane
I can talk about how activity stimulates the brain
We don’t have to make fitness a whole lot harder
Even a little bit will make you smarter
You see fitness helps pump blood easier to the mind
This can help you solve problems of many kinds
It doesn’t matter the activity that you do
Grab a partner if it will help you
Baseball, basketball, even soccer
Get those sneakers out of the locker
If you golf, don’t use a cart
Walking the course is better for your heart...

Final thoughts?

I don’t know if this directly applies, but I feel like it might. My mother died just recently on April 3. Not my step mother, but my real one. And, that is the first parent I’ve lost. It has kind of set me back but it has also helped me realize that you’ve got to be grateful for what you have while you’re here.

When I get that over-ambition to do more and train more, I try to remember now and then that it’s okay to step back and just enjoy it. Sometimes we all need that gentle reminder that it’s best to take time and appreciate what you have rather than just rush through life.

Ray can be reached by email at: