Toronto teacher brings fitness and smiles to students’ front doors
TORONTO -- Patrick Murtaugh is turning heads on two wheels. That’s because the Regal Road Public School teacher has taken to his bicycle to stay connected with students during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It's a big adjustment," Murtaugh told CTV News Toronto. "As a gym teacher and health teacher, I'm trying to get everyone away from screens and to do some physical activity. But everyone has to stay in their house, so I'm asking them to get out in their backyards or front porches and do some exercise.”
And to deliver that lesson, Murtaugh is doing it himself. Riding his bicycle, with speaker attached, to students’ homes, where he meets them in the front yard for a socially-distant dance party. He's also doing it dressed not like a teacher, but like a bird. "No doubt a lot of people are confused with the time, but putting on a costume hopefully helps kids put a smile on their face and families to have fun."
That bird is the school's mascot, the Regal Road Roadrunner. The costume is a colourful getup, including a bodysuit with feathers glued to it, a cape, and a hula skirt, to "keep it appropriate,” as Murtaugh puts it.
Murtaugh has adopted the slightly silly persona to deliver a more serious lesson: "Kids are used to running around at recess, lunchtime, being able to go on long bike rides. And right now they're not. So we really have to push them to keep doing that."
Murtaugh says he got the idea from seeing other teachers on social media posting drive-by visits from their cars.
So he decided to use his bike, and added the costume.
His first visit was Monday, on what was supposed to be the first day back to school, and it was a hit for both parents and students. Today he planned a different route to visit and dance with other students, including the Berry family. All four children were outside waiting for what looked like a caped canary as he biked up the hill to their house.
"I thought it was pretty awesome" Audrey Berry said. "I feel like some people are really bored, and they don't have enough things to do, so when our teacher comes by it just lifts everyone's spirits up."
Murtaugh says while he's doing it for the kids, he's also getting something out of it.
"I get physical activity. I've been cooped up in my house! It brings a smile to my face seeing the students, and basically just being connected to the community again feels so good."
Murtaugh says he hopes other teachers from other schools will be motivated to get on their bikes and take some fun fitness activities to their students, from an appropriate social distance. And he says he plans to keep riding, and dancing, until class is back in session.