Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Phy Ed: My Least Favorite Subject in School

The mere thought of physical education classes during elementary, junior, and senior high school bring such difficult - and painful - memories.

When I was growing up, the teacher would always pick two of the most popular kids in school to head up the teams. One by one, the two leaders would choose who they wanted on their team. Invariably, I was always one of the last ones to be chosen. It's not a good feeling.

Once I was on a team, things didn't improve. Depending on the sport we were learning about and playing, the class was either palatable or truly nightmarish.

One of the activities I dreaded was dodgeball. Dodgeball was never playing in a friendly way. Rather, the boys would take the ball and throw it with as much force as they could muster to hit their "enemy." The force of the throw - combined with whatever that ball was made of - was painful and often would bring the girls to tears. The teacher did nothing. It was all part of "the game."

Swimming - which should be an enjoyable activity - was made miserable for both the teen boys and girls who had to wear school-issued maroon swimsuits. As I recall, the teen boys' swim trunks (I don't think they call them swimsuits...or maybe they do...who knows) were...shall we say...brief, at best. The teen girls' swimsuits would have been stylish in the 1940s or 1950s (about 30 years prior to when I went to junior and senior high school). Normally self-conscious at that age, teens were made to feel infinitely worse by the administrators' choice in swimwear.

Oh! I can't forget to mention the "shower checks." The phy ed teacher would sit by the shower area - a large room with multiple shower heads and another equally big room with racks for tiny towels. The teacher sat with a checklist. After you showered, you had to pass by her and say your last name so she could put a check mark next to your name. If she felt you didn't have enough water on your body, she would send you back in for shower #2.

On Fridays, all the students had to bring their school-issued gymsuits home (a one-piece suit that zipped up the front - light blue on the top and navy on the shorts - with the student's last name written on the back across the fabric covering the shoulder blades). The intention was that the suits and socks would be washed by a parent.

On Monday, the gymsuits had to be checked by the phy ed teacher. If she felt that the suit wasn't washed properly (or at all), you did not get a check mark. Your grade would be lowered by at least a couple of points.

Despite all the negative memories, let me assure that there were a couple of bright spots during phy ed: tumbling (in elementary school), gymnastics in junior and senior high school), and parachute games (elementary school).

Also, in junior high my friend, Brenda, suggested we join a sports team: girls volleyball. Lacking much of any athletic skill - especially in volleyball, I was surprised she suggested it. The volleyball coach said we did not have to know how to play volleyball to join the team, we would learn everything we needed to know as part of the team.

Indeed, I did learn how to play volleyball...quite well, in fact. Unbeknownst to my classmates in my phy ed class that I was on the volleyball team, I was...once again...chosen last when the phy ed class began learning how to play volleyball for six weeks.

As it became my time to serve, the boys on the other side made some catty comment to the effect of "Don't worry about this one. She can't even hit the ball."

"Really? Oh...let me show you," I thought to myself.

I overhand-served that ball with such determination at the boy who made that snide comment. Needless to say, he was caught off-guard and failed to return the ball to my team.

My turn again to serve. I again served directly to him, and his lack of skill showed. After multiple times, I had made my point. He never again made a derogatory comment about my skill in volleyball.

Although volleyball boosted my self-esteem, proved that I could do something that I set my mind to, and made me a valuable member of a team...it shouldn't have had to be that way.

Sports - physical education - taking care of one's body...all should be enjoyable. Being in a class shouldn't mean it gives other kids a right to belittle and bully other kids who may not be as talented or skilled in sports.

I hope things have changed since when I went to school and had to take phy ed. Helping children and teens find a sport or physical activity that they are passionate and excited about should be a goal of teachers - whether they are in public, private, or charter school; or homeschooled.

My goal, as a homeschool parent, has been to introduce Sophia and Olivia to a variety of physical activities throughout the years.

Girls Swimming
Sophia and Olivia swimming while on our
"Not Back to School Trip" to New England.
(Taken on September 10, 2011.)

Out of all the activities they have done, swimming and equestrian vaulting are, at this point, the two favorite activities of both the girls.

Sophia during equestrian vaulting.
The picture is dark because of the lighting in the arena.
(Taken on July 19, 2012.)

At home, they have enjoyed swinging on the swings, archery, bike riding, and walking the dogs.

Swinging on the Art Swing
Olivia and Sophia swinging on the swing at
Franconia Sculpture Park.
(Taken on December 3, 2011.)

I hope to continue to integrate more physical activities into homeschooling this year which will hopefully introduce them to new areas of interest and continue our journey to better health.

Olivia Waving and Skating
Olivia ice skating at a local rink.
(Taken on January 14, 2010.)

Whey Beyond the Naked Truth


Charis's Mum said...

I just snickered when I read about you serving the volleyball to that cruel boy. When I was in high school, I was glad to have P.E. separate from boys. The girls were less catty when the boys were not there. I agree with your comments that athletics should be enjoying-not a time to belittle.

Heidi said...

Gosh! School years can be so cruel and after reading your post I'm sorry you had to go through that. When I went to school ( for middle and high school years) girls and boys had gym class separately. I actually liked that set up.

Mallory said...

Oh phys ed...I still cringe when I think about it. I had some serious body image issues and hated phys ed.
I am so sorry that you had to go through that <3

Anna Murphy said...

I hated the President's Council on Physical Fitness test. I have always had terrible upper body strength, so I couldn't do the chin ups, but by golly, I could run the 440 when everyone else was walking. I was unpopular and always picked last too. We struggled with my daughter who hated any kind of team sport, and we tried several. Then we tried tennis and swimming. I mean, she loves to swim and is a fish in the water since she was about 3. The one thing she does is horseback riding, but no competition. And it's not that she is "girly"---she's very balanced that way, camping one minute, going out with her sorority friends the next. She was in Girl Scouts until the last level, and is still a Lifetime Member. The sorority is just like another girl scout club for her. Well, enough about me. Loved your post.

Moose said...

I am sorry you had to go through that. No teacher should ever allow students to belittle and bully their classmates- or anyone for that matter!

c.creativity said...

I managed to bypass junior high PE because of health reasons, but did take PE my junior year of high school. Showering was no longer required--or even allowed! The school stored extra AV equipment in the shower area of the girls' locker room. I was an expert, both in PE and after school during the softball season, at changing from one outfit to another without baring any skin--I can't imagine having to shower and then get checked off by the watching instructor! Elementary school PE was fun, though,