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Gym Class

Amy linked to a story about a middle school teacher in Pensacola, Florida who let kids out of gym class for a dollar a day. What a brilliant money making idea! Why couldn’t my P.E. teacher have had such entrepreneurial skills?

Being a fat girl, I was never a fan of gym class, but I was rather good at avoiding it after elementary school. At my middle school, if you took band class you didn’t have to take gym. Then in high school you only had to do one semester of gym and one semester of health. The year before I started high school, they counted marching band as your gym credit, but they stopped doing this my freshman year. Evidently no one on the school board had keeled over from heat stroke on a sun bleached field after running around playing show tunes for three hours. Okay, I never got heat stroke, but I did throw up after the first day and had to run off the field with a bloody nose once. Marching band is hardcore, y’all. I only lasted a year before turning in my feathered hat and brocade jacket.

I ended up taking gym over summer school because I was always trying to cram more electives into my schedule. I went everyday for four hours for about 3 or 4 weeks. I liked getting it all over at once, but there was always the fear that if you missed more than two classes you’d have to take the whole shebang over again due to absenteeism. Truly, the only thing more horrible than gym class is the thought of taking gym class twice.

Looking back at my gym experiences, it’s a shame that none of my physical education teachers were able to convince me that being fit could be fun and would enhance other aspects of my life. No, gym was about avoiding dodgeballs and the fear of group showering. Gym was about trying to avoid being picked on for being weak. At the time, I saw absolutely no point in requiring gym class. Now that I’m older and wiser and fitter, I can see that your physical health directly affects your mood, just like what you eat (or don’t eat) can affect your ability to concentrate, focus and learn. Also, being able to run, lift heavy things, and just generally be able to use your body gives you great confidence that bleeds over into your overall attitude towards life.

I really wish gym class had focused on how to incorporate fitness into my life in an enjoyable way and not on how to climb a rope dangling from the ceiling. Seriously, when have I ever needed to climb a rope? My life is not a Jackie Chan movie. I have never been stuck on the side of a cliff and had to climb up a rope to safety. But now that I have said this, I’m sure sometime next week I’ll be dangling by a rope off a cliff somewhere screaming “Damn it! Why didn’t I pay attention in gym class?” because the universe is funny like that. Until there is some serious gym class reform in America, there will always be kids willing to pay a buck to sit on the bleachers instead of dribble a basketball while wearing an ugly school gym uniform.

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16 Comments

Amyt • April 10, 2006 at 1:45 pm

i’ve already posted about how i felt about gym so i won’t blather but really, it’s not effective. everyone is worried about the food kids eat at school but no one has noticed that gym is not an effective tool for kids to get exercise. there’s got to be something else they can do.

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Jenn • April 10, 2006 at 3:41 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more… in the early 80’s our high school gym teacher was an overweight middle-aged woman who sat on the sidelines and barked commands. In middle school, he was a perv who liked to watch us bend over and do toe-touches. It was a total chore and instead of teaching us the importance of fitness, it taught us the art of making excuses.

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Josie • April 10, 2006 at 11:35 pm

Ha ha, today you brought back gym class memories (so true…so true..especially about that damn rope),and today I reminisced about that first dance in junior high school. Both horrific memories, but funny!

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Jennah • April 11, 2006 at 12:34 am

I couldn’t agree with you and Jenn more. Gym only taught me how to feel even worse about my body and myself around other people. To care more about what other people thought of me, and to make excuses and find any reason to not have to take up physical activity. No one is looking at you when you are in the house, on the couch eating food while watching t.v. I wish they could make gym more fun, more accepting and actually teach the benefits of fitness instead of making you feel that you are just there because grown ups think kids need to play outside for an hour. It was never fun and only helped show me how inadequate I was against my more athletically inclined peers.

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Joie Gates • April 11, 2006 at 8:46 am

I was having gym class flashbacks as I read this!

Being that I was often the last one picked for any gym “team”, my athletic ability was always in question and eventually I decided that I had none.

In High School I tried to step out of the mold and went out for the softball team. When I did’nt get picked I decided that “athlete” was not in my genetic makeup.

Too sad that we can not make phyisical activity fun instead of the embarrassing chore so many kids find it in school.

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little miss ess • April 11, 2006 at 8:59 am

I too hated gym for all the reasons you write about and the ones that others have, too. As soon as I was in junior high, because I was in band, I had the option of opting out of phys ed. And I did. Boy howdy, I did. I acutally consider myself pretty sporty and atheletic now, but I do wish there had been other opportunities to get interested in sports as a kid…we had no girls’ soccer, and girls didn’t start playing basketball and volleyball or running track until junior high, and to have even been considered for that, you had to already have been in “athletics” in middle school, rather than in phys-ed with the other pudgy and nearsighted kids like me, playing dodgeball.

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Kristi • April 11, 2006 at 10:08 am

I think that could be said of most any subject taught in schools today- teachers have their hands tied behind their backs to teach to the tests and aren’t able to show kids how relevant history/math/English/PE can be in their lives.

Oh, and by the way, try being a daughter of a gym teacher. Not only do you end up hating gym class, you end up being hated for having a dad that forced your peers to do stupid things like scooter races and rope-climbing. Your popularity definitely suffers…

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Hilly • April 11, 2006 at 2:03 pm

I too hated gym, even when I was young and slender because athletics were just not my bag, baby. This is an interesting article though; part of me wonders if we are enabling kids to be lazy but part of me thinks this is a much better alternative to hiding in the locker room, which I did many many times!

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Kelly • April 11, 2006 at 2:37 pm

I was lucky to be able to do PE Independent Study for part of high school. One year this meant an early-morning weight lifting class, which was ok. We just kind of wandered around randomly using the weight machines. My friends and I hogged this contraption called the Super Sled because we could a) lay down, and b) get all excited at our super-human lower body strength. Those big thighs were good for something!

The next year I got to plan my own routine and check in with an instructor once a month. I wound up pedaling a lot on my grandma’s exercycle and swimming laps with my mom at the Y. No getting chosen last for all the team sports I sucked at. No getting nailed with random flying balls. I think it would be much more useful and much more healthy if every kid could tailor his/her own PE program. I know I worked out a lot more that year than I ever had when I was taking the regimented PE class.

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Isabelle • April 11, 2006 at 4:42 pm

How I agree. There were two things I hated in gym lessons as a child – even though I wasn’t fat. One was team games – I’m not competitive and was rather timid – I didn’t want to be reviled for letting the team down. The other was the fear of making a fool of myself while trying to do something with other people watching, such as climbing a rope or jumping over a high horse. But playing some lively game with my friends, or just running uncompetitively – that would have been fine.

But then, I can see that for some kids, competition is fun and that what I describe wouldn’t sufficiently challenge that kind of person.

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Suey • April 11, 2006 at 5:42 pm

Oh heck yeah marching band was hardcore! I actually lost weight from attending band camp. 10 lbs freshman year, 5 lbs sophomore year (I didn’t lose much that year b/c I took advantage of sitting out on a lot of activities as a band council member eheheh).

Anyway, those kids should watch out for a hike in the price of skipping out on gym.

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NicoleW • April 11, 2006 at 6:50 pm

Ditto on the dreariness of gym class. Between that and summer camp with its various sadistic counselors, I’m not even a little bit surprised that for a long time I associated exercise with utter misery, or believed that exercise was punishment.

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Bigg Blue Lue • April 12, 2006 at 9:33 am

Gym Class was the bane of my childhood existance, and I very much *enjoyed* playing and being active as a kid. But boy, did they set out to ruin that when they invented ‘gym class’….

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theresa • April 14, 2006 at 10:39 am

Thank you for giving a voice to the horrors of gym class. I truly hated every agonizing moment of it. From the white t-shirts and short shorts. To the games of requiring athletic ability. I am athletically challenged always have been always will be. I wish gym class had been about fitnes not sports. Maybe I would not have spent so many years on the sofa.

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Courtney • April 23, 2006 at 12:00 am

I actually liked gym class a lot!

I was always one of the best athleats of any of the girls in my classes, and it was a lot more fun than being stuck in math class or something like that!

The mandatory shower was a little awkward the first day or two, but after that it was no big deal, after all it was only girls in there and the female gym teacher.

Over all nude showers didn’t really bother any of us girls, but the one thing is that it was a communal shower room with shower polls that had four shower heads each which meant that you were always facing another girl right accros from you.

But over all I have really good memories of gym class, it was my favorite class to tell you the truth.

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Deb • May 30, 2008 at 2:59 pm

OK, I know I am SEVERELY late to this party but I just had to let you know that you owe me a new keyboard because I just shot Diet Coke (through my nose, no less) onto it reading the line:

“But now that I have said this, I’m sure sometime next week I’ll be dangling by a rope off a cliff somewhere screaming “Damn it! Why didn’t I pay attention in gym class?” ”

And I just had my own gym class flashback. Gymnastics. Now, keep in mind I am 5’11” and weighed over 300 in high school. How was I supposed to run, jump on a spring board,and straddle jump over one of those gymnastic horse thingies? I don’t know how I didn’t hurt myself because I distinctly remember one of my fellow chubby classmates actually breaking her arm doing this. That didn’t deter the gym teacher at all. She was sent to the nurses office and the rest of us had to keep straddle-jumping. At the time I remember thinking that that girl was lucky because she didn’t have to suffer the embarrassment anymore. Yes, Gym Teachers of the World, your overweight students would rather break their arm than suffer your ridiculous and unnecessary torments!

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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