Every PE unit was a means for me to prove just how useless and uncooperative my body was. The cycle began with cautious optimism—maybe I’ll hit/kick/serve it this time!— followed shortly by a missed kick or fumbled serve that showed the class and teacher that I was terrible at everything. The culmination of each class was the annihilation of my self-confidence.
Every new sport was a fresh hell. I spent the majority of the time either on the sidelines or waiting to be picked for a team by one of the popular kids, the ones who already knew how to swing a bat and give unselfconscious high-fives. I ended up in the outfield with the boy who picked his nose.
I spent most classes trying to disappear. I had the tricks down: move as subtly as possible away from the ball; attempt a bathroom break when your team is called to the infield; when all else fails develop allergies or limp (this one rarely paid off).
After this ordeal, I’d shuffle through the rest of the school day deflated, sure that the students who’d watched me flounder at kickball now expected me to fail at life. Long division? Who, me? You must be mistaken; I can’t even catch. With the weeklong exception of archery in high school (my singular time to shine), this agony went on for 12 years.
Calling the class “physical education” was some sort of sick joke. The lesson I was learning about my physical body was that it was useless, inferior, and quite possibly infected with a cootie-like virus. We should have been learning about how complicated and capable our bodies were and how to make them healthier. Instead we were playing dodgeball.
I am not here to bash Jessie as each person is entitled to their own opinion. It is important to note that Jessie also brought a low self-concept into PE class and it is this low self-concept that was forced even lower by poor PE teachers. Regardless of individual skill level, it is the teacher's responsibility to bring out the very best in every student -- make them all shine. A good teacher can make every single student feel special and give them a sense of empowerment. It is unfortunate that Jessie obviously never experienced teachers like this.
Team sport is an absolute necessity in PE. Team sport helps to foster essential life skills such as cooperation, communication, sportsmanship, resiliency, persistence, problem-solving, planning, strategizing, camaraderie, compassion and learning to support and encourage one another. These are the essential traits in which team sport should be deeply rooted. Had Jessie experienced one of my classes or the classes of other very good teachers within the PE network on Twitter, her perception of PE would be very different today.
I encourage Jessie to to check out a number of blogs and PE websites out there such as:
To conclude Jessie states that:
The solution seems pretty simple. Start teaching kids how to do the things they can do, better. Most kids can run and jump and skip. Let them. They don’t have to race or see who scores the most points. Teach them about what they can do rather than what they can’t. Show them their bodies can be a key to their future happiness, not an obstacle to it.