I was traumatized by gym class

A while ago my colleagues and I were discussing how physical education – PE – classes are disappearing from the curriculum but many parents don’t seem to care. Given that we all know how important physical activity is for kids we didn’t know why that would be. Then it hit me. Maybe a lot of people’s experience in gym class was as terrible as mine.

I barely remember my PE classes from when I was in elementary school. If I squeeze my eyes shut and focus really hard I can summon the image of hurling and dodging balls. I vaguely remember games of Red Rover and the uncomfortable feeling of waiting to be chosen as captains picked teams.

Gym class was not a priority at the private parochial school I attended from kindergarten to Grade 6 and the words “movement skill development” would have caused brows to furrow and shoulders to shrug.

For Grades 7 and 8 I moved into the public school system. It was the early ‘80s and as I’ve written about before the sports bra had not yet been invented. For girls like me, that was a major obstacle to getting involved in anything physically active.

We had to wear green gym shorts and white t-shirts with the school crest on them. We had to climb ropes. We had to go for long runs in the ravine beside the school and excuses were not tolerated.

Maybe worst of all we were expected to shower with our classmates. I can’t be alone in thinking that for a 13-year-old girl this was the most horrifying of all possible scenarios?

My mom, also somewhat of a “non-sporty mom”, wrote me notes to get me out of this nightmare once a month. And when she didn’t, I sometimes forged my own.

One day I arrived for gym class with my note explaining why I could not participate. It was signed by my “mother”. There were at least two classes of Grade 8 girls sitting on the side of the hill when I boldly presented my note. The PE teacher, who had a very Sue Sylvester-esque vibe, asked me why my mother’s signature looked so messy.

What I said next might be the finest example of just how stupid I was when I was 13: “It’s messy because she signed it while she was driving.”

My classmates giggled nervously. I thought maybe I had pushed things too far but wasn’t at all prepared for what happened next. The teacher grabbed my ear and dragged me all the way up the trillions of stairs, through the miles of hallways, and into the principal’s office. I am not making this up.

That’s where my memories from junior high gym class end.

The next year I went to the first day of Grade 9 gym with a positive outlook, high hopes, and good intentions. But all I ended up developing was the habit of hiding in the girls’ bathroom for the duration of the class.

When my guidance counsellor called a meeting between me and the gym teacher later that year, I remember the teacher looking at me and saying, “I wouldn’t know this girl was in my class if I hit her with my car.”

In the end, the school let me substitute art class for PE, but guess what? Being able to draw and paint (and I’m no Picasso) really don’t come in handy when you are being asked to play baseball with friends or colleagues. You can’t say, well I don’t know how to throw or catch but you should see my stipple technique!

By the way, they also let me substitute drama for French and the same thing applies here (although I can act French, it’s never helped me give a cab driver directions when I’ve visited Paris).

I was traumatized by gym class. I was traumatized by the curriculum. I was traumatized by the teachers. And I know I was an extreme case, but I can’t be the only one who felt this way.

And maybe  that’s why it can be difficult to get really fired up when we hear that in our children’s schools the gym teachers are disappearing. We know, intellectually, that kids need proper PE and lots of time for physical activity in their day but maybe  a little voice in our head is saying, “Good, I don’t want my kid to go through the horror/shame/pain that I went through.”

Fellow survivors of the ‘80s physical education system, I am here to tell you that gym class really has changed. There is a new breed of teachers who are compassionate, passionate, and dedicated to our children. They are teaching our kids fundamental movement skills through fun games and activities.

Join me in putting our past behind us and embracing today’s approach to physical education that actually serves all kids and not just the ones that can shimmy up a rope, run cross country, or sink a basket.

If your child’s school isn’t taking this approach maybe it’s time to get fired up and fight for it.

40 responses to “I was traumatized by gym class

  1. I can see why some believe gym class should be done away with. When I was in gym class my memories are having to wear colored underwear and forced to do exercises and sports I was positively miserable at. Forget positive social interaction, I was inevitably destined to be picked last and gave the phrase gym class joke new meaning. Surprisingly, I do not believe gym class should be done away with. Physical exercise can be fun as well as beneficial. Instead of having gym class twice a week (as was what my school did) it should be done daily. Emphasis would not be on having kids exercise themselves into the ground or playing team sports regardless of skill but rather self improvement and respect for one’s self and others. As for myself, my lack of physical fitness was a temporary thing. I eventually became a martial arts master.

  2. i’m in grade 7 and i hate gym. i had it last year and i would do anything to try and skip it. i always feel like people are watching me when i do anything so that’s why i don’t participate in anything. especially dodgeball, it gives me the worse anxiety. i would have panic attacks the night before dodgeball day. i tried getting out of it and whenever i go to the counselor the gym teacher yells at me for trying to skip gym. it ruins my whole day and gyms the reason i hate school and why i do anything to try and skip

  3. I hate my gym teacher.
    He makes us work out like adults every day and didn’t let my friend get their inhaler while they were having an asthma attack.
    He told them to ‘finish the lap and you can get your inhaler. Stop wasting time, and let’s go’
    He also made a kid with a broken leg run. They literally had a cast on their leg.
    He makes us do push-ups on the blacktop where our hands burn and makes us hold the position for an entire minute. We have class in the afternoon, so I had to do a plank on my knuckles to not get my palms burned. My knuckles are now bruised.
    Another kid got glass wedged up in their hand but the teacher told them “if you keep complaining we’ll make you do more.” He never let the kid go to the nurse.
    I participate in gym every day, yet he still gave me a b. One day I decided to watch him the whole time just to see how many times he looked over at me.
    The number was 1.
    I still got a b.
    And it’s only been like 3 weeks since school started.
    My gym teacher is a bicep.

  4. I’m in grade 10 gym (mandatory). I simple hate it, I feel as if gym teachers don’t care about the odd ones out, they favour sporty people. I get anxious and huge social anxiety and I freeze. People get mad and frustrated but they don’t understand and will never understand. I am going to fail gym class because of this and I want to graduate but no matter what I do Or whom I talk to they just say to try harder, they don’t understand. I feel as if I’m the only one in gym class though. If other people don’t like it they still try and participate, I just can’t and it’s like I have no social skills or effort but that’s not the case, I can’t deal with it anymore and school boards don’t even try to deal with it they just assume everyone can deal with it, p.e has ruined my life, self esteem, and pride . I don’t know what to do.

    1. same i always feel like i’m the only one not participating but if i do i get anxiety that people are watching me and they’re gonna make fun of me. and the school doesn’t take you out of the class if you say you can’t do it. i hate gym.

  5. In the 1970’s we had to strip from 5th-12th grade to put on on PE clothes, and again for a shower afterwards, and I never remember it ever being a big deal, nor do I remember anything happening that would be considered bullying either.

    Perhaps everyone was just more comfortable in their own skin back then, or perhaps kids just had more self confidence and respect for others when I grew up.

  6. I am homeschooled so I dont have this problem. I still go to a climbing club once aweek and I run around all day at scouts every other week. I also bike to the library a lot.

    1. P.E class for me just sucks everyone honestly gets way to competitive about the game and are rude and cry when they don’t win.I hate P.E and try to sit out as much as I can because it’s so boring and annoying and worst part is that it counts as a grade in my school I wish they can just say goodbye to the class honestly even though physical activities are important most of the kids in my school including me have the opportunity to join after school things and P.E class is not really needed in my school to be honest

      1. P.E. aka Gym Class traumatized me so much, I lost everything. All mu self confidence was destroyed regarding physical activity or dating. I thought i was an unattractive wimp, due to the bullies in the shower room who would always hit me and push me to the ground. Later, my response was to become super healthy and strong, to protect me from bullies. Before I was skinny, so, i got my mother to sign my up at a GYM called Ballys fitness club. By 10th grade – by graduation, no one bullied me, except with words. I couldn’t respond, because myself, parents, counselors, teachers, or friends could not tell I had ATTN DEFICIT DISORDER, Autism, Inability to make eye contact, ( thus looking like , i was lying) Everyone always thought I was lying, because I couldn’t look at peoples eyes. It caused embarrassment, for no reason.. I was so embarrassed of it it, i tried hiding it. It got me in a lot of trouble, due to my inability to socialize normally. lots of kids have mental diseases, i was just smart enough to fake being normal . I would have sought help, but all adults and kids thought i was lying. THEY STILL DO. Now , i also developed P.T.S.D. because of what the government and family did to me while i was mentally unstable, due to their lack of knowledge of mental illness. I only found out in my forties. It’s been a massive nightmare. I FELT HUMILIATED THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL AND JUNIOR, AND THOSE BEFORE THAT. I COULDN’T RELATE TO OTHERS FEELING LIKE AN IDIOT. I LOST EVERYTHING BECAUSE OF AN UN-DIAGNOSED A.S.D., A.D.D., P.T.S.D. DISORDER . SO EVENTUALLY I BECAME A DOCTOR OUT OF ANGER AND THE TRAUMA I FELT FROM THE EDUCATIONAL STAFF AND MY FATHER. Now i have been misunderstood, by government lic officials and other official gov departments. Having Autism at any level with childhood trauma creates self destructive behavior. I’m disabled now. ASD (AUTISTIC. SPECTRUM. DISORDER). GOVERNMENT DOESN’T CARE. I SUFFERED SO MUCH, I CAN’T INTERACT OR TRY TO HELP MYSELF. I AM SO AFRAID OF OTHERS , I CANT FUNCTION. PROPERLY THEIR CRUELTY IS UNDEFINABLE. THEY SEEM TO FEAR AUTISM. MAYBE THE INTERNET SAYS STUPID CRAP.

      2. THE WORST IS THE PICKING OF TEAMS. THE LAST FEW KIDS PICKED FEEL HUMILIATED. THEY SHOULD USE NAMES ON PAPER STRIPS, PRINTED BY THE PE/GYM TEACHERS, PUT IN A HAT, AKA A RANDOM SELECTION. — REFUSE TO UNDERGO NON RANDOM PICKING AND REFUSE SHIRTS AND SKINS. USE BLUE AND RED BANDS , NO REASON FOR MALE TO BR NAKED. IF SO , MAKE THE GIRLS TAKE OFF THEIR SHIRTS AND JUST WEAR BRAS. ITS ONLY FAIR. BOYS AT THE YOUNG AGE CAN BE VERY EMBARRASSED ABOUT HOW THEY LOOK. IT NOT FAIR. KIDS AND TEACHERS MUST REBEL AND MAKE THE TEAM PICKING RANDOM, BY JUST PUTTING NAMES IN A BAG (NAMES FOLDED UP). and, NAMES NOT REVEALED UNTIL EACH PICKER GRABBED THEIR HIDDEN FOLDED PAPER PICKS. . THEN NO ONE WILL KNOW WHO THE TEEMS WILL BE. THUS THE GYM OR PE TEACHERS CAN’T PLAY BULLY, NOR CAN THE KIDS PLAY BULLY. RANDOMIZATION, WILL SAVE MORE KIDS FROM BULLYING AND HUMILIATION. AND IF GIRLS DON’T HAVE TO TAKE SHIRTS OFF, THE BOYS SHOULDN’T EITHER. ALSO THEIR SHOULD BE NO CHOICE. ALL MUST KEEP SHIRTS ON. JUST PUT COLORED BANDS ON THEIR ARMS, SIMPLE.

    2. I WAS HUMILIATED IN P.E. DURING MY TEEN EDUCATION YEARS. TAKING OUR SHIRTS OFF FELT REALLY HUMILIATING. BEING IN SHOWER STALLS WITH BULLIES SCARED ME SO MUCH. AND, THEY DID HIT ME AND HURT ME BECAUSE I WAS SMALL, NOT MUSCULAR AND A LOANER, WITH NO ONE TO PROTECT ME. THERE WAS ALSO NO SUPERVISION BY ADULT STAFF WHEN WE WERE SHOWERING . MOST OF THE TIME I JUST WOULDN’T SHOWER, AND PUT MY NORMAL CLOTHES ON. AT 15 YRS OLD, I DECIDED TO GO TO A PRIVATE GYM. OLDER ADULTS HELPED ME BUILD MUSCLE FROM 135 POUNDS TO 185 POUNDS OF PURE MUSCLE. BULLIES FINALLY STOPPED BULLYING ME WHEN I LOOKED LIKE A BODY BUILDER. I DON’T THINK KIDS NEED OR SHOULD HAVE TO DO THIS TO PREVENT OTHERS FROM BULLYING THEM. TODAY, AS AN ADULT I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH -“ASD”. AUTISTIC SPECTRUM DISORDER” AUTISM REALLY MESSED ME UP. ALSO I HAD ADD. SOCIALLY AND PHYSICALLY I WAS HUMILIATED. I FOUGHT BACK BY EXERCISE AND BECOMING A DOCTOR, BUT MY AUTISM AND ADD FOLLOWED ME AND DESTROYED MY LIFE AGAIN. i COULDN’T HOLD ON TO ANY RELATIONSHIP OR FRIENDSHIP. I WAS MISUNDERSTOOD BY FAMILY AND FRIENDS CONSTANTLY. i FINALLY CRASHED THESE LAST FEW YEARS AND AM MENTALLY Disabled.

    3. You are so lucky being home schooled. Public school is a nightmare for many kids. Especially those that don’t have a normal , caring, supportive family life and are unable to socialize like most other kids in public school systems. Occasionally, a few of like minded kids, those that feel ridiculed and bullied get together , they may respond with violent behaviors. Or, passive ,unresponsive, shy, disconnected, poor attention behavior patterns..etc. The Aggressive become that way, due to poor treatment by faculty and other students, The shy, reclusive, poorly attentive ones, just get worse because , how the faculty and other kids respond to their reclusive behavior patterns. Thus, we get these schools creating intense traumatic events over time, where the some outcasts respond aggressively , and others become antisocial, quiet, paranoid and fearful. Both groups, feeling like they are unwanted, unliked, attacked, bullied and not just by students, but by the faculty running the schools. The “unadjusted” (as faculty often refers to them) . These student’s aggression are often overlooked, misunderstood and the system has no idea why the kids are appearing aggressive or lost/extremely shy. They don’t factor in the teens home life, genetics for bipolar, psychosis(mild or severe) or autistic spectrum disorders) and many other differences and needs between students. Instead of trying to help them and give them nurturing, they are given traumatic treatment ie NATURE treatment. They are treated with nature, thus they believe nature treatment is the way to fight back. teaching them nurture, will help them feel cared for and become passive (nurture), instead of aggressive (nature). Treating the ” mal-adjusted kids” , the nurtured or Natured, will only cause rebellion. These children will respond by what they are taught. Trying to discipline them and causing them suffering, embarrassment or pain, will cause them to believe, it is ok to harm and possibly even HARM others. They will grow up thinking its OK to abuse their children and wife’s BECAUSE THE PEOPLE THEY LOOKED UP TO AS AUTHORITY FIGURES TRAUMATIZED, ABUSED AND EMBARRASSED THEM. And some may think or perform murderous or severe traumatic acts, because the school system told them it is appropriate. The jail system or prison system is the same and even worse. They teach the convicted to harm, humiliate and possibly kill others that offend them. THIS WHOLE SYSTEM OF TEACHING AND OR REHABILITATION OR CORRECTIONAL FACILITY SYSTEMS IS SEVERELY FLAWED AND ONLY CREATES REBELLIOUS BEHAVIORS AMONG OUR SOCIETY. SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE TO CORRECT THESE ISSUES. Our SCHOOL SYSTEMS AND PRISON SYSTEMS CREATE MALADJUSTED SOCIETY MEMBERS.

  7. Sigh. I’m still in this issue. I’m in grade 7, and I have been freaking out over sports. Soccer was and still is the worst possibil sport for me. When I’m next on the bench and they roll the dice, (we roll a dice and wat ever number it lands on is the number of players to go and play) I will most likely refuse to go on. Most of the time
    , even if I’m at the end of the line I still shake uncontrollably and I get heavy, like something heavy was just put on my shoulders and I’m forced to move forward on the bench. Shaking doesn’t help it either. I almost feel like I’m going to cry. And YES, I do cry sometimes. L

    We are not in the soccer unit right now, but last free time, we did soccer. And yes, I did cry. I tried to hide it, I tried to refuse to go up and play. I just started panicking. And again, that very large anvil on my shoulders didn’t matter to my stupid gym teacher. He knows I have troubles and insecurities in gym but he doesn’t care.

    In grade 5, my regular teacher that teachers almost all subjects was our gym teacher. She was the best and she’s still my favourite teacher to this day. She to,d me I did not have to play that stupid game of ball in net, but instead, practice juggling and do skipping rope. Along with hula hoops and stretches which I did enjoy.

    I have gym anxiety and I got it from the boys in my class that think the gym is legit the most important thing ever. Like they have to win or there parents would slap them so hard there cheeks would be red for days. Is winning that important? The need in which you should yell at another student which is CLEARLY NOT INTERESTED IN SPORTS and just call them lazy and too slow, or not good enough. Um excuse us, but not all of us people have to be up to your standards. Try hards.

    I think schools should start classes where they teach students how to cope with stuff as stressful and damaging as depression or anxiety, or any mental or physical illness instead of cramming stupid useless knowledge we won’t need on the future inside our heads and force us to spit it all up on a piece of paper

    I think that they should have mini classes while gym is going on for the kids with social anxiety and gym anxiety. Or they should do different activity’s like jump rope and dancing for those people, while the others play soccer and basketball. I would praise the school if they did this. It would make my intire year, and possibly the rest of my future, because as of right now, I’m too scared to do any physical activity with people because teachers don’t give a damn about these things and won’t do anyth8ng about it. I’m pretty sure that because of school, my physical activity in the future will be extremely hard.

    1. Hi Ashley,

      It’s heartbreaking to hear how difficult Phys ed class is for you. It doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t be. As you pointed out there are so many other ways to be active and develop skills besides team sports. I feel for you so much because I have seen firsthand how that winning culture can create trauma and anxiety for some kids.

      And I agree wholeheartedly that mental health is a topic that should be taught at every school. I’m not sure where you are located but I know that often it is part of a Health unit which is usually taught by the Phys ed teacher.

      Are your parents involved and helping you manage your anxiety? Can they set up a meeting with the school? It sounds like you need an advocate to speak with either the Phys Ed teacher or the administration or both. Because you have anxiety the school may be able to make accommodations for you.

      If they aren’t already, please try to get adults involved to help you with this. It’s unacceptable and you should not have to put up with it.

      I’d like to encourage you and hopefully empower you not to let this experience ruin your relationship with moving because being active is so important to both your mental and physical health (the teacher and boys won’t suffer if you stop being active but you will). You mentioned dance and jump rope. Those are things you can do at home, alone or with friends. Youtube has yoga videos that you could try or you could look for a local class. Riding your bike, going on a hike and taking photos, jumping on a trampoline, swimming, being involved in theatre or improv, and geocaching are just a few more ways to be active that don’t involve team sports. Even something as simple as getting out for a daily walk keeps you moving and gets you out in nature, another thing that is so important to physical and mental health. And if your school has clubs, maybe you can start one that is active but not related to sports?

      Whatever you choose, I hope that you have the support of your parents or other adults who can help you find ways to be active outside of school.

      Ashley, please know you are not alone. There are so many other kids experiencing similar feelings. I hope that someday every school will learn how to teach Phys Ed in a way that is inclusive and positive and makes everyone feel great. Until then, sharing our stories might make that day come sooner. So thank you so much for your comment. I’m sure there are a lot of people relating to it and hopefully others learning from it.
      Sara xo

    2. Ashley, I’m in grade 7 too. We have to run a mile twice a week and it’s a CROSS COUNTRY MILE. She refuses us to run on a track, and we HAVE one. She doesn’t even let the people with asthma stop while running the mile, she says, “dont run, SPEED WALK!” She never allows anyone to help each other when they get injured or has an athma attack. She never allows anyone to CLEAN THEIR INJURY WHILE RUNNING THE MILE she says, finish the mile, then you can go to the nurse. I’ve gotten injured before, I twisted my ankle, and she made me run. She made people rin the mile in inadequate shoes, the slip on Vans. You can damage your knee cartiladge. The grading for the mile goes like this:
      UNDER 8 MINUTES-100%
      8:01 TO 8:59-95%
      9:00 to 9:59 – 90%
      10:00 to 10:59 – 85%
      11:00 to 11:59 – 80%
      12:00 to 12:59 – 75%
      13:00 to 15:00 – 70%

      It sucks. I hope it’s get better for you!

  8. I grew up in another country, but my experiences were similar if not worse. I clearly remember hating PE since elementary school. At very early age I started refusing to participate, no matter the consequences. When I could, I ran away from school and hid in the woods for a couple hours to avoid it.
    When I was forced to participate I did it like a zombie, I just couldn’t make myself actually try. I would watch the ball coming in my direction and wouldn’t move a muscle even if it it hit me. I don’t need to tell you it made me very unpopular and almost got me to fail school multiple times, even though I was a brilliant student otherwise.
    It also ruined not just sports, but exercise in general for me. Like forever. I’m 36 and never regularly exercised in my life.
    Yesterday there was a company outing and they went to a group sports thing. I forgot not to show up at the office. My boss wouldn’t take no as an answer, so I spent some of the most miserable two hours of my life there, having multiple panic attacks.
    I left it so emotionally exhausted I wandered for 40 minutes without finding my way back home, and had to spend 50$ on a cab. I feel like quitting my job and never seeing those people again.
    PE is possibly the one single thing I hate most in the entire world. I just couldn’t understand why other kids and teschers would be so mean to me just because I couldn’t run fast or catch a ball. I still can’t understand.
    Thank God, my daughter didn’t get that from me. And maybe PE did get better in the last few decades. She loves sports and exercise, and I do my best to support her in spite of just watching makes me nervous.
    Life will be so much easier for her if she keeps enjoying sports and PE.

  9. Honestly, it’s 2018 and I don’t think anything have changed. I’ve always been marked as this slower one on PE lessons since I can remember, my peers would never let me learn anything because I wasn’t catching on fast enough, and PE teachers would never do a thing when they’d make mean comments about my looks, moves and how I’m always destroying their games.

    Does that mean I don’t move in general?
    No.

    Now I’m 16 after school I’m working 30h per week as a waitress (if you don’t know, it means CONSTANTLY being physicly active during all those hours). Beside that I also go running a few times a week.

    Still, I don’t often exercise on PE lessons, because I know I will barely move and just be mocked instead, cause I’m bad at playing team games and that’s all we do.
    And yet I’m judged as the lazy one even though that comparing to most of my classmates who move only at PE which is 3times per week.

    The best solution here would be to compare student’s physical activity to PE lessons, because we can be active in so many various ways than just the ways dictated by gym classes.

  10. Sara.

    Thank you so much for the great advice, it is much appreciated!

    I passed along your advice to my daughter.

    Today was her first swim team practice. She told me that she decided to brave it and shower in her birthday suit instead of a swimsuit. Fortunately, she said that it was not as embarrassing as she expected it to be, and that no one was staring at anyone else or commenting on anyone’s body.

    Thanks again, Sara!

    1. Wonderful! Thank you for letting me know. I’m happy for her. It’s a good lesson that the anticipation can be a lot worse than the reality!

  11. Sara.

    My daughter will be starting her sophomore year of high school next week, and she will be on the girls swim team for the first time. She has been told by a friend of hers who is a year older than her and who was already on the swim team last year that almost all of the girls on the swim team shower naked after team practices, and that the rare ones who shower in a swimsuit are considered weird.

    My daughter has always been shy about being naked in front of other people. But she’s afraid that it will be even more embarrassing for her if she’s the only one showering in a swimsuit after swim practices.

    My daughter asked me for advice, but when I was in high school the early 90’s we were required to shower after gym class, and as a result locker room nudity has never really been an issue for me. I always viewed it that if everyone is naked then no one is naked.

    Sara, do you have any advice?

    1. Hi Jennifer, I think this is your daughter’s decision to make. What’s more important, fitting in or maintaining her privacy? If she decides to be brave and shower naked it’s possible that after a week it will be no big deal. Or, she may decide to honour her desire for more privacy and shower in her swimsuit in which case she’ll have to deal with the peer pressure. This is a good opportunity for her to make a choice that best reflects what’s most important to her. Whatever she decides, I feel confident that she’ll figure out what feels right for her pretty quickly. My advice is to encourage her to listen to herself and trust that she’ll make the best decision when the time comes.

  12. I’m SO glad that I didn’t go to public High School. I was sent to a small private school in New Hampshire because I was a snowflake/eggshell, and they didn’t even have a gym, let alone gym class!(But I heard later that my home town’s High School, Brookline HS, let you substitute private dance classes or things like that for gym). I’d have HATED having to shower in front of other kids, and would have dreaded it every day! I was really underdeveloped physically for my age!

  13. In my junior and senior high schools kids could take Marine Junior R.O.T.C. instead of gym class. I suspect that’s why R.O.T.C. became so popular.

  14. I was pretty traumatized by PE class too, I remember eventually I refused to take part because I’d be physically ill with anxiety before the class and often had to leave the room. This only improved when I stopped going to the class. Our teacher literally ignored any students who weren’t good at sports, and was probably glad to get me out of her class so noone tried to make me go back. I think that PE classes really need to change or they risk putting young people off exercise for life.

  15. I hated PE class despite being very active and not at all lazy as a kid. The teachers made it as miserable as possible, and all it succeeded in doing was making me hate all sports and believe I was hopeless at all physical activity for years. I’d had enough by the age of about 14 or 15 when I refused to take part again.

  16. I went to high school between 2008-2012 trust me its still horrible. I dont know how horrible it is back in 80s, maybe its better than then, but it was still traumatizing enough for me.

    I am not as fast, strong or athletic as normal people. If you ever wondered who is in that 99th percentile in the athletics chart, that would be me. People are generally nice and supportive when it comes to mental retardation, but people have a lack of understanding for people with (what i call)physical retardation. When a girl with no visible disability can only run one lap around the park while other girls run three, teachers dont understand that. They think ur being lazy and not trying ‘hard enough’. They dont and wont try to understand why I have to stop so often and breathe and walk instead of run (why? Cus i would fall dead if I kept running!) They dont understand why my chest in so much pain after running up and down the stairs and my face is red and im about to die when other girls are perfectly fine. Because as long as you dont have visible disability, you are bound to have the SAME physical ability as everyone else and u wont be understood for falling outside of “normal physical abilities” zone! My middle school teacher actually sent me to doctor to get a physical examination because I couldnt run fast or for long enough (I dont have a single problem with my health!) I guess It never occurred to her that some ppl are just naturally born with below ‘normal’ cardio-vascular strength.

    When it comes to intellectual/cognitive abilities, teachers very well understand that some kids are not as good as others and some will fall behind. How come when it comes to physical abilities, teachers wont understand some kids cant be as good as others and that they are just born that way!

    Enough with teachers lets talk about fellow students and classmates. How come its not ok to laugh at a cognitively dumb kid but ITS OK to laugh at a physically dumb kid!!?! They would get angry if I laughed at them in a math class, what makes them think its ok to laugh at me in a PE class? Why do I have to be ridiculed and laughed at for something that is not even my fault? Its not my fault I was born this way. How come its rude to laugh at stupid, fat, ugly, poor people but its acceptable to laugh at a physically retarded person?? If you laugh at a mentally retarded ppl, you are mean, but if you laugh at a physically retarded person, oh thats just a friendly laugh!

    [Editor’s note: this comment was edited to remove language that does not meet our standards.]

    1. I know right! I went through the same things you did, (except for the examination part) regardless I feel that gym class should either be abolished or be toned down. People just don’t understand that not everyone is good a sports and practice DOESN’T help everyone.

  17. I think abolishing gym class would actually improve the fitness of many kids. Kids like being active until they’re taught to associate it with humiliation. My brother used to love soccer and was decently good at it, until his gym teacher started picking on him for not running fast enough. Within a short while he’d quit soccer, quit karate (which we’d just barely convinced him to start) and was spending his time at home playing video games. And now he’s overweight and can barely walk a couple blocks without needing to stop several times. If he hadn’t had gym class, I’m convinced he’d still be in soccer and/or karate.
    So good riddance. If the schools can’t figure out how to teach it right, they shouldn’t teach it at all.

    1. I don’t think getting rid of gym class is going to solve problems like this, Ettina. I do think we need to have PE specialists teaching that class, though. We don’t have math specialists teaching French language arts, why do we have them teaching gym?

      1. I totally agree, we need a better way to teach healthy active lifestyles. I’m not totally convinced that making kids play competitive contact sports with their bully peers is a good idea. But when the participation is an option then the students can develop best without negative experiences. Those who choose to “opt out” of the competitive sports can still be engaged with strength conditioning and aerobic exercise, just like most healthy adults who work out at a gym or even in their own home gym or with fitness videos. Most adults I know don’t even engage in competitive sports, but instead they are hiking, biking or kayaking.

        One of the top problems with PE is the bullying and humiliation of those with less motivation and interest or who already have trouble with peer relationships. I have horrible memories of bullying in the unsupervised locker room before and after PE. Rough close-range sports are open invitations for bullies to unleash physical pain on their victims and get it excused as competitive behavior. Adults typically do not choose to engage in recreational activities with people that are rude to them, are threatening or steal their property, so why do we think it makes any sense to force kids to play games with other kids like this and pretend we’re developing their social skills.

        Sadly there are just too many adults who shun physical activity because of forced athletic interaction in their youth. The damage is social, not physical. I still feel self-conscious exercising in a gym, and have to overcome my own insecurity of letting other people see me struggle, sweat or try a new exercise that I might not execute properly the first few times. In the name of protecting self-esteem we keep academic grades private and limit chances for students to see each others work, but in PE our abilities are on public display. A lot of those struggling in PE actually excel in other areas of their lives, but often don’t get to be recognized.

        There are also students who not only have little interest playing certain sports, but they may not watch or follow those sports either. Most people have interest in music, sports and other activities, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to like everything. We don’t expect every literature student to become a novelist or to even enjoy reading poetry, but we consider education a failure if as an adult they cannot understand the contract they are signing or important safety instructions for a piece of equipment. Likewise, a kid in PE might become a professional athlete, and PE should be giving that kid all the resources he needs to succeed. But if some of the kids just end up as normal adults that work out in a gym on weekdays and ride a bike on the weekends, then that is also a successful outcome.

    2. Agree completely!
      I always thought I was not an athletic kid because I hated PE, sucked at sports, was always the last picked. However my mom would always talk about what an active little kid was, so that didn’t make sense.
      That was until I really started looking back on it and realized that even as I hated PE, I would beg my mom to go swimming basically every day during the summer and when we did go I’d have to be dragged out of the pool to re-apply sunscreen and eat lunch, we had a swing set in our backyard, I loved going to my bestfriend’s house because she had a trampoline (and I’d have loved to have one too if my parents would have let me!), I took ballet class after school, and we’d go hiking as a family with the dogs most weekends.
      I couldn’t throw or catch a ball, though.
      Oddly enough, I liked dodgeball best in PE. Probably because my school used soft foam balls, so getting hit with them really didn’t hurt, and learning to duck out of the way of a ball was easier for me than learning to shoot a basketball or run the bases in baseball. It also didn’t involve running, which I hated.
      I feel like PE takes away the natural love of activity that all kids have by doing basically everything wrong. Getting whistles blown at you, having teachers bellowing at you to “motivate” you, the fact that the other kids yell at you and call you names for not being good and the gym teachers turn a blind eye…it’s just not an environment that fosters a love of activity.

  18. I was in middle school and junior high in the early 1980s and the I remember the first time we were forced to shower naked. It was 6th grade camp. This was the first time I had seen a communal shower and I was mortified at the thought of showering naked with classmates so I went in with my underwear on. Our male teachers stood by the entrance to the communal shower hall with a water hose and I got squirted by my teacher with the hose for not being naked and he made me take off my underwear to shower nude. It was very uncomfortable. Then from 7th grade onwards we had to shower after gym class and our gym teacher would sit outside of the communal showers and make notes on who showered and who did not. You dropped a letter grade if you missed 3 showers. I was still very uncomfortable showering in 7th grade but eventually got used to it and now don’t think much of it. Its such delicate age when ones body is changing and it can be intimidating to be in a forced situation like I was. I am glad this practice has been discontinued in our schools.

  19. Thank you Sara. I too am sorry for what you had to go through.

    On the showering topic… Do you think that you could have asked your mother to have spoken with the teacher about the showers in general? I saw that your mother would write you notes for your time of the month. Do you think that your mother could have told the school that you did not want to shower in gym class at all?

    I know that one of my friends back in junior high had her father go to the school to get her out of showering. After that another one of our friends tried to get her mother to get her out of showering, but her mom told her that there was nothing wrong with her showering in gym since it was only in front of other girls, and that she wouldn’t speak to the school about it.

    I wonder if schools still require showering in gym class? My junior high and high school were in the same building. We didn’t go to any of the same classes as the high school kids did. But they always had one of the high school girls assist our gym teacher, and those high school girls were used as shower monitors who would report anyone who tried to skip out on showering.

    In high school we were still required to shower, but no one really enforced it. Most of us still did shower simply because we were used to it from junior high.

  20. I was traumatized by gym class but the showers had nothing to do with it. The locker room time was by far the least traumatizing part of gym class. Having to wear a tight gym uniform in front of boys was way more embarrassing than showering in front of other girls. Also I was possibly the least athletic girl in the gym classes, and most of the other kids would laugh at me when I would mess up.

  21. I always hated PE in Elementary School, but in middle school I learned to love PE!
    I also learned to love sports.
    It was due to having a really great teachers in 6th and 8th grade.
    In high school, I had the same PE teacher as in elementary school; he was horrible then too!
    The reason I hated PE, and other kids hated it was not the curriculum, it was a meat headed teacher that preferred to scream, belittle, mock, and refuse try to understand children.
    He was just a bully that was unable to grasp the concept of any person not fully emersed in the Worship of sports, and would become a screaming sociopath if he actually had to “teach” a child any facet of the “game”.
    He was also known to walk into bathroom stalls, if he thought a kid didn’t ‘need’ to go.

    1. That sounds horrible, Bruce. I’m glad that you ended up with great teachers and learned to love sports! A wonderful teacher can make all the difference.

  22. In the school system that I was in as a kid, we were required to shower in those open communal showers starting in the sixth grade, and all of the way through the twelfth grade. I started the sixth grade in 1979.
    Fortunately for me, I wasn’t shy about showering with my classmates. I don’t really recall giving it a second thought really. I guess it didn’t matter to me because we were all girls. I already knew a couple of years in advance that I was going to be showering in gym class starting in the sixth grade, because my sister was two years older than me, and she was showering in sixth grade at the time.

    I can’t say that I recall anyone in my gym classes being embarrassed by showering in front of each other. But then again, maybe some of them just hid their embarrassment well? I do think that I just thought that it was kind of funny in a haha kind of way that we were all seeing each other in the nude, and that the teacher would stand there and watch us shower.
    That was just in the sixth grade though. By the next year the novelty had just worn off, and I never gave it another thought.

    I know that my three daughters all showered in the locker room after their different teams practices and games in junior high and high school. I always assumed that they showered in gym class as well, but I’m not sure of that. I don’t think that it was an issue for them either?

    You do have my sympathy, however, if it was embarrassing to you to shower with your classmates!

  23. I was in junior high in the early 1990’s, and we had to do the mandatory nude group showers thing too. I hated it! But I was amazed by how many of my classmates loved to run around naked in the girls locker room, or blow-dry their hair standing there naked.

    But I actually enjoyed gym class outside of the showers.

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