Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Junior High Experience

The idea behind gym class is wonderful: it encourages physical fitness, teaches kids about sportsmanship, competition and cooperation, helps athletically-inclined students discover their gifts...it's a vital part of any school curriculum. Ah, but woe betide those hapless souls who couldn't run, catch, throw, dodge, juggle, jump, rally, climb, volley or hurdle to save their lives. To we unhappy few, gym class was a crucible of humiliation and self-loathing. I particularly hated being forced to change clothes in front of other people, and playing "shirts versus skins" was even worse. I had enough self-image problems without having to play basketball half-naked - and badly. Of course if I had my junior high level of fitness now, I might be tempted to flaunt it a little! Youth. Wasted. Young.

I used to harbour a lot of bitterness about being forced to attend gym class, but a few years ago I realized that other kids had their own struggles. Most classes came easy to me, but I saw some of my peers really struggle with language arts or math or social studies. They felt their share of self-loathing too, and these days I wonder if perhaps I needed gym class to teach me a little humility. If that was how our gym teachers graded performance, I may have wound up with an A+ instead of a C-.

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