Oz has a great but very simply philosophy - that everybody had a heart, that everybody had a brain, that everybody had courage. These were the gifts that were given to people on this earth, and if you used them properly, you reached the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And that pot of gold was a home. And a home isn't just a house or an abode..., Its people. People who love you and that you love. That's home. - Ray Bolger aka the Scarecrow
... Gym class Just the thought makes a lot of people cringe. Here are some comments I've come across recently online:
Amy: Gym class was a nightmare from the word go. I had years of physical ability shaming, as a lifelong fat kid–like the time we had to run a mile in the field behind the junior high school and I walked it, because running was and is uncomfortable and something I’d been laughed at for doing. It took 20 minutes for me to walk a mile, everyone else was long since finished, and the gym teacher was screaming at me from the doorway to hurry up because she was sick of waiting for me. Anyway, once in high school we were being made to do the step test for the Presidential Physical Fitness Award thing (gah). The step test, if you don’t know, is having to step up onto the bottom row of the bleachers and then down again until you feel like dying. The teachers were walking along the row behind us as we stepped up and down, “encouraging” us, and I didn’t want to be ridiculed for not being able to hack it. So of course I pushed myself to the point of exhaustion–and I fell. I had weak ankles anyway from ice skating injuries and being so tired, my foot landed wrong, and I just went down. My mother had to come and pick me up and take me to the ER to get an x-ray. Luckily I didn’t break my ankle, just sprained it really badly. But on top of all the fat-hating, it’s just awful that physical activity is presented to us when we’re young and impressionable as something that’s about being tough and hard and not being weak or giving in to pain or tiredness. Gym class was like boot camp, I swear, and the other kids were allowed to treat the clumsy and unfit among us like sh**–though of course us braniacs were soundly rebuked should we pick on any of the jocks for being stupid because “they can’t help it.” School sucked. Kell Brigan: Jane, your experience in gym is one of the reasons I am motivated to do activism (however, that winds up being). I don’t know how I lucked out, but I had sane coaches & teachers in PE all through school (and I was the “second fattest girl” in my town, as the bullies made sure I knew). I know so many people my size and smaller who were put through hell by sociopath gym teachers. That level of abuse is just… ARGGGGGG!!!! I’m sending you the psychic equivalent of wicked cool magic playballs that have nothing but happy attached to them!!! Kristin: Just chiming in on the gym class experiences…My sophomore year of h.s., the very thin, driller of an gym teacher was telling my all-girls class about how important is is to work out. Not a bad lesson, until she started pointing out all of the bad things that could happen to your body, including, in her words, “the disgusting pockets of fat underneath your arms that seem to extend from your chest” while looking at me in my tank top (I often didn’t change into the stupid gym uniform…). Thirteen years later and still remember. And I HATE her. I was 15, DD breasts, and 170 pounds. B**ch
The outfits, the showers, being picked last, being forced to participate in sports you loathe, the dreaded mile where if running fast is not your "thing" you are pretty much humiliated as the ones who did run faster than you sit on the sidelines and make comments. Some things have improved with time. Showers have stalls. And any teacher worth their weight in salt don't have the alpha-kids pick teams anymore. But thanks to the "OH MY GOD DEATH FAT IS COMING" I mean "Obesity Epidemic" Gym teachers the world over have a new mandate to increase the pain of gym class. I have a few theories about how I think gym class could be improved.
1. Have more choices for exercise that suit different interests and skills. I enjoyed walking - still do. I LOVED field hockey. Kind of liked volleyball. Hated just about everything else in the realm of contact sports. My eye hand coordination is crap. So every six weeks spent on other sports pretty much made me dread gym class. Softball in particular was my nightmare. I was terrible at it. I remember one of the few times in my life screaming at an adult is when they forced me to go to first base. I can't catch to save my life. First Base was the equivalent of a dunce hat for me. It was awful - Its one of those things I can't even laugh about yet. I remember three boys who teased incessantly each time I missed the ball, which was every time it was thrown at me. One year in 9th grade I was dreading going to bat that day. I worked deals like Donald Trump getting kids to take my place in the batting lineup. In my ignorance I didn't know a batting lineup should not be messed with. After several innings the gym teacher said "Grinels - why haven't you gone up to bat yet?" I died a little inside and said because "I really, really don't want to so I've been letting other people have my turn." Then he raised his voice "You can't do that GRINELS... its a LINEUP" - Which meant nothing to me... so I just shrugged like I didn't care and it made him so mad he said "That's IT Grinels - walk laps the rest of class" BEST. GYM CLASS. EVER. I walked laps the rest of the class enjoying every minute of it. I made a point the rest of the year to be as rude as possible in the hopes I'd get sentenced to walking laps.
2. Have more teachers. Have one or two highly trained teachers and more teacher's aides willing to host smaller classes in various exercises. Kind of like a gym for adults but for kids. Would you sign up at the Y for exercise and show up to be forced to play basketball when you want the spin class? One teacher could host traditional contact sports for those interested - all the basics in flag football, basketball, soccer, etc. One teacher could teach yoga/dance/aerobics One teacher could supervise kids walking/jogging laps and traditional strength training - push ups, sit ups, etc. Each day kids could choose which activity interests them. They pick something suited to their body and skills. Kids enjoy activities more when they have a choice. Every activity I have ever signed my kids up for has been better when they were part of the decision making process. If kids never choose to play contact sports it won't do any harm. I have never missed out on any life skills because I don't like softball. But I did avoid sports related places/people for too long because it conjured feelings of inferiority.
One morning a few years back Benjamin was at his dresser beside himself upset looking at each tag in his clothes and throwing them on the ground. I can't wear any of these. "Why not?" They are all husky, he said in a hushed disgusted, embarrassed voice. I put on my chipper mom voice said "who cares" and probed deeper. Turns out he was shown this video in Health class:
I'll be honest I've never watched the whole thing through. But the beginning is so offensive I can't make it past that. The gist of the Arthur video is that He has to get a "husky" costume for the school play special ordered because he's been eating too much junk food. He stops eating junk food and then manages to fit into a regular costume in time. I've said it before and I'll say it again: You know nothing by looking at someone's body except what their body looks like. You don't know what their diet is like or how much they eat or how active they are. But when you choose to discuss size, even under the guise of instilling healthy lifestyle choices you are making the kids who are fat feel like they are wrong - they are living a life to be avoided. A person's size is determined more by genetics than lifestyle choice. Dieting doesn't work. Diets have a 95-99% failure rate. When you try to inspire someone to change the size of their body you set them up for failure and self hate. Not every diet starts an eating disorder but every eating disorder starts with a diet. Restricting calories in children is harmful to their development. Schools need to collectively take a deep breath and remove themselves from the equation of trying to fix something that isn't really a problem and is none of their business even if it was.
** My only other thought which could be the most controversial is that school sponsored gym class shouldn't exist at all. Free play is marvelous exercise and very much needed in a long school day. And I'd love for there to be no gym and my kids to get home an hour earlier each day. We'd have more time to do things together as a family. There would be more time for organized sports that we choose to enter. Its my opinion that the government is not responsible for the health of my family. We can make those choices on our own. Forced softball or four square during the school day is not the pinnacle of a healthy lifestyle.