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Lessons From the Classroom

Lessons From The Classroom – PE

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Lessons From The Classroom post, so let’s start things back up. Brace yourselves, I have a lot to say about this one. It’s every unfit child’s worst nightmare – PE. There was never a lesson I hated more. It was the lesson that had me full of anxiety every single time I walked into the PE block, and the lesson that often had me crying in the toilet. You know, normal school stuff.

Lessons From The Classroom: PE Pinterest artwork

The Early Years

I don’t really have many memories of PE in my early school days, aside from the fact that I never liked it being outside. I hated being cold, I hated getting wet, and I was ridiculously accident prone. Even when it was indoors, it was only ever fine. I never actually enjoyed it. Comparing it to the later years though, there was never any bullying or abuse from your classmates. You did PE with the kids in your class, the people you spent six hours each day with so you knew them well enough to, I don’t know, not be an asshole to them. Plus, at those ages, kids would just cry if they got hurt or if someone shouted at them for not being able to catch a ball. You couldn’t do that in secondary school, as I later found out.

Sports days were always the worst. They were humiliating AF, because I finished last in literally everything. Remember how parents are always so proud to go to their kids’ sports day? I felt sorry for my mum. No one wants to admit to being the parent of the kid that’s trailing behind in one race while the other kids are gearing up for the next one.

That was the early days of primary school. When I was around the age of six or seven, the universe decided that me being horribly unfit and not having any decent sporting skills wasn’t quite enough to make PE a misery for me, and I ended up needing glasses. Oh but it gets better – while the glasses were to help me see better, I had to fucking take them off for PE. What’s the actual fucking point? The irony is probably I could have caught that bastard ball once or twice if I could actually see it, but that’s school health and safety in the 90s for you.

The Secondary School Years

Or, as I like to call it, the dark years.

PE in secondary school was a huge shift. No longer was it about keeping fit, exercising and learning how to play different sports, or at least it didn’t seem that way. It was about status, and making the people who weren’t good at sports feel like absolute shit. The first thing that was different, was that girls and boys were separated. Girls did netball, dance and gym, while boys did football, cricket and weights. It’s a whole area of gender stereotyping that’s highly outdated in 2022, but back in 2003 (fucking hell I’m old), it was the done thing, and I have no idea if it still is or not.

Anyway, the theme that continued was that I could just about cope with PE, provided that it was indoors. Honestly, the ethics of making a bunch of kids stand outside three times a week in freezing temperatures in nothing but a t-shirt and joggers still baffles me to this day, but again, that’s school for you. Indoor PE wasn’t overly bad – I didn’t mind dance or badminton or gym, provided I was paired with my friends. If you were paired with someone you didn’t like or get on with you were buggered, which brings me to my next point.

Now, I don’t want to stereotype here, but I feel as though any girl who was picked on in PE will agree when I say this. Teenage girls are bitches. They’re worse than bitches. Some of the insults that still stick with me to this day were said to me by the aforementioned “Plastics” during rounders and netball. I’ll be completely honest here – there were numerous occasions where I was scared to be hit with the ball. I was terrified of breaking my glasses. I’m well aware that’s the typical “nerdy” thing to say, but it’s true. There wasn’t much choice in terms of what I could have with my stupid AF prescription, so my Mum, despite not always being able to afford it, would pay extra so I could get a half decent frame and some thinner lenses. They were expensive, I couldn’t see shit without them, and back then you were lucky if you got them back from the opticians after a week. I didn’t have a backup pair, and this (if you haven’t already guessed) was before I grew a pair and tried contact lenses.

Ugh, reading that back, no wonder I got bloody picked on. 

Still, we all know for a fact that explaining the above situ to the absolute bitches in your class would do more harm than good. I was already being picked on for being the speccy kid, so it was probably a good idea not to add more fuel to the fire. Below, I’m going to list just a handful of the insults I got spattered with in those painful five years:

  • “Catch the ball you fucking midget”
  • “Look how she fucking runs!”
  • “Are you retarded? Catch the ball!”
  • “Come on speccy!”
  • “For fuck sake! Why are you so fucking shit?”
  • “Ugh that means we’re stuck with her”
  • “But Miss, she’s shit!”

Now, I’m not saying this to get sympathy, I’m saying this to highlight just how fucking brutal a supposedly innocent game of rounders would be. “What did the teachers do about this?” I hear you ask. What an excellent question.

Absolutely fuck all mate. 

What I never quite understood was that if any of those insults got said in the classroom, there would be at least some form of reprimand. But not in PE. Teachers were willingly swore at and almost seemed to ignore these sort of insults towards the less-physically talented kids. Looking back, I don’t get it, but as an adult, I have a slightly more clear idea of perhaps why they chose to ignore such insults.

Part of the goal of PE is to get kids to develop a sense of competitiveness, right? Healthy competition is good. Maybe they chose not to say anything because these girls were just passionate about winning the game of rounders. Maybe.

Now, I’m going to say something that I don’t think many people will like (spoiler alert – I’m going to use the C word, so scroll ahead if you’re offended by it). But, as you can probably tell, I have scars that haven’t really healed, and this is actually quite therapeutic for me. Also…it’s my blog sooo…

Ahem…

There is a very fine line between showing healthy competition and being a cunt.

Thankfully, there is a very minor happy ending (if you don’t count the emotional trauma I’ve clearly been left with LOL). After one particularly hellish lesson in Year 11, where one girl specifically let rip at me because I was “a fucking dumb little boff” who “couldn’t fucking do anything right,” (I was a fielder in rounders and missed the ball, obvs) I arrived home in floods of tears.

Spoiler alert – this is another story of: Ames tells her mum and her mum loses her shit and rings the school. 

This was not the first occasion I had come home crying because of things that had been shouted at me during PE, I might add. So, Julie, once again tired of seeing me come home looking like a pile of wet ham that had been thrown down the stairs, put her foot down and phoned the school, demanding to speak to the head of department.

I didn’t really expect things to change, but a few days later I was taken out of a lesson by that same teacher, Miss A, who was actually really kind about it. Bearing in mind, it wasn’t just me who was getting this sort of shit from the demon girls in my year, either. A couple of my friends were also getting the same treatment. She asked if there was anything that could be done to make things easier, and me being the absolute people pleaser that I was (and still am), I said “no, not really, Miss.” YOU FUCKING IDIOT.

Thankfully, Miss A saw right through my bullshit and offered up the solution that made those final months of PE just that little bit more bearable. She said she would let us pick our teams. Before, it was a case of numbering each person “one” and “two,” putting all the ones on one team and the twos on the other (and it would be a strategic shuffle trying to make sure you could be on a team with at least one person who didn’t bully you). Picking our own teams virtually guaranteed a more “good versus evil” split. While the insults didn’t stop completely, it certainly made things better. The Plastics could take out their rage of not scoring a point in a meaningless game on each other.

But what about sports days? Well, the silver lining was that parents didn’t attend sports days at secondary school, probably because no one wants to witness their kid being verbally abused by their peers and the school knew that. However, I’m not ashamed to admit that in the five years of sports days, I attended only one of them. I’m incredibly thankful that my legend of a mother took pity on me and phoned the school to tell them that I was ill, each time telling me “don’t say a bloody word, otherwise I’ll go to prison.” Spoiler alert: she didn’t. You know what? I’d do it for my kid too.

And Now…

I remember a few years after I left school, there were a number of things in the news about how schools in the UK wanted to increase the amount of PE lessons per week in a bid to combat child obesity. The thought of that genuinely filled me with fear, even though I was officially free from PE for the rest of my life by this point. Now I’m not entirely sure where we’re at with the situation these days, but I hope that, more than anything that they’re doing more to tackle bullying in these lessons.

I get that a little competition is healthy, but again, there’s a very fine line between having some competitive spirit and being a bully. Maybe instead of teaching kids to be competitive, they should be taught not to throw their toys out of the pram when the less-physically gifted kid misses a basket in netball.

I’ve always put down my reluctance to exercise as an adult to my experiences of PE as a teenager. Maybe that’s just me trying to make up a fancy, sob-story excuse to be a lazy bitch, you can make up your own mind. I’ve gone to a couple of exercise classes over the last few years – which is more than I ever thought I would do – but at the same time, even though I’ve been in a room with a bunch of other adults, I’ve still not been able to shake the feeling that someone is going to laugh at me and tell me I’m shit.

Key Lessons:

  • PE sucks if you can’t catch a ball or run even the tiniest bit faster than the bitches in your class.
  • More needs to be done in schools to tackle bullying in PE lessons. Or rather, schools in general, but that’s a whole different blog post for a whole different day.
  • There’s more to life than winning a dumbass game of rounders. 

Yes, as I’m sure you’ll be aware, I have scars that no qualified therapist can probably heal here. But as usual, I’m attempting to crack out some moderately funny, self-deprecating content on it, which I hope you’ve enjoyed. I guess on the upside, I don’t have to remember the difference between wing and goal positions anymore. So I sort of win.

More Lessons From The Classroom

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Maths
Science
Art
Child Development

3 thoughts on “Lessons From The Classroom – PE”

  1. Oh I can totally relate to this post. I absolutely hated gym class in school. I’m a total klutz and was always the last to be picked for teams and, no matter how hard I tried, I just sucked at everything. If we want young people to be fit and healthy, schools need to change how they teach gym and make it more about physical fitness than competition. Physical activity is so important for physical and mental health but most kids here in Canada drop gym after completing the one high school credit they need to graduate.

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  2. I hated PE when I was at school. For 5 years when I was in comprehensive, I had it at 11am on a Wednesday. Strangely, at 10:30am every single Wednesday morning I would either get a migraine or PMS!

    Danielle | thereluctantblogger.co.uk

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  3. I hated P.E with a passion. I love badminton and basketball, and swimming when I finally learned how to swim. There were so many bitches and I hated how they would group together in the changing rooms and make it loud and clear who they were insulting.

    Fucking hated it. By the way, I agree with your bold statement 100% Xx

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