Monday, March 18, 2013

Sticking Up For Something I Hated

This is disturbing.

According to this, fewer than half of Ontario's elementary schools have phys. ed. teachers, and the majority of the teachers that do exist are part time. Furthermore, schools are having trouble fitting in the mandated twenty minutes of exercise per day.

Say what?

You can't tell me there's no such thing as recess anymore: I live across the street from an elementary school and I see it (and hear it) morning and afternoon. That's half an hour right there--not counting lunch hour. Nobody I knew ever took the whole period to eat.

Do kids not take physical education any more? I remember it going all the way back to grade one (before that, in junior and senior kindergarten, it was called 'play time'.)
I have to admit that part of me, the part that absolutely loathed  phys. ed., finds itself grateful, if so, that nobody faces humiliation of the sort I endured daily. I sucked at phys. ed. Sucked hard. You wouldn't know it from my evaluations and later letter grades in the subject: I think a succession of teachers took pity on me. I'd usually get a B, occasionally even an A...but let me assure you those As were of the A for effort variety. Then as now, I was about as flexible as your average iron bar. I had the strength of a gnat, the balance of a drunk, and eye-hand co-ordination of a being without eyes or hands.

The one thing I excelled at was endurance. I got an Award of Excellence in the endurance run that was part of the Canada Fitness Test; the rest of my ribbons were purple ParticiPACTION awards that you got just for coming out. I couldn't do forty pushups at that age with a gun to my head; the 'flexed arm hang' was a torture; the crunches made me feel like I was being chewed on and the standing long jump was definitely more standing than jumping. The worst thing was that those who had performed their tests and earned their red ribbons invariably hung back to gather 'round and chortle at little Kenny.

I was forever hurting myself in phys. ed., sometimes semi-seriously. Don't put me in the same room as a trampoline. I never mastered the art of staying in the center of those things and once I went sailing right off the end when the spotter regrettably abdicated--though what else was he supposed to do with a flying Kenny coming in for an unscheduled (read: crash) landing? Or there was the time I tried to do a back somersault, again on a trampoline, and succeeded only in breaking my nose with my knee.

Even when I didn't hurt myself, I hurt myself. Exercise hurts. I don't understand all you gym rats who say you feel great after exercising. I'm sore everywhere, out of breath, possibly lightheaded, certainly heavy-footed...what's to like about that sensation? Isn't that kind of like getting drunk just to experience the puking shakes?

And yet...

As much as I despised every phys. ed. period and wished I was actually handicapped instead of just seeming to be, I really don't like the thought of it being outright mothballed. Kids go to school not just to get their minds sharpened, but also their bodies and spirits--both of which, my experiences notwithstanding, contribute mightily to creating a well-rounded individual. Not to mention that the exercise kids get in phys. ed. is all too often the only exercise they get. Hell, kids don't even walk to school anymore. It's almost as if parents are collectively raising cellulite instead of children.

I'd suggest that mandatory phys. ed. should be, well, mandatory. That school isn't just about the three Rs, two of which don't even start with R. That the heavy price in humiliation I paid was actually worth it in that it kept me from being a total blob.

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