Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why don't they teach you to do things in gym?

Gym sucked for me as a kid. I cannot even blame one school system or one gym teacher. They were all the same wherever we lived. I went to 3 grade schools, two junior highs and one high school.  We would play these games and test on things, but we were rarely taught how to do anything. We were just expected to know how to do it.

Also, every one of these schools we had to fitness tests. Those wonderful Presidential Fitness Tests. Man, how I hated them. They would be sprung on us from out of the blue. Situps, pushups, flex-arm hang (for girls), rope climbing, 12 minute run or one mile run - depending on the school, and a flexibility test on a box. I might be missing some. I cannot remember. I was so glad that in high school that all stopped. Basically in high school all we did was play volleyball or indoor softball with that super huge softball. At least we were moving and we weren't graded on our physical abilities.

The worst for me was junior high, 7-9th grade. I sucked at most things in the gym. The only units I wouldn't get a just barely passing mark was swimming  and social dance where I would get an A. For volleyball I would get a B. In gymastics - D, Fitness tests - overall D. Basketball - C. My average grade in gym 7-9th grade was a C/D. Pathetic and it made me feel awful about myself.

In gym we were graded on what skills we could do. So, since I took years of swimming lessons, I could do well in swimming as I was one of the best swimmers. I wasn't a fast swimmer, but I was a competent swimmer. Social dance was a joke and as long as you could move, you would get a good mark. Thank goodness for that. I did learn a few things in Volleyball, but could have learned more. I was absolutely pathetic in the rest. My gut would sink when we had fitness tests and gymastics especially.

I mean seriously, who can do gymastics if they've never done them before? We would get an A for being able to do certain advanced skills, but no one TAUGHT us how to go about doing those skills. We would rotate from station to station and just try to do the things they told us to do. Sometimes a peer would try to show us how to do something, but how well can a 13 year old teach another 13 year old?

But the worst of all were the physical fitness tests. They were the worst because not only did we get  graded on them, they weren't very anonymous and if you didn't do well on them, you really felt like a fat, lazy, slob.

This is how it went for me. Keep in mind that this was 30 years ago and I still remember the tests and how I did on them. Left a lasting impression of my ineptitude, wouldn't you say? The only thing I was good at was pushups and I have no idea why I could do those and nothing else:

Running - D (as I couldn't run a mile in 12 minutes)
Pushups - A (being able to do 50 girly pushups was an A)
Situps - D (I don't remember the number, but I think you needed to do 100 in a given time frame. I could do 60.)
Flex-arm Hang - D (I couldn't hold myself up nearly at all.)
Rope Climb - D (I couldn't pull myself up even an inch.)
Flexibility Box - D (You needed to be able to touch your toes to get a C - even at age 13 I couldn't touch my toes).

Now, I wasn't a heavy 13-15 year old. I was just not physical fit. I wasn't in any sports. I didn't 'do' anything outside of gym. I wasn't from a physical fit and active family. So, how could I be strong and athletic? And I wasn't alone. There were a lot of kids like me - especially girls.

But the bigger question was - we had gym every other day all school year long for 50 minutes. Let's say 35 of those minutes were actually time in the gym doing something. Why didn't I get more fit? What were we doing that allowed me to stay so unfit?

And why didn't a gym teacher ever talk about pacing yourself when running and what they meant and how to go about it? They would just say, "Run around the gym 5 times." What is the point of gym if it wasn't to learn new skills?

I wasn't trying to get out of doing active things in gym. They were just hard for me and being an early teen I was very self conscious of the fact that I sucked in all things sports-like. I would just try to be inconspicuous.

I asked the teachers then as I ask now, "Why did they grade on what skills you could do?" Wouldn't it be better to grade on improvement of skills? Wouldn't that have taught me the power I have in myself to improve my fitness instead of showing me that I sucked at sports/fitness?

Even with this Biggest Winner event I'm doing with the fitness centers, we take these tests and at the end we take them all again to compare - so we can SEE how we have improved and hopefully it will push us to keep trying to improve.

How great would it have been if one single gym teacher in 13 years of gym would have taught me to enjoy doing physical things? Where would I have been if one teacher would have taught me that I too could run? or taught me that progress is the most important? That anyone could get an A on the physical fitness tests if they were just given the means and the time to learn those skills? All I got was a teacher that just thought I was pathetic - you could see it in their faces. As well, they couldn't "get" me. They were athletes and probably naturally athletically inclined. They didn't know how to break it down to the basics as they never needed to have it broken down that completely.

So, one thing we are trying to teach our kids as they too are not natural athletes, is that being active is just a part of life. You don't need to be fast or the best at it to be beneficial. Movement is for health, not for getting an award or for winning. And if it means breaking it down into minute steps (which it does for both my kids - especially the oldest), then so be it. He's learning and that's more than I ever got.

It wasn't until I was married and I was trying to run with my husband that I learned about pacing. He told me quite simply, "If you can't talk while you are running, then you are running too fast. SLOW DOWN." And voila - all of a sudden I could run farther than I ever ran before with those simple words only. How hard would it have been for a teacher to say that? but they never did. I thought I needed to run as fast as the good runners. All that led to was me needing to stop - panting and feeling pathetic. Shaking my head at the way things were done and wishing I could undo them.

1 comment:

  1. Gym sucked at my school... all we ever did was play kickball (with loose rules) and do Tae-bo inside when the weather was bad. We were a private school so didn't have to do the presidential fitness tests, so I really could pretend I wasn't super unfit, haha.