Bullying is why children learn to hate physical education.

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There’s a reason kids don’t want to continue to do Physical Education in later years. It isn’t because they hate exercise, it’s because they are made to feel like shit about themselves and their abilities by students and teachers alike.

If you weren’t one of the sporty kids in high school, you will know what I’m talking about. If you were one of the sporty kids, well, you probably had absolutely no idea those less gifted in the coordination department felt this way. The sporty kids were always popular, fit, and the PE teachers just loved them, so much so that they were more than willing to turn a blind eye to any bullying coming from them during classes.

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A fact which probably stems from the fact that the teachers themselves tended to bully the less athletic students unfortunate enough to end up in their class. I had myriad excuses to dodge PE when I was in high school: Fake injuries, illnesses, headaches, periods, “forgot my PE uniform” (I won’t mention the teacher who handed 15-year-old me a tampon when I’d never used one and forced me to go swimming). I know that every other person who was like me is nodding along.

I hated PE, and all of its associates – swimming carnival, athletics carnival, and cross country. All I feel when I remember back to PE classes is humiliation, shame, dread, and anxiety. Why are schools so obsessed with sport anyway? There was nowhere near the emphasis placed on academia, and if the aforementioned sports carnivals had an intellectual equivalent (debate team for example), they were optional – only for the kids who truly wanted to be there. However, you miss sports day, or swimming? That’s an unauthorised absence on your record, Miss.

I finished high school nearly 11 years ago, and compulsory sports 13 years ago, so you may wonder why I’m bringing this up now. Today, my seven-year-old daughter came home from in tears, distressed, because of something that happened in PE class. The children were skipping with the long rope, one of those games where two are swinging the rope and a child has to run in and start jumping. This isn’t an easy feat for those who aren’t very coordinated, but my daughter gave it her best.

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The tears weren’t for the skipping itself though. They were because the teacher made a competition of it, where she would count through grade levels for each “correct” skip a child made, and if they got all the way through to “university” they could stop. Try as she might, my daughter couldn’t get past grade one, and now considers herself to be a “failure”.

This is just one of numerous incidents which have led her to declare that she hates PE, and never wants to do it again. I’m sad both because I can feel her pain, and also because I don’t think it is right that a child should be made to feel so lousy about herself at only seven. This sets her, and children like her, up for a lifetime of avoiding physical activity and that is not okay.

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