Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Physical Education

My son is currently sewing a scarf in P.E. Does that seem random or what? Well, his teacher actually won the Teacher of the Year Award for our district. I have to remember, and I have to remind my son, that P.E. in 7th grade is an academic class. It is letter graded. There is homework and papers and research and quizzes. The sports and activities are the "lab work". This is where they apply what they are learning but it's not all about the sports!

His class is doing an entire unit on the soccer World Cup. His teacher broke all the classes into teams representing different countries. Nick is on team Italy. Each player is sewing a scarf to represent their "country". I think this is pretty cool. Nick is enjoying it too and he didn't think he would.

However, he's not happy with his team. The teacher chose the teams. I was glad to hear that. It's awkward when the kids choose--we all know how that story ends. I don't know if she avoided the hurt feelings though. As she called out the teams, my son and other kids grumbled out loud about her choices. Nick accused her of stacking the teams because he ended up with non-athletes and another team ended up with almost all athletes. While Nick's teammates are probably grateful to have him, a competitive soccer player, on their World Cup team, he's not too thrilled to have them. I hope his teammates weren't hurt by his obvious and vocal disappointment!

P.E. may be more academic than it once was....but the kids haven't changed...

27, September 1985  "Yesterday in P.E., Mr. L split me up from my team and put me on another one. One of the guys said, "You're not on our team." I said, "I am now." And he goes, "oh," like he was mad and I was some kind of burden. I felt so bad. Plus, a lot of "in" people were on the team and I didn't feel like I fit in. 

This one guy, Stenzel, is the team leader and "everyone" thinks he's so cool which made me instantly hate him. He's a dumb ex-football player and he always has his tongue sticking out and a glint of stupidity in his eye. 

Anyway right at the beginning of the game, I got hit so hard with the soccer ball in my face that I couldn't even feel my nose. So I went to the locker room with the sympathy of my friends on the other team. My nose was swollen a little. I thought that it might be broken (it's not). But I started crying, not because of the pain but because of the team's rejection toward me. I imagined them laughing at my injury and thinking that I was a wimp. 

A few minutes later, I went back into the gym. A few years ago, I would have done anything except go back. I rejoined my team. I smiled widely to my friends so that they, and everyone else, could see that I was okay and not embarrassed. No one on my team said anything except one guy asked if I was okay. I said, "Yeah." I felt like I had something to prove now. I felt that I better play good so they'll have no more reason to think I'm a burden and to sneer at me. 

When the game started, I was surprised at how well I played. I felt sure that I would totally goof up and make a fool of myself. Instead, I made a goal! I did some great passes and kicks and I even stole the ball away from the "big guys" on the other team. Anyway, I'm glad my old soccer skills came through for me. 

Today I'm not playing because I'm sick of P.E. It's Friday and I thought I looked good this morning and I didn't want to mess it up. I hope my team has more respect for me now. I don't care if they're friends or not, I just want them to know that I'm a benefit, not a burden."

 Jennifer playing rec soccer in Foster City, Ca!

Poor Jen! Do you see what I see? She made an excuse not to go back to P.E. As a mother, I wish she had gone back and kept playing hard. Nobody at her high school even knew her yet. She could have made some friends on that team.

Jennifer did everything right on the 27th. She took a blow, retreated and then came back and scored a goal! Usually that's the END of the movie!! She should have ridden that wave into the sunset...into happily ever after!

Instead, she quit. This is Jennifer's perfectionism. She didn't think she could repeat her athletic  performance. Often when she succeeded, she became overwhelmed with the pressure to succeed again. It's the classic, Fear of Failure.

Going back to P.E. in general, the school gym is often either your best friend or your worst enemy. It was her worst enemy. The classroom is the same way. For some kids, the classroom is torture. For some kids, P.E. is the only class where they get to shine.

Jennifer had become a straight A student. The sight of rows of desks, class expectations written neatly on the board, blank notebooks waiting to be filled and shiny new textbooks thrilled her. She walked into every classroom with a sense of excitement and confidence. She was in complete control. She had no compassion for the moaners sitting in the back of the class. She was irritated when the teacher called on kids and they didn't know the answers. She had no compassion for anyone who thought that writing a ten page essay was "hard".

She didn't know that, for the moaners, this was their gym class. The classroom was the place where they lacked confidence. They weren't thrilled to see that quizzes and tests would count for 40% of their grade, they weren't already deciding what they would write their final essay on, they weren't smelling the textbooks, they weren't admiring all the blank college-ruled paper in their notebooks! They dreaded being called on by the teacher as much as Jennifer dreaded being called on by the P.E. teacher. They were probably plenty smart enough to do well in school, they just got a bad break somewhere in life.

At the school gym, Jennifer became the moaner in the back. She was the one who hated the smell, the uniform, the squeaking of tennis shoes, the echo of the basketball. She was the one cutting class and putting out half an effort. Jennifer was athletic enough, just not confident enough. She could do her own thing in the classroom, but in the gym, she had to work with others.  She also had to perform in front of her peers and that stressed her out. She hated making visible mistakes. I'm sure the kids who didn't know the answers in class, felt just as stupid and miserable and embarrassed as she did in the gym.

Jennifer did not look at the bright side. At least she shined somewhere in school!

Where did you shine?

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