For some children, PE lessons are far from enjoyable
At the height of Olympic fever, it’s all well and good to say that children should be doing more sport and that state schools should add more hours of PE into the curriculum, but I think we are overegging the pudding, here.
Owen Jones has already written about cuts to sports facilities and how state schools struggle to compete with private schools for sports provision. But thinking back to my own school days I can’t help but think there are more reasons that schools investing in sports might be more problematic than a lack of money.
When I was in secondary school, PE was my most hated subject, and I would do anything to try and get out of it. I’d feign being sick, until my parents realised that I always happened to be sick on the same days of the week. I then tried simply not turning up to the lessons, but that didn’t work well either because I’d often bump into PE teachers around school earlier in the day.
PE lessons always started with everyone changing in one of two rooms, joined by a small corridor where there were showers and toilets. I was always really insecure about my looks, and this was amplified massively to start with. But then you get used to it, and slowly you realise that no one is really looking at you because they are all too busy worrying that you are looking at them. In this way I suppose it could be hailed as a great way to make girls realise that actually nobody really cares as much as you think they do.
Then the teacher came in to check who was there. Being slightly deaf, I found that my life was made easier by altering the way I go about things. I always tried to position myself so that I was in the right room at the right time, or near enough to the corridor that I could hear my name. Sometimes I got it wrong, and I remember once not hearing my name and thinking it was a bit strange. I was approached by the teacher who screamed ‘are you deaf or something?!’ at me – I had to explain, in front of thirty-or-so wide-eyed girls that um, yes, I was deaf and that it’s actually in my file and I thought all the teachers knew this automatically so that I didn’t have to go through this humiliation in every single subject. They thought I was being difficult; I thought they may as well have been robots for all the empathy and understanding they demonstrated.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to the conclusion that however horrible people are, nothing will ever be as soul-destroying as going to school and doing sports. That time where you have to change in front of others, and you’re then forced to perform something you’re not good at in front of your peers. It’s borderline traumatising – children are vicious and horrible, to an extent that it’s hard to appreciate or understand as an adult.
I’m not saying that schools should not provide sports classes or invest in sports facilities and equipment. They absolutely should do, and it’s undoubtedly a great thing to encourage kids to do – and isn’t this part of the point of having the Olympics in London? But I think there needs to be some recognition of the fact that lots of children genuinely struggle with the way that sports are handled in school, and as a result, have their confidence knocked either by other children or by frustration at their own perceived inability to succeed.
Some kids find it really challenging – and yes, everyone struggles, but if many children dislike sports, then rather than simply demanding schools up the hours, we need to look at making it more enjoyable. People will do things that are good for them if they enjoy it.
This undoubtedly ties into the amount of money that schools have to throw at the problem. In theory there are great solutions to these issues, but in reality there is no funding to carry them out. Maybe there should be smaller groups, as that’s less intimidating. Maybe there should be a wider range of activities to choose from and do. Perhaps there just needs to be more understanding from teachers themselves, that people have emotional and physical limits; that not every child is going to love kicking a ball around, but that he or she might actually excel at some other sport if they are given the chance. There is no single solution but I’m sure we all agree that it’s much easier and more fun to participate in sports in a supportive environment rather than a destructive one.Tagged in: fitness, health, Inspire a generation, pe lessons, school, Sport, young people
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