Middle School Gym Class Can Be Brutal

Simone Weisman

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So we didn’t have to wear itchy uniforms like those our parents had to put on. Nevertheless, middle school gym classes never lost their brutality. In the locker room that smelled like pickles, I would suffer teasing and dodge gossip. While I always managed to pull myself together in time for class, other girls would arrive late, or dressed in jeans. Sometimes they didn’t come to gym at all.

I realize today that middle school gym was geared towards discovering our weaknesses. Instead of building confidence in us, it created long lasting insecurities. We all dreaded particular units, knowing we wouldn’t get picked for teams. Most of my gym teachers ignored exclusive and reckless behavior, perhaps considering it healthy competition. Conventional gym class was no way to turn the rowdy boys into young men, nor the timid children into team MVPs.

Why not teach children the benefits of sports and exercise instead of simply forcing certain activities upon them? They are not animals to be trained, but human beings with the capacity to reason. First, whether it’s discussion in the classroom or drills in the gym, every child should have the opportunity to be a leader. Moreover, leadership experience boosts confidence and courage. Second, physical educators should teach a ropes course to implement the virtues of teamwork and responsibility.

I believe that many cases of bad sportsmanship, sexist attitudes, and issues with body image can be traced back to middle school gym classes. If physical educators find ways to integrate sports with the virtues of teamwork and fairness, they could help make the transition from childhood to adolescence a happier and healthier experience.

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