PE was mandatory from grades 1 through 12 back in the bad old days when boys were boys and girls were hideous balloon shaped creatures from the planet Drabenfugly.
Our gym uniforms about which we had NO input, NO say, and NO choice, were cunningly designed to make a good figure dumpy and a dumpy figure resemble a failed Yorkshire pudding. They were a shade of blue that can be described as a cross between urinal blocks and that weird stuff you find in your sink drain.
These uniforms held onto that faint miasma of sweaty teenager throughout every washing, so most of us simply didn't bother and let the things get to a toxic state before we rolled them up into a ball and took them home to mother. I won't tell you what mothers said to us when we did this.
Our school district had about a dozen or so high schools and not one of them featured as horrid a gym uniform. No, we at good old NDSS were the chosen ones, the ones to whom others pointed and snickered. When our PE teacher told us to wear our uniforms with pride, my next thought was, “ and with a fervent hope that onlookers would be struck blind BEFORE they see us.”
I hated those things but not quite as much as I hated PhysEd classes themselves. I hated running, exercising, team sports, sweating, and had absolutely no interest whatsoever in which side won the extremely boring torture of volleyball, floor hockey, or basketball with girls' rules, (no movement while dribbling), a rule I passed onto my children when they were learning to eat at the table. It was a mystery to me how some of the girls got all excited about gym class. They ran about and yelled encouragement to their teammates, and threatened to stuff me in a locker if I didn't at least try to
- hit the ball
- get the ball
- catch the ball
- throw the ball
- pass the ball
- kick the ball
- do anything other than apathetically watch the ball sail on past me into the nether reaches of the corn field by the school grounds.
In fact, I didn't understand why we had to do any of this at all. This isn't the computer age we are discussing here. I'm OLD and we hardly had daytime television. After school and on weekends or through the summer we walked for miles, rode our bikes because our parents wouldn't drive us all over the place, and as preteen and teen girls, we danced. At least, we called it dancing. Parents had other words for it. My point is that we all got plenty of exercise and really didn't need to have competitive and structured angst sessions at school. Some of us non-sporty types could have done something else during that period like crafts, or art, or creative chipmunk calling.
Once I began teaching a grade five class and realized there was a physical education component on the curriculum I bent rules and managed to make the process fun for me. There was no way I could possibly teach a gaggle of ten year old kids the fine points of any athletic game, so I substituted what would now be called Extreme Charades. It required a lot of movement and a keen imagination, lots of yelling (good for the lungs) and loads of laughing. My reasoning was that if I was having fun, the kids would too, or to put it another way, I insisted on having some benefit from the stupid class too. This all worked until the principal sat in on one of my Phys Ed classes in response to a brown-nose's complaint that I wasn't following the curriculum.
He wasn't happy, but when I pointed out that although my methods were unorthodox, I was certainly not acting in defiance of the curriculum which simply stated that the children were to have fourty minutes twice a week of physical activity that could include but was not limited to: sports, dance, gymnastics, calisthenics. They were certainly getting plenty of exercise in my version Phys Ed, and they were enjoying it so what on earth is the big problem here? Turns out the big problem is that the principal was a jock and expected his staff to rear a whole batch of mini jocks. Ah well. He also was a hidebound bore who didn't like the fact that my classes in science, history, geography, reading, and math tended to get a little exuberant! I hope he is still around and reads this somewhere, but I still hear from those students of early days and from some of their parents who tell me they just loved coming to school when I was teaching. They still remember many of the more colourful lessons too.
And, to make a point, not one kid thought his life had been ruined by surviving a school year in my Phys Ed classes. Add to that the fact that they didn't have to wear the plug-ugliest garments known to man and I think I can safely say I did my duty. As to my old gym uniform, it ended its days at the close of grade twelve in a carefully constructed bonfire in the back fourty. The smoke from that travesty of fashion stunk up the place for days. All that is left now is a horrible memory.