Remember P.E. class? Do you remember how you felt about taking a break from the metal exercise of math and science to give your body a chance to move? Some students can’t wait to escape their desk chairs to run, jump, and play. Others dread this hour of the day more than going to the dentist. They dread being picked last, being laughed at, being marginalized, and made to feel inferior.
We recently received the following open letter from a runner named Jane (photo left) on our facebook page:
Open Letter to my Former P.E. Teachers:
You missed your opportunity. You had a runner in your class. You had someone who LOVES running right in front of you and you didn’t give her the time of day. Instead, what you saw was an overweight, shy, introverted girl. You dismissed her, and so many others like her.
Here are a few things I wish you would have told me:
1 – Don’t be afraid of your muscles hurting and the hard breathing. These are signs that your body is working.
2- You don’t have to compare yourself to another person or anyone else’s standard. Keep striving to be better than you were yesterday.
3 – You are stronger than you think you are. You have to dig in to find it.
4 – I believe in you. You need to believe in you, also.
5 – When today is hard, remember there’s always tomorrow.
6 – This is about a life-long process; it’s not simple and it’s not for the short-sighted.
7 – It’s okay for it to be hard; it’s supposed to be.
I hope that the children who are in your care now learn these things and are not having the same shame pounded into them. Every child is an opportunity to share your passion. I hope you will.
Unfortunately, Jane’s experience is not unique. Many students have a bad experience in P.E. classes, or get so caught up in comparing their athletic ability with others, that they will do anything to avoid feeling that way again. They learn to associate physical activity and the athletic arena with failure and negative emotions. The athlete living inside them is at risk of being buried forever.
A great art teacher finds the artist in each student. A great music teacher finds the musician. Great P.E. teachers, and there are many of them, have the ability to find and value the athlete in each of us. They understand that athletes come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities. They inspire a life-long appreciation of activity, movement, and physical challenge.
If you know, or had, a great P.E. teacher be sure to let them know you appreciate what they do. If, like Jane, you had a bad experience, remember that you ARE an athlete. Give your inner athlete a chance and you might be surprised just how good it feels to set it free!
*We (Adam and Tim) would like to take a moment to thank our P.E. teachers. We were lucky to have excellent ones who made every student feel valued and validated.