…Last ever PE lesson at this school.
Down the years it has always been deadly boring, taking in
commando rolls, hockey, basketball, gymnastics, flopping about,
messing around and loads more things.
I shall not miss it…
PE is the one primary school subject that humiliates you twice. If you’re not very good at, say, maths or English, it’s only your brain that gets punished. You can sit behind a desk and fail mentally. But if you’re not very good at sport, it’s your brain and your body that is given a drubbing. You are judged to be a failure both mentally and physically. And that is an immensely crushing experience, even to a child as young as six or seven.
But worse is to come. If you’re no good at PE at secondary school, you’re humiliated three times over: mentally, physically and psychologically. Your shortcomings on the football pitch or running track are branded not merely the product of a lack of stamina or poor brain power, but of a “bad attitude” or of “not trying hard enough”. And you can try harder, you can try as hard as you like, but if you simply can’t kick a ball straight, hold a racket in the right way, or run fast enough to avoid finishing last, the humiliation is unending.
I wasn’t headstrong, I wasn’t haughty; I wasn’t fat, I wasn’t thin. I just wasn’t very good. Yet a procession of teachers of all ages and genders deemed my inadequacy to be all my fault, and hence nobody ever tried to help me get better.
It did end, of course. But one of the curses of adolescence is the sense that everything that is bad is unending, and everything that is good is over too quickly.
(And here are some of those sports I’d been made to do at primary school: shinty; crab football; short tennis; non-stop cricket; ball skills; Olympic gymnastics; basketball; eight-a-side football; and running around in circles.)