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Scary gym teachers

May 19, 2010

Hands up anyone else who was put off exercise for life by a scary PE/gym teacher in your early years?

Oh, Miss W – you have so much to answer for! I come from a family of mild, thin (see previous post about unattractive dining options during the 70s) people who like to take an evening stroll or pedal calmly down the street on their bikes – but find competitive sport off-putting. PE teacher Miss W found this attitude to be off-putting.

Every lesson seemed to begin with “picking teams”. I was always one of the last three to be picked. This was only right and proper, since I wasn’t very good at any team sport – but hurtful and embarrassing every time. If you’ve been there, you’ll remember the feeling.

Then, teams picked, we’d go straight ahead and play a game of netball or hockey or make a circuit of the gymnasium. We were never taught any skills, so I never got any better. I just hoped to avoid major embarrassment, mainly by avoiding the ball, if there was one, or, when I became older and more cunning, avoiding PE entirely.

Miss W shouted in alarming manner at those of us she deemed not to be trying. Occasionally one of us non-tryers would be put on the spot and forced to demonstrate something or other, craply, in front of the assembled classmates. These techniques didn’t make any of us try any harder, except to hide better. I wasn’t the only one to end up in tears.

Our PE uniforms – white Aertex shirts and enormous navy knickers – didn’t help either. We had to run round the hockey pitch at the front of the school in these get-ups in full view of all passing traffic. It was always cold. Miss W shouted at us shivering wimps to run faster and get warmer – herself all the while wearing a number of Puffa jackets and a hat. None of this was inspiring.

When Miss W was off sick (how did that happen, given her devotion to healthiness?) I always got out of PE by “forgetting my stuff”. But Miss W was having none of that. “Not to worry!” she would cry. “Here in this box I have lots of manky old gym outfits left behind by other classes, so we will surely be able to find you something to wear!”. At that point the only graceful thing to do was to give in and remember that one’s PE stuff was actually in one’s locker after all, now that one thought about it.

Not such a surprise, overall, that physical activity has not so far been a major love of my life. Stand up and be counted, Miss W. I blame my rolls of fat on you.

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