The boy's last class of the day is gym. For the first month and a half of school, gym class is spent at the community pool that's conveniently located right next to the middle school. My son loves swimming so this is, of course, the highlight of his day. If I were eleven and in his class, I would be completely mortified. I don't feel as if I have many self esteem issues (no more than the average woman anyway), but I don't like being seen in a swimsuit now. I can't even wrap my brain around the idea of a pre teen me wearing one in front of the entire gym class.
Tuesday I was running ahead of schedule and arrived at the school early, there was still 25 minutes before dismissal. As I sat in the car waiting, I watched the assistant gym teacher take a dozen or so kids outside and make them walk laps around the field.
Once school was dismissed and the boy got in the car I asked him what was up...why did those kids have to run laps? I really didn't need to wait to hear his answer though, I knew it was because they had "forgotten" to bring their swimsuits.
I had figured it out when I watched them do laps. A large portion of the kids were overweight, some looked as if they might not even own a swimsuit, others were just awkward. Either way, this wasn't the popular in crowd doing laps, it was the misfits. And it broke my heart.
I remember the sixth grade and I remember being the fat girl. My best friend Dawn says that I was never fat and insists that instead it was she who was the "squat" girl in our little group of dorks. I don't remember it that way, but it doesn't matter now. What matters is, at that time, for whatever reason, I hated my body and now I cannot imagine being forced to wear a swimsuit for a grade.
All of this made me wonder...what's the point? If someone doesn't want to wear a swimsuit, couldn't something suitable be found for them to do in class, something that's less like a punishment? Frankly, as far as the 'swimming' portion of class goes, it's not very organized. The kids who play around in the water or jump off of the diving board get an automatic "A." Or, providing they are in a swimsuit, they can sit on the edge and just put their feet in and earn a "B." There is no structured learning, it's basically 45 minutes of free swim.
What are the kids learning by all this? I imagine that the lesson the coaches are trying to pass on is that the rules apply to everyone and that they can't just slide by, but is that really what the kids are taking away from this? And if so, at what price? Because the way I see it, the school is helping to ostracize the kids that are already being ostracized.
The whole thing really makes me sad. I'll be 33 next month and I still remember what it was like to be a kid. I wish some gym teachers could remember as well.