LJ Idol Season Six Week 11: Run, Don’t Walk

January 23, 2010 § 40 Comments

Gym Class is of the devil. Especially if you are an overweight kid with asthma.

Then it is anathema.

I have plenty of horrible memories from this travesty they call “education”, such as the “1.5”, a device of torture implemented while I was in school which entailed forcing children to run a mile and a half in under… what like 16 minutes? Psh. I think I did 22. Walking the whole way with the coach yelling, “Come on, Brooks, can you at least try to run?”

But I absolutely refused to run in high school, and looking back, I think I can find the psychological trigger in middle school.

My middle school, to put it bluntly, was a hell-hole. A more virulent race of sadistic little brutes I cannot imagine. These are the kinds of schooling experiences that trigger off Columbine level retaliation.

I moved to Pennsylvania from Texas in the sixth grade. It was an interesting transition, and culture-shock to say the least, as I went from an elementary school in which I was a minority, to a middle school where there were NO children of color. As I sit here today and try to remember, I can think of no one who wasn’t white. And racism and bigotry were out in the open for all to see. I heard the “N” word more there than I had my entire upbringing in Texas.

At this new school, there appeared to be very little tolerance for anything new or different, and since I was both I made very few friends in the time I spent there, from sixth grade to the middle of 10th grade. The reasons I left in the middle of tenth grade are traumatic and worthy of their own telling, but I won’t go into that today.

No, today we turn the spotlight of bitter nostalgia on a day in eighth grade gym when the class had been divided across several fields to play various games. My group was in the farthest field playing kickball, which I didn’t mind because it was essentially the same as baseball, and I had been in Little League as a kid, so it had an air of familiarity about it.

It was a beautiful day, as I recall. Springtime, blue skies, green grass, cool breeze. Despite the temperate weather, I was wearing sweat pants instead of the requisite gym shorts. I always wore sweatpants and an extra baggy t-shirt– the uniform of the chubby girl.

I was relegated to outfield– the lowly position of the chubby girl– and then it happened: the ball shot past me and went far afield, inducing me to run off after it.

I hated running. Not because it hurt or gave me a stitch in my side or could induce an asthma attack, but out of that tender self-consciousness that is present in young teenage girls– I didn’t want to be a spectacle.

Do you remember what it was like to do any physical activity with someone (or a group of someone’s) watching? It’s like you can’t think of how to move in a natural way. You become conscious of how your arms move, and you start to imagine how you must look to others, and then you begin to think you are moving in an odd, awkward way (which, by now, you probably are.)

Now imagine if folks begin to point out in reality the imagined fears you’ve built up in your mind.

My nightmare was realized that day as I scurried off to retrieve that ball.

As I picked it up and turned to run back to our field, one of my classmates hollered, “Run, Cellulite, run!!”

I froze in my tracks and stared at a boy, who, till that day had never joined the others in tormenting me. I never thought of him as a friend, but had certainly considered him safe until that moment.

He yelled it again, this time inspiring the age old hit of children around the world: the School Yard Chant.

Y’know in movies when they do that camera thing where they zoom in on the individual, and every thing else seems to disappear? Yeah, that happened to me. I took one painful look at the ringleader’s face, chucked the ball at his stupid red-head as hard as I could and then stormed off the field. A couple of boys from a field or so over tried to stop me to find out what was wrong, why was I crying. But I didn’t stop, I just went back to the locker room, changed my clothes and waited for the bell.

Apparently, those two boys found out what had happened, because as I made my way to our next class, I saw the two of them talking to our teacher, and all three cut their eyes at me as I approached.

When we had all taken our seats, Mr D stood at his podium and looked over our class, pursing his lips and glowering threateningly. Heck, I was afraid of what he was about to say or do. He proceeded to launch into a tirade about how disgusted he was with my classmates and how disappointed he was in the way that they treated one another. Without naming names or specifics ( there was no need at that point) he made it clear in no uncertain terms that bullying would not be tolerated in his class.

It was the first time in that school that a teacher had defended me from my daily tortures: most of it happened right under their noses to which they turned a blind eye. I looked to the boys who had told Mr D about it; one was someone who teased me from time to time, the other was new to our school that year, but had somehow become quickly popular.

“How does Mr D know what happened?” I whispered to the new kid who sat near me.

He shrugged nonchalantly, ” I told him.”

I’ve never forgotten the humiliation of that day, and never ran in gym class again. But I also have never forgotten the one time when someone went to my defense and became a hero to me.

Thanks, Mr D, Jason, and Joe.

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§ 40 Responses to LJ Idol Season Six Week 11: Run, Don’t Walk

  • Thank you for sharing this with us.
    I am glad that someone stood up for an obvious wrong and an adult believed them.
    Well written as usual. You have a good conversational style that is easy and engaging to read.

  • I was in that same gym class, I think.
    😦

  • Damn, what is it with gym class making everyone feel so badly about themselves? I swear we all have a story similar to this…
    …which is why I’m glad you shared it, because it’s good to have something to relate to. Well done. I’m glad someone came to your defense, too.

  • so_small says:

    I think I was in that same gym class :*(
    I’m glad that someone came to your defense 🙂

  • lawchicky says:

    What an awful situation. I hate bullies, but bravo for your teacher who stood up for you.

  • frodo_esque says:

    I never thought of him as a friend, but had certainly considered him safe until that moment.
    I’ve been there before, and know how devastating that betrayal is.
    As someone who knows the pain of junior high, I can say that you wrote this beautifully and so realistically. Wonderful job!

  • jenandbronze says:

    I was taunted a bit in the elementary school years, but not so much in high school, but I was never included and was always choosen last. Why choose that blind and deaf idiot! LOL!
    I had people watch me when I fumbled in gym class and hated it … balls throwing all over the place and not seeing exactly when it was coming, because of poor depth perception.

  • cheshire23 says:

    New Kid is a real hero. I wish he could be cloned and placed within every class.

  • shadowwolf13 says:

    I think I was lucky to simply be middle of the road when it came to my classmates. Thank you for sharing.

  • bojojoti says:

    Middle school can be hellish; it was for me, too. Frankly, most of the teachers turned a blind eye and expected the students to work things out for themselves which usually meant the bullies ran roughshod over the quiet ones who died a little inside daily.
    Thank God, most of the kids became more human in high school.

  • krikketgirl says:

    I can so relate. I am so proud of the people who stuck up for you. *hugs*

  • krikketgirl says:

    From what I hear, middle school is the worst. I know it was for me…I think it’s that rapid change that is happening to the kids and the alliances that keep shifting…they act out on their being overwhelmed by snapping at other people.

  • tigrkittn says:

    It’s freaky to me how many of us had this same experience (ok, except for someone coming to the rescue!) If the “normal” kids were in the majority in class, and we’re in the majority here, where are they?? LOL

  • kerewyn says:

    Wonderfully written. I hated gym class too (we called it P.E or Phys Ed)
    as I was a “four-eyed butter fingers” – couldn’t catch, couldn’t hit, fell over a lot, picked last for teams etc.

  • DT says:

    Thanks so much! By that age, I had very little use or respect for most adults…
    I truly appreciate your feedback! It made me squee a little, to be honest! 🙂

  • DT says:

    I hated gym class every single day of my life.

  • DT says:

    Y’know, I wonder why they insist on continuing such evil practices?
    I think it is pretty well universally acknowledged that gym class sucks for far more kids than are benefited by it.

  • DT says:

    Me too! It was a surprise– especially since the coaches who were there and witnessed it had nothing to do or say about the matter!

  • joeymichaels says:

    Man, a bunch of us hit on gym teachers as bullies this week. I’m glad you had a gym teacher who treated you with some dignity and respect.

  • mstrobel says:

    Kids can be -so- horrible!! 😦 It’s lovely to read though about how some can be quite the opposite 🙂

  • DT says:

    Yes, I often wonder that adults don’t stick up for kids… but then I wonder if they are either too afraid to jump in (the kids may turn on ME!) or else they are bullies at heart as well.

  • DT says:

    Yeah, it’s a shock when someone you thought of as “not Them” turns out to BE Them.
    Children should be homeschoooled, privately tutored or reduced to groups of no more than 5 between the ages of 11 and 16.
    Anything else leads to mass abuse.

  • DT says:

    It’s awful how everyone gets singled out for being “different”; EVERYONE is different in some way, and feels singled out over something.

  • DT says:

    Y’know, this post prompted me to look him up on facebook, and friend him. It’s nice to be able to say thanks after all these years.

  • DT says:

    I figured there had ot be someone out there who wasn’t excessively abused by their schoolmates! lol! I’m glad you escaped unscathed. 🙂

  • DT says:

    Thank God, most of the kids became more human in high school.
    Unfortunately they didn’t at that particular school. I ended up leaving in the middle of my 10th grade year when I had a breakdown from all the abuse. I finished out my sophomore year in Louisiana with my grandmother.

  • DT says:

    I was saying to someone else up above that children between the ages of 11 and 16 should be homeschooled, privately tutored or reduced to a teacher/student ratio of 5:1.
    That age just cannot handle the kind of group dynamic which is required in public schools today.

  • DT says:

    Thanks, me too!

  • DT says:

    lol, Well, I think we former nerds geeks and dorks now dominate the internet, so we seem in greater numbers. 😉

  • DT says:

    Thanks! Yeah, we called it P.E. as well– more so in the South, and here in the North, it’s gym… weird.
    I seem to remember the teachers stepping in for team picking a lot…

  • DT says:

    Unfortunately, it wasn’t the gym teacher who stuck up for me, but my history teacher! 😛

  • DT says:

    Thanks, it was a bit of a shock at the time for me! lol

  • frodo_esque says:

    I have personal issues with homeschooling if kids aren’t allowed to socialize with others, but if they are placed in larger groups of other homeschooled children, that is important.
    I think the issue isn’t to avoid other children for fear of their abuse, but to TEACH children that it’s inappropriate to treat others this way. I understand that teachers don’t see all the abuses faced by children, but they need to presume it’s happening and address it constantly. Teach them about respect, about the equality of differences, and teach them to speak up when someone is being ill-treated.
    Most importantly– empower the victim. All too often, the victim is left silent without a voice, even when teachers are aware of the trauma. Give the victim a chance to feel good about themselves by standing up for their right to equal treatment.

  • joeymichaels says:

    Forgive me for not reading closely enough then! Good for your history teacher, boo da gym teacher!

  • tigrkittn says:

    Former? Speak for yourself! 😉

  • karmasoup says:

    It’s good that in the midst of so much stupidity you found a few bright shining stars.

  • Wow, that really reminded me why I really didn’t like a lot of school, that constant fear of doing anything that will make you a target. I’m so glad that someone stuck up for you though.

  • onda_bianca says:

    Wow. I am sorry you had to go through all of that. 😦
    A greatly told story though.

  • majesticarky says:

    Wow I had almost the same exact experience. Kids in PE always made fun of me, though for me it was mostly because of how awkward and doofy I was rather than my inability to do well at PE. One time in 8th grade my PE teacher yelled at the class because she was sick of everyone making fun of me every day. Some of the kids even apologized to me. Most of the kids didn’t like her and thought she was a bitch. I always liked her, though. I was really sad when I found out in HS that she died from Breast Cancer…

  • akktri says:

    Body types
    I wonder if a stork or a giraffe ever stopped running because they thought the might look funny running.
    Anyways, a crane can kick ass, even though it looks weird doing so. And just because someone has a different body type doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exercise or run. And it helps to not give a shit what other people think when you’re running.

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