A Negative Educational Experience

I am going to work on restoring some posts that were on my blog before my old host went down.  If you subscribe via Bloglines or another RSS reader, you might be wondering what’s going on as those old posts appear; those of you who visit directly probably won’t notice anything unusual.

As promised, here is the entry I wrote about a negative school experience:

I am hard pressed to think of one experience that was so profoundly negative that it stands out in my mind, that it still makes me feel hurt or angry. I have many experiences in P.E. that make me feel that way. I never felt coordinated. I was always picked last for teams. I dreaded Field Day, which most of my peers absolutely loved. I never won ribbons—I always had to take home purple participation ribbons, which my mom saved and joked about. I joked, too, but inside, those ribbons were painful reminders of inadequacy. My sister brought home blue 1st place ribbons, red 2nd place ribbons, and white 3rd place ribbons in various events every year. Why couldn’t I hit a ball? Why was I scared the ball was going to hit me? Volleyball was horrible. I remember missing the ball every time it came near me when I was in the front row because I was scared it would hit me. I could serve OK, but that didn’t seem as scary. One time I actually made a basket in basketball, but I had run the wrong way and made it into the other team’s basket. To teach me a lesson, I suppose, my P.E. teacher counted the points for the opposing team. My team hated me. One time, we were playing baseball, and it was well-known and universally accepted that I couldn’t hit the ball. My team advised me to try to let the ball hit me so I could get a walk. I was so upset. It hurt my feelings so much. I remember that I tried to hit the ball anyway. I failed. My teammates were mad and yelled at me for not letting the ball hit me.

I really did try to do what I supposed to do in P.E., but I just couldn’t. I did have a P.E. teacher who I loved in 7th grade. She tested us objectively on the rules of games, which I always knew. It was putting the procedures into action that I couldn’t do. I remember telling her so proudly that I made a double-bogey on a hole on the golf course—which is a really bad score of five strokes—and she was so pleased that I knew the term and congratulated me. Other teachers might have pointed out that it wasn’t a good score, but she realized that it was good for me. That same year, I caught a pop-fly in baseball. I was on cloud nine all day. I had never managed to do such a thing before (or since). I still try to downplay this by writing it off as a lucky accident. The ball just plopped into the mitt I was holding over my head. I wasn’t even looking. I was scared it would hit me. It landed in the mitt instead. So I caught it and actually made an out! I remember the kid who hit it sought me out after the inning and congratulated me, in his way—he wanted to know who the lucky kid was who caught that excellent hit.

I’m supposed to be recounting negative school experiences, but I can’t help but try to find some positives. I wish there were more, but that one year was the only somewhat positive experience I ever had with P.E.—I subject I came to loathe and dread. I never went so far as to try to fake illness or figure some other way out of it, but I think that was because it never occurred to me I could possibly get away with it if I did. Instead, I just went every day. It never occurred to me until I wrote this that there was a sort of courage in that. I faced it every day and didn’t try to get out of it, even though it was almost always an embarrassing failure.

2 thoughts on “A Negative Educational Experience”

  1. Dana, I totally feel your pain about P.E. I could probably write a blog called Last One Picked. I honestly liked kickball, but everyone knew I was terrible at it, and didn't want me on their team. I approached English the way athletic kids approached P.E. (Is there any comfort in that at the time though? No.)

  2. Kim, there's no comfort in that at all at the time. I do remember when my 3rd grade teacher divided us into two teams for spelling bee, I was always picked first, but our culture doesn't value that as much as it values athletic prowess. A cursory look in any yearbook in America could tell you that.

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