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How to prevent your P.E. classes from becoming a nightmare

by Dieuw (@Diejj)

I’m not someone who is very athletic. I’m good at studying, at thinking and so I rather leave sports and workouts to those who like to do them, which is not me. P.E. therefore definitely wasn’t my favorite subject in high school, but I managed. I would definitely get picked last when we got to choose our teams for soccer, but I was sort of okay with that, I mean, I am definitely no asset to any soccer team, I wouldn’t choose myself either when I would have to make a teams. So yeah, P.E. was bearable…until my fifth year in.

I am bad at every ball game you throw at me, but for hockey. Hockey I can do and I know that I can. So when one of the school bullies suddenly started to yell names at my friend and me from the side, saying we sucked and I don’t even remember anymore what else, I knew he was wrong and I knew I shouldn’t let it get to me – even if he had been right, he still shouldn’t yell those things though – but it got to me nonetheless. This behavior didn’t come exactly out of the blue, there was a lot going on already during school outside the gym classes, but that doesn’t matter for this story. What matters is that this boy was calling these names at us, while our teacher was standing right next to him! And she did nothing. 

Now, our teacher wasn’t exactly young anymore, but she wasn’t so old either that she could not have heard what he said, she just chose to do nothing about it. So what do you do then? For a couple of gym classes we just let it go on, hoping he would stop on his own accord if he saw we didn’t pay attention to him. Unfortunately instead of him stopping, a couple of his friends joined him, so that didn’t work and telling them to stop didn’t work either, of course. Well then, my friend and I thought, we will just go to the teacher and talk to her about it. We could have expected that wouldn’t do anything at all of course, I mean, if she let them yell all those things at us while standing next to them, what would change now? Exactly, absolutely nothing. She just told us the standard stuff we want to hear: That she was sorry and that she would pay attention to it, and that we should go to her if it happened again. But in the next P.E. class she was standing right next to the guys again, even looking at them while they were calling us names, and she did absolutely nothing.

And that’s when something just snapped inside my friend. We were playing hockey, they were calling us names again, and suddenly she whirled around so she was facing the teacher, yelled at her how it was even possible that she was not doing ANYTHING right now while she was standing right next to them; then half threw/half pushed her hockey stick into the hands of the teacher, yelled for me to come and that we wouldn’t participate in any classes any longer if things would go like this, and then marched out of the room. And I….I just followed, mentally cheering for my badass friend and the fact that everyone looked completely shocked. Maybe now they finally got it…or not…
While we got dressed a couple of girls came to the dressing room to ask what had been going on, they hadn’t noticed anything at all. We didn’t even bother to explain, we just left and went straight to our head of department to complain. She was very understanding and shocked that the teacher hadn’t done anything and promised us she would talk to our P.E. teacher.
The next P.E. class the guys were put in a different team than ours and the teacher actually did tell them off when one of them tried to still yell names at us. The rest of the year there were no problems.

I’m telling you this because it taught me two things;
  •     If you are being bullied, only you can make it stop. This sounds harsh, and it sounds easier said than done, but it is reality. You are the one who has to let others who are not noticing know that you are not okay with this. You are the one who has to let people know that someone or a certain behavior bothers you. Only then can you work on making it stop. In my case, the girls who later came to the dressing room to ask what was going on, hadn’t even known we didn’t like what was being yelled at us. They thought they were just jokes. And even though to friend and me it is completely incomprehensible how they could think that we would find people who yell such things at us funny, this is something I have noticed a lot. Half of the time, your other team or classmates, and sometimes even the ones bullying you, do not see their behavior is hurtful so you have to tell them that it is. It doesn’t guarantee they will stop, but it definitely is a first step in empowering yourself to fight back.
  •     You are not alone in making the bullying stop. You setting the first step doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help along the way. Go to your teacher, talk to your friends, go to your head of department, to the dean, to your study advisor, to your parents, to your coach or to anyone else you think could maybe help you. You are never entirely alone, even when you may think you are.
That doesn’t mean that it isn’t scary to tell someone else. Because it is, and you might feel embarrassed or find it humiliating to tell. Because telling someone you are being bullied means telling them what people say about you, and that can be very confronting. This is why my friend and I waited so long with going to our head of department. It felt so drastic, and we felt uncomfortable telling her what was going on. But in hindsight, we should have gone way sooner, the relief you feel when the problems are solved is totally worth it.

And if all that doesn’t work…well, then in the case of P.E there is not much else you can do but for hoping you get another teacher next year, or that you get into another team next time.
In the case of team sports however, there are a couple of other things you can try:
  •     Try to get placed in another group or team. Or even, switch to a sport that is not a team sport. Some people say this means you are walking away for your bullies, that it means letting them win and that it will just follow you. But I don’t think that is entirely fair. If nothing seems to help, and you are having a horrible time each week or day during each training session. Then what is so wrong about leaving? 
  • You can try to make these people change their behavior, because yes, it isn’t right that they get away with this, and yes they need to learn this is not okay, and yes it is horrible that people let this happen. But not everyone has the energy to do that. Sometimes you have to choose for yourself, does that make you weak? I would say no. If  you think that all the stress and the fear and the misery will go away if you switch teams or if you quit basketball and start and individual sport like swimming instead, then go for it!
In the end it is you who counts, you  choose what you want to put up with in your life, no one else.

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