One Tough Class

All three of my children have one subject that is the bane of their school life.

For the Captain, it’s Visual Art. Oh my heavens – trust me when I say you have never seen a child do so poorly in art. I usually try not to slam my own children in public like this, but he’d be the first to tell you that art is just not his thing. Last year, Grade 8, was the last year he was required to take it, and he was still barely able to draw stick figures in pencil. He’d never have got through without his art teacher, who ironically did not always mesh with the other kids due to her strict adherence to rules and lack of interest in creativity, but it worked very well for him to be given tasks like, “Draw a circle and paint it completely within the lines in a solid primary colour.”

Needless to say, now that he’s in high school, it’s sayonara art. I’m down with that – it’s not his thing, and it’s not like he’ll need it to get by in the world. The worst case is that he won’t be able to draw a hundred copies of Thomas the Tank Engine when his train-obsessed toddler demands it. I think they’ll both survive.

For Gal Smiley, it’s unfortunately English. She has never been good at expressing herself in words, and it’s even harder for her when she has to write or type them out. She struggles with abstract ideas like theme or characterization – she is a woman of action and prefers to talk about What Happened, and little else. I feel for her – she has five more long years of high school English ahead of her. But we have taken a “Let’s just do the minimum and try to get through it” attitude that serves us both well. There’s no sense in pushing her or expressing disappointment. Instead, we just try to help her as much as we can, and to her credit, she also works very hard in this area to try to improve. So we’re getting there.

Our real problem these days is Little Miss Sunshine, age 10, Grade 5. She hates, hates, hates gym. And I empathize, oh do I ever. Gym was my own horror show in school – no matter how much I tried, I was forever an uncoordinated weakling with no speed, no balance, no game. Every year I was required to take it, I got a C- in gym, and an A+ in health, balancing out to a nice B that was in no way reflective of my physical skills. I dropped it like a hot potato the minute I could, which sadly, wasn’t until the end of Grade 9.

Little Miss Sunshine does what she can. We always emphasize that gym class is about participation and attitude. That we will be thrilled if she just approaches each class with a smile and tries her best, and comes away with a pass. But it’s hard for her – she is frustrated when she’s always the last in the race, the first out of a game, the one who causes groaning whenever she is put in goal. She feels like a failure and a loser, and I get that. And, just like her mother, she’s rather injury-prone, resulting in a lot of meltdowns and freakouts over bumps and bruises. Somehow she always seems to end up with a ball in her face (or, in one memorable case, a rubber chicken), or at the bottom of a pile-on, or flipping into a pile of rocks when she is accidentally tripped during a soccer game.

This past Thursday I got the call again – she’d fallen in gym during Bordenball and another boy had fallen on top of her, and she was pretty upset. I’m sure she was banged up and bruised, but it wasn’t physically serious. I could tell, though, that it was a tough mental blow. She was embarrassed and sad and angry, and so I came and got her and took her home for rest and pampering and a mental health day. Sometimes we all need one of those, I think, and if you can’t get a little TLC after a horrible gym class, then what is life all about, anyway?

It’s five more long, long years of gym class for Little Miss Sunshine and me. But we’ll make it through, and if nothing else, we’ll learn to be tough. Warriors. Fighters. Superheroes who dream of a life without gym class. Someday, honey, it’s coming.

5 thoughts on “One Tough Class

  1. A.Q.

    This is kind of a weird recommendation, but– I was very much that kid throughout my entire school career. As an adult, I started seeing a physical therapist because I could wander around all day without pain, but as soon as I exercised intentionally (even walking), my knee would start to hurt within minutes. The physical therapist I saw focused on movement retraining, and I cannot over-state how much of a difference it has made. To the point at which I really wish that p.e. for kids was more focused on things like form and less on who’s fastest/best. I never would have expected to be considered even mildly athletic when I was younger, but I was running daily before my pregnancy. And I’m looking forward to getting back to it now that I’m starting to have room in my life to do so. If you can find a good physical therapist who does similar work, it might be a help for Gal Smiley.

  2. I totally get it, especially with my 12yo and art. He does not like it despite my many efforts to encourage him to draw birthday cards for family members, or visiting museums and galleries. It’s interesting because he quite likes looking at art….?

    His worst mark is in Art. He brought home an assignment. He got a C- on it. I said ‘what is it?’ He said ‘we’re supposed to draw a stupid apple’.

    He drew a circle and coloured it in with red, but very messily. I said ‘why did she give you a C-?’ (I know why, I wanted to hear what he thought) and he said ‘I don’t know it’s a stupid assignment’.

    Trying to show him that she was looking at creativity eluded him at the time (but he gets it now, after I explained it to him). Just showing him our own collection of apples and their various forms, colours, bruises, some had stems and leafs on them….he was beginning to see. Even if he had used more than one shade of red, or something, you know?

    He nodded, but I hope he got it, too. 🙄

    I told him I didn’t expect him to love art, but for the sake of keeping his goals (he wants to get on the honour’s list and he’s less than 1% away from it) I said you may just have to put a little bit of effort into it. Why let one bad mark in one class drag you down when you’re so close?

    I hear you, is what I’m saying… 🙂

  3. I think I was the gym hater. I spent my time hiding in a corner with a book, your stereotypical nerd. Funny thing is, now I actually enjoy exercising! Sometimes it’s not so much the subject you dislike but the environment, the teacher or the method used.

  4. smothermother

    Sounds like Max and Gal have the same struggles. Anything to do with writing and he comes completely undone. English or French. For such a loquacious kid, having to process words onto a piece of paper is seven levels of hell.

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