I’m going to come right out and say it – I HATED GYM CLASS! I hated it when I was in Elementary School and in Junior High School but in High School I met the gym teacher from Hell. Oh, in Junior High I met one of her gym teacher disciples who I thought was the devil at the time but in High School I met the Devil High School Gym Teacher Herself. The devil’s name was Mrs., umm, better change her name to protect the innocent – ME! The gym teacher’s name was Mrs. Porter but you girls who were in High School with me know exactly whom I’m talking about. In fact, I think every high schooler in every state, in every country, had a gym teacher from Hell like Mrs. Porter.

Let me tell you about Porter. Every semester, on the first day of gym class, the 60 or so girls assigned to that period would hover around together asking each other, “Who’s teaching the class?” “I don’t know but Puleeese, don’t let it be Porter!”

The name Mrs. Porter sent shivers up the spines of every girl in my high school. To say we were terrified of Mrs. Porter would be an understatement.

I often wondered why a class that was supposed to make girls enjoy moving around and become more active was really nothing more than 40 minutes of fear twice a week.

That awful period started out with tension in the locker room. We had to take off our clothes and put on some kind of green one piece monstrosity that snapped in the front. We had to put our arms in some weird position to get the top of this thing over our shoulders. I can’t explain it but take it from me, it was harder getting it off after gym class when we were all sweaty. Somehow we had to pull it off our shoulders, twist our arms behind our backs and pull it off. I wish I had a pencil so I could draw you a picture.

Finally we got to the gym, praying that Porter was in a good mood. Not that there was a difference between her good moods and bad moods. They were both the same.

One day I went to the gym and saw that Porter had an uneven parallel bar set up. What the hell was that for? We weren’t gymnasts. When we had to climb the ropes most of us would just swing on it. Our chubby, muscleless  arms were not made to pull ourselves up some rope hanging from the ceiling. None of the 60 girls even looked like Mary Lou Retton. I was not happy to see that thing.

“Sit down in front of the bars,” Porter ordered. The girls were doing their best to hide from Porter because we knew someone was going to be humiliated very soon and no one wanted to be that person.

Porter scanned the trembling group with a smirk on her face. No one dared look at her. Suddenly she shouted, “You, get up here!” Uh oh, who was the “you?” Whew, it wasn’t me. It was a short, thin girl with long blond hair. With tears in her eyes she approached the parallel bars and Porter.

“Now, get up on the lower bar,” Porter ordered the girl.  So the girl went to the bar not knowing what to do. Porter said, “Hold on to the bar and swing your legs on it so you’re hanging.” Now the girl was practically sobbing and said, “I can’t do that.” “Yes you can,” shouted Drill Instructor Porter. With that, Porter picked up the girl’s legs, put them over the bar, and told the girl to hang on.

The rest of us were watching, terrified not just for ourselves but for the girl crying and hanging on to the bar with hands and legs for dear life. Her blond hair was sweeping the floor underneath her as she cried. Porter did not care for the fact that the girl was crying while hanging on to the bar so she started to hit the girl’s rear end. And that’s what I remember most: my gym mate’s blond hair sweeping the floor and Porter hitting her bottom telling her to shape up and get a grip.

After humiliating the hanging student a little more Porter helped her off the lower parallel bar and dismissed the class telling us we could start to change back into our clothes. We all raced out of there.

The new “gymnast” was crying in the locker room. The rest of us tried to console her but we were all still shaking ourselves. In record time we got our clothes on and hightailed it out of there.

I was maybe, 16 when that happened and here I am, some 47 years later, still shivering in fear when I remember that day. Maybe that’s why I always hated gym and insisted that hauling myself out of a chair a form of exercise.

Can I blame the gym teachers from my past for the reason why I was never fit, svelte, and active? Well, maybe not fully but they aren’t blameless either. So I wonder again why a class that was supposed to make girls enjoy moving around and become more active was really nothing more than 40 minutes of fear twice a week.

To see more of my childhood memories go to  S.A.K. Remembers on my blog.

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2 thoughts on “Fear Thy Name is Gym Class

  1. skatss, I am so sorry you and all your female classmates were terrified of the gym teacher from Hell. I have a feeling this type of humiliation and belittling is no longer acceptable teaching methods in schools now. I wonder if your parents (if you dared to complain) could have spoken to the Principal about this mistreatment? I have a cousin who is about our age and she has horror stories of a Nun in private school hitting students with rulers!! Aren’t you glad you did not attend a Catholic Private School?

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    1. Cathy, most of the gym teachers acted this way when I was in school. I doubt if the parents complaining would have helped. It was just something all the girls accepted as just the way it was. But that was a long time ago. I hope things have changed since then. Thanks for posting.

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