In our goal to rid our campuses of bullying, an area that is often overlooked is PE classes. A lot of bullying takes place during physical education class. Physical education teachers must take an active role in making sure the classes are properly monitored.
Many students who are victims of bullying are not athletically inclined. They may be physically weak, uncoordinated, and unable to defend themselves. For this reason, going to PE can be a horrific part of their day.
Bullies can sense the insecure demeanor of students and they will take advantage of this weakness. During PE class, bullies will physically attack their victims. Because of the aggressive nature of some PE activities, bullies can physically abuse other students without any ramifications. PE teachers must be careful when choosing the types of activities the students will participate in. By offering organized, non-aggressive activities, PE teachers can help prevent students from being victimized.
Verbal abuse in PE class is also a concern. As I mentioned earlier, students who are not athletic are at a greater risk of being bullied. Students who are weak, overweight, or uncoordinated are prime targets for verbal abuse during PE class. Sometimes, verbal abuse can be more painful than physical abuse. Being made fun of and teased is an extremely degrading experience for children. By nature, victims of bullying are not very confident and being teased on a daily basis will only solidify their belief that they are not worthy of respect.
Since verbal abuse is much more covert than physical abuse, it is extremely difficult to detect. PE teachers will need to monitor their classes carefully and look for signs of verbal abuse. Students who seem upset or spend a lot of time by themselves may be victims of verbal abuse. Teachers should also pay attention to the different cliques that form. If a student or group of students is suddenly spending time with a student they usually do not spend time with, this could also be a sign that bullying is taking place.
Often, teachers will unintentionally promote bullying by allowing the students to choose their own teams or groups for an activity. Unfortunately, this happens frequently in PE classes. PE teachers will pick two captains, who are usually the most athletic or popular students and allow them to select the students they want on their team. One by one the students will be chosen. For the more popular and athletic students, this is a great opportunity for them to feel good about themselves. They know they will be picked in the early rounds. But, imagine what this must be like for the less athletic and less popular students. This is an extremely degrading experience. They stand there just knowing they will be one of the last chosen. Their lack of self-confidence grows deaf with every round. Inevitable, there will be two students left, both of them praying they will not be the last one chosen. In reality, neither student will feel very good about themselves. However, the student who is chosen last will feel rejected, hurt, and embarrassed. This is bullying!
PE teachers need to be on the lookout for bullying during class. Bullying does not take place only in the hallways, bathrooms, and cafeteria. Bullying also happens during PE class. Our students must be protected through the entire school day. By being vigilant, PE teachers can do their part in helping put a stop to bullying.