I had it pretty rough at middle school, and that was in part due to the gym teachers hired there. They never accommodated for differences in physical ability, and expected everybody to perform at the level of a top student athlete within a few days of hard. Anybody who didn’t perform to their incredibly high standards were simply laughed at, and if anybody tried to criticize about their way of doing things, they were given a condescending, dismissive lecture about needing to try harder or listen– even if the student in question was trying really hard and listening. This all came to head when they planned a poorly thought out obstacle course.
Right from the start, I could see that there would be some problems with the final obstacle. It was a six foot hard foam wall with hard foam on one side and soft foam on the other. Students were expected to push each other over the wall from the side with the hard foam to the side with the soft foam– and the challenge did not discriminate on physical strength and weight of students. While I’ve never been overweight, I was a heavy-set student with poor upper body strength, so I was definitely thinking “oh crap”. Plus the teachers were timing each group’s runs, ranking the times like a competition, and expecting the groups to get better times with each run, so there was added pressure to act quickly. But I knew how the teachers would get when questioned, and was quite shy, so I kept quiet. We were all put into five person groups, and of everybody in mine, only one was actually strong. The rest had poor body strength too and wouldn’t be caught dead trying to do anything about it.
When it came to be our turn, we started to go through the obstacle course. We made it all the way to the wall, but as expected, faced the dilemma of not having sufficiently strong students. Time was ticking, and we didn’t know what to do. Eventually, one of the teachers scolded us for dilly dallying then suggested that they try to lift me over the wall first because I was the heaviest of the group. With little time, we just went with it, and there were soon four kids trying to hoist me over the wall while I desperately tried to get to the other side.
Big mistake. After what felt like a minute of struggling from all of us, the group’s collective strength finally gave out and I fell backwards onto the hard foam, wrist first. The foam did almost nothing to help protect me, and I screamed incoherantly and cried in agony. What I felt at that moment was amongst the worst pain I have ever felt in my life, second only to my severe migraines. Before I could make another thought, I was being escorted to the nurse’s office for examination.
The story doesn’t end there though. When I got to the nurses office, she gave a short examination and declared that I was fine. She repeatedly insisted that my injury was just a sprain, would heal on its own, and that I didn’t need to see a doctor or worry about anything. I was told to call my mom then, as gym was my last class that year, to go home on the bus. At this point, I was still somewhat incoherant, so when I made that call to Mom, she was skeptical that it was just a sprain. When I came off the bus, face still red with tears and wrist hanging limply, she definitely didn’t believe the nurse and called the doctor immediately. The doctor said that it sounded like a broken bone and that I needed to go see him ASAP.
Needless to say, I didn’t go to school the next day. I did, however, get a formal diagnosis from the doctor. The wrist was broken, would need to be in a cast for few months, and if I wanted the best chance of fully recovering, I needed to get that cast today. So much for healing on its own and not needing to see a doctor!
The school never apologized to for the whole ordeal nor was the ordeal even spoken of by the teachers or nurses– the school literally just mailed some “don’t sue us” forms and left it at that. And we couldn’t do much more than fill out those forms and move on. There were some positives– the doctor managed to convince the school that the injury made me unfit for gym for the rest of the year, so I got a study period instead of having to deal with the gym teachers for that year. And the wall of doom was removed from the obstacle course, seemingly for good. Its a shame that it took somebody getting seriously hurt trying to get over that wall to do something about it though, and it came off like the school trying to avoid lawsuits rather than genuinely caring about student safety.