Life of a Rooster

Memoirs of a psychiatrist, journalist and educator

How to set up a lose-lose situation

on May 7, 2014

volleyballThe other PE hour in the Ecole Lamazou consisted not of dance but of volleyball. I started figuring out what the syllabus was: one weekly hour of prescribed gymnastics, and one hour of in-depth study of a specific area of sports. Since our History and Geography teacher, Mlle Mounier, happened to have been in a volleyball team, it was only logical that she should teach us her favorite sport.

It actually started quite well. She would arrange us in a circle and stand in the center. Then she would throw the ball to us using the tips of her fingers, with her hands in a claw position. She repeatedly stressed the importance of keeping the wrists, hands and fingers tough and strong and in the correct position. Very quickly, I was able to excel at throwing the ball in this manner. Then she gave us more exercises on how to serve, four fingers closed upon the palm yet straight and strong. She also taught us to receive and bounce back the ball using both hands combined into a single fist, with the thumbs straight and tightly against each other.  She specified that one had to kneel one of the legs to get this right. And I got it right. She praised me for a good job and I glowed. After all, PE had always been my worst subject, and being able to conquer my waterloo was more satisfying than continuing to score at the top of the class — after Saadia, of course.

wrist hit volleyball

Then, one day, Mlle Mounier announced that we were ready for a match (game). What was that? Oh, so it wasn’t just throwing the ball to one another? There was more to it?  OK, I was ready. So, she picked her best players, meaning, me included. The net was set up, and she gave the signal to start. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. Oh, the ball is coming my way! Quick, hit it! I hit it to the opposite side of the net. Everyone yelled. “No, Fawzia, to the other side!”  Oh, sorry. We played again. The ball came to me again. I hit it to our side this time. Everyone yelled. “No, Fawzia, to the other side!” Now I was totally disoriented. So, which side did they want me to throw it to? Since I had no clue, I would play it by ear. Sometimes I hit the ball this way and sometimes that way. Round about half the time, it was the wrong way.

That did it. I did not like the game at all. How many people enjoy being yelled at constantly? With no way of figuring out what was wrong and how to correct it? I did try another class of this riddle then gave up. The next week, when Mlle Mounier would be picking out her players, I would hide behind the stage curtains so she couldn’t see me. Thus my career as a volley ball player fizzled out.

the end

It is very interesting to observe how many well-meaning teachers set their students up for failure without realizing it. I suppose all my team mates knew the rules from previous experience or from watching television. Since Aunt Lily did not have a television set at home, I had never seen a volley ball game in my life and had no idea what it was all about. I did not even know there were rules to it.  It would have taken a simple question from the teacher to find this out, and remedy it by teaching me the rules, or point me in the direction of a rule book.

As it was, I assumed it was my inborn, lifelong inability to excel at sports, and managed to get out of the games for the rest of the year.

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