Recently I was part of a conversation in which physical education teachers were discussing how much time students spend in physical education as required by their districts. Predictably the conversation went on to discuss the important benefits of quality physical education, which each of the professionals believe, as I do, is a daily necessity in the lives of all students. However, there was a giant elephant in the room (it was an online chat, so I’m hoping the metaphor might still apply.) The identity of the elephant? Lack of consistency in the quality of physical education.
When I think of a consistently great product I generally think of Starbucks’ Americano coffee. No matter where I go, local or across the world, when I order an Americano, it is great. Similar to the thousands of Starbucks chains across the world, there are innumerable outstanding P.E. teachers across the world. These industrious, caring educators make me proud to part of this profession. These teachers are delivering a high quality product to each student, every day of the year. We all strive to deliver high quality physical education, but what about when a physical education program is lacking quality?
“Ouch”, the elephant speaks.
“Ouch” is the feeling I get when I’m introduced as a P.E. teacher and the person replies “Oh I love gym, I was the best at dodgeball”, or “I hated gym, all we did was run laps.”
My reply is always about how much I love my job as a physical educator. I then go on to tell whomever will listen, how much physical education has changed (e.g. cooperative learning, differentiated instruction, life time skills, child centered learning, content infused activities, purposeful lessons…) But recently I have been having this conversation with older teens and young adults. Wait a minute, shouldn’t they have experienced the “New P.E.?”
Sadly there are some practices we are using which need to be re-thought. So when we go before our board members, congressmen and senators, requesting physical education requirements, many of these individuals have children in our schools. Their own children may be those who are receiving quality physical education or perhaps their children are those who are requesting a waiver because they don’t want to be part of an indoor recess that someone is calling “education.” If we really want to see our society support physical education, we need to address the elephant! Quality physical education delivered by an engaged physical education teacher is worth supporting. Let’s encourage our colleagues to make changes, let’s encourage our schools to provide accountability when it comes to physical education. Administrators would never support a math teacher using unacceptable practices from long ago, let’s inform our administrators on the practices which are no longer acceptable i.e (elimination games, human target activities, team captains picking teams, supervised recess games instead of purposeful teaching toward learning objectives…) Please join me, let’s take the elephant by the tusks and start having these conversations.
Please share some inspiration, tell us what you are we doing to make a difference in the quality disparity?