Advocating for the subject we love, in the face of challenges from those around us, is as important now as it has always been. When Matthew Bassett, SHAPE America’s Elementary Physical Education teacher of the year, shared his passionate plea in support of physical education and health with parents and educators it was well received. I’m delighted that Matthew is willing to share it with the slowchathealth readers.
I hope you will all take the time to read this. As you all know, I’ve been a Physical Education teacher for 20 years. I wasn’t always a good teacher. Luckily, I found some great ones who were willing to take me under their wings and I grew.
Our profession is constantly attacked and made fun of. I understand why, when most people think we make kids run a mile in six minutes to pass, play dodgeball, and dress/attendance is the cornerstone to their grades. This is NOT quality Physical Education. Quality Physical Education is developmentally appropriate and focuses on the physical, mental, and social components of movement.
My purpose is to teach kids how to move and to become confident and competent movers but we are more than just simply moving. I have a purpose for every little thing that occurs in my class. We cannot be replaced by an exercise video, extra recess time, or asking families to go on a walk together. Please, don’t get me wrong, these things are all great activities and important to our health but it should not be a replacement for quality Physical Education.
In the last year, our world has changed. Teaching Physical Education in a digital format is not easy but it is important. I’ve had to learn and develop a new skill set. Personally, I’ve not been as physically active as I was. I have socially distanced and have not been around other people regularly. When schools start to return to in-person learning (if they haven’t already) they will not look the same. Many people are worried about “catching kids up” but not focused on dealing with the trauma that COVID has created. When running in a race only a few people have the ability to run for the prize. Everyone else is trying to finish the race. Does it really matter if it takes you a little longer to get to the finish line?
Parents, you need to be the people who push change in schools. As much as I have advocated for quality Physical Education it hasn’t helped as much as I’d like. The two things that your students need, and need a lot, are QUALITY Physical Education programs and Health Education programs. Did you know that Physical Education is the only content that provides social standards embedded into our content? Physical Education will be important to getting us physically moving again but we will be the ones who start to help our students socialize and work together again. Health Education is going to be important because they teach coping skills. They teach how to respond when things don’t go the way you wanted them to go. They will also teach habits and health skills that will last a lifetime.
Don’t we all need a little more of this now? We should not allow a teacher/staff member to throw some resources together in order to call it Health Education or Physical Education and to check something off of a list.
Parents, as your kids head back to school you need to make sure that Physical Education and Health Education are taught. Too many schools are opting to drop these programs. Your child doesn’t need an extra 30 minutes of reading to make them “normal” again. Physical Education, Health Education, and the arts are what make your child well-rounded.
Please consider reaching out to your principal, school board, and classroom teachers and make sure they are teaching Physical Education. Don’t accept that they do not have the time or the funds to teach these important subjects. If we want to return to a “normal” then we need our students to be physically and emotionally in a different place. These two subjects will allow the child to be in a better position to learn the other academic subjects and they will make greater strides. Quality Health & Physical Education need to be taught in our schools now more than ever.
As a parent, I am not worried about the “lost” time that has occurred with my kids. My kids are learning and growing. In some ways, the change in delivering our materials in the last year has helped my kids. I’m worried about how my kids will cope moving forward. I’m hoping that they have learned new strategies for dealing with stress and trauma. I want them to be mentally in a better place as they will overcome the “lost” time that so many people are talking about in education.
If you are an administrator, I hope that you will read this and understand that we owe this to our students. If we want them to be successful adults we need them to be physically, emotionally, and socially prepared.
You can find Matthew on Twitter where he tweets as @PhysEdApps. You can also find him via his blog site, and look out for the 48th EPEW (virtual) conference that he is helping to organize later this year. This year’s line-up will include sessions by, and for, health teachers!
What challenges is your health or physical education curriculum facing? Did Matthew’s blog post resonate with you? Please leave a comment in the box below, or use the hashtag #slowchathealth on social media.