As P.E. teachers and other K-12 school P.A. leaders head off for a well-deserved summer break and prepare to refresh and restore their craft for the “more normal” school year ahead, there are at least three opportunities for you to have a positive impact on kids in the fall. Some of the best P.E. leaders do these already, but from what I’ve learned, none are asked to or trained to do it.
1. The WHY? of health: Advocating to your principals and school leaders
The pile of evidence that correlates students’ health and academic performance keeps getting bigger! And many schools and districts talk about the importance of “Whole Child” health and use this phrase in their mission statements and strategic plans.
But for some, educating the “Whole Child” often remains a vague, aspirational notion that doesn’t seem connected to the students’ day-to-day routine of completing homework and passing tests.
P.E. teachers are in a great position to be the one in the school who advocates for why health IS connected to learning 一our brains function better when they get additional oxygen from exercise, and each additional unit of aerobic fitness translates to an improvement in state standardized test scores.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, show school leaders this scan of “your brain on exercise” and ask them “Which kid do you want in *your* classroom?”
2. The WHAT? of health: Building and coaching a team
Social Cognitive Theory shows that behavior is the result of three key factors: what we know, what skills and attitudes we have, and whether our social environment rewards or punishes a behavior.
So, teaching health effectively is not only about having a great curriculum 一it requires forming a School Wellness Team of adult role models demonstrating healthy skills and attitudes.
Many P.E. teachers not only serve as the champion of this team, they play all of the positions too. One of the best ways for P.E. teachers to improve kids health is to focus instead on recruiting, leading, and managing the team 一not on doing everything health-related by themselves.
P.E. teachers are ideally suited to this task because many are 一literally 一coaches. You know how to come up with a game plan, identify players’ strengths and weaknesses, and motivate everyone to work together. Let’s translate these skills to notch a W for school health!
3. The HOW? of health: Making the most of the activity minutes we have
I’ll bet every P.E. teacher in the country wishes that they saw their kids more often and had more time with them. Yet, we may waste some of that precious time in sedentary transitions, overly-long instructions, too-frequent assessments, and managing the disciplinary outbreaks that result from not getting kids enough movement.
P.E. teachers can improve health outcomes for kids by focusing the time they do have on participation and intensity. Think how much more aerobic benefit a class gets when everyone is playing a jump-roping game like the one shown here, compared to playing kickball or dodgeball 一 when much of kids’ time is spent sitting or standing or otherwise not included.
Kids ideally need 60 minutes per day of “moderate-to-vigorous” physical activity (MVPA), basically an intensity level of walking or running. Anything less intense is downright useless aerobically. So, the CDC recommends that at least 50% of in-school activity time be spent in MVPA. Our research shows that regular training helps P.E. teachers, and especially non-specialized activity leaders, deliver more minutes of MVPA through improved management techniques and an additional variety of fun games. Let’s play!
By Duncan Van Dusen, MPH, Founder & CEO of CATCH Global Foundation, whose “Whole Child” school wellness programs reach over 3 million PreK-12 kids annually. Duncan is the author of Amazon #1 best-seller and 2020 Foreword INDIES Award Finalist “When Are We Going to Teach Health?” This blog includes excerpts and images from that book. For more information, visit teachhealth.org
As a special for #slowchathealth followers, the author of our June book club selection @dvandusen is providing signed copies of “When Are We Going to Teach Health?” at a 20% discount (basically, at cost). To redeem, click on the link below, add the “Collectible” version to your cart, and enter promo code SLOWCHAT at checkout.