Recently the State Department of Education in Alabama issued guidance that advised teachers to use standards-based physical education instruction in the largest classroom in the school — the gymnasium.
Unfortunately, this guidance was not popular among all the residents of Alabama. The criticism came from all angles and was directed at the State Department of Education, the folks who work for children each day.
Detractors slammed the department for depriving children of having fun because to those critics, “What could possibly be wrong with teaching “Duck, Duck, Goose” and dodgeball to seven- and eight-year-old students enrolled in Alabama Public Schools?”
I take exception with critics who say that students are being deprived of fun. An activity is fun when it is enjoyable for everyone and these games (including getting blasted with a dodgeball) are not. While it is true that some children may enjoy these activities, it is also true that it can be humiliating for many students. For the less athletic and skilled, these games may result in feelings of isolation. Additionally, they often result in early elimination, which limits physical activity during the PE class period.
Bottom line, there are better ways for children to spend time in physical education. What if these children were offered appropriate instructional practices in physical education instead of these elimination activities? The kind of instruction that could help them learn life skills and concepts?
It would mean that time previously spent running relays or playing “What Time Is It Mr. Wolf” could be replaced with activities that help students value their participation in physical activity and develop skill patterns that lead to success in a variety of pursuits. These children could be empowered with the skills and knowledge to analyze, identify and improve their own fitness level.
More importantly, these students could use those same skills — the ones taught through standards-based physical education — to improve relationships, work cooperatively with teammates, and accept and give criticism. They might even learn to enjoy physical activity for their lifetime.
As a parent, I can appreciate the nostalgia of youthful games, but as an educator I know better. Physical education, as well as a host of other subjects, has evolved over the years.
For example, our kids are better off knowing that algebraic concepts need to be taught earlier so students learn to think conceptually about math. They are better off knowing that diverse texts and the study of history of multiple cultures lead to a better understanding of our current world; better off doing scientific experiments in the classroom instead of watching videos.
And, they are much better off having physical education teachers who recognize that all students need to feel valued and have the opportunity to move in class (which you don’t do when you get eliminated).
An effective physical education program that uses appropriate instructional practices will prepare Alabama students to lead active and healthy lives and can only benefit the state and its residents.Recommended2 recommendationsPublished in