(yup, I am going there) we burned our hands like real kids, which is maybe why I have such thin skin on my fingers and am so sensitive to the touch. Who knows? I’m no scientist.
By the time I hit middle school, it was my sixth school, and this one really took the cake. First of all, St. John the Evangelist was kind of an old rundown catholic school that only had one class per grade, which was completely foreign to me. And second of all, they had things like music, art and physical education. It was a strange transition going from primarily public school life (with the exception of that one year in catholic school to get my religious sacraments….yeah, I know why you did it mom and dad! hehe) to this strange world. I never had sports teams to try out for and I certainly never had any of those amenities that I just spoke of. But here was the real weird thing I had with middle school….physical education. It was a foreign concept to me since the very idea of playing and doing whatever really had no structure in my life. It was weird when I started playing on the sports teams and had to fully learn the actual intricacies of a soccer position rather than just running up field, learn how to play basketball rather than just chuck the ball and actually learn volleyball from scratch (I was totally talked into that sport, and now it is one of my favorites to watch). It was during this time when I met one of the more inspirational people in my life. Robin Thomas not only had a silky smooth jump shot that would quiet any “HORSE” challenges from hormonal cocky middle schoolers thinking they are the bomb after hitting six jumpsuits in a row, but he actually had some knowledge about physical activity beyond just making us run in circles. His friends may have called him “Bird,” but we all called him “Coach.” Anyway, it was kind of interesting some of the things he compelled me to do back in those days, like play basketball and participate in the hurdles (which I did win a gold medal for in the championship track meet!). He recognized my weird ankles made me a perfect “curve runner” in the 4x100 meter relay, making me the third runner rather than the anchor even though I was fast enough to run that position. Needless to say, it was interesting taking some time out of the school day just to do some activities. The level of respect I gained for Coach Thomas stayed with me for years, for even when I ran into him many years later, I still called him “Coach.” The trademark early 90s fade he had was replaced with mini-dreads and his hip may have been replaced, but he was still the same old guy that encouraged and push young kids in ways beyond their own comprehension as he had moved away from school physical education to youth softball.
Coach Thomas was most likely a victim of the changing trends in the late nineties, when standardized tests started becoming more important than thinking and logic. It is no surprise that it is so easy to surprise and enthrall younger people (provided you can get them out of their phone) due to the fact they are lightly exposed to so few things due to the cuts in art, music and physical education. This is one of many reasons why so many kids and teenagers are becoming obese and unhealthy. Without any of the guidance that can be provided with some physical education, where else are they going to get exercise? Most kids play video games these days and rarely talk to the neighborhood kids, where spirited games of catch football or street soccer or pick-up basketball would start (of course, the increasing lack of parks and play ground equipment aids to that problem as well). But lo and behold, the P.E. teacher of old may be making a comeback, a minor detail against the battle of the youth bulge! http://edsource.org/2015/common-core-side-effect-new-pe-teachers-allow-for-collaboration-time/79236#.VXO_V1xVhBf
Thanks to Hollywood, P.E. teachers seem to get bad reps in the movies, whether they are mean sociopaths (Mr. Woodcock), lesbians (Clueless) or even sex offenders (Mean Girls), they always seem to be good for a dark laugh. Heck, it was said best in School of Rock about the public perception of P.E. teachers. “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym!” In actuality, you do need an education to be a physical education teacher, not some chump off the street with good abs. Either way, the main reason P.E. teachers are a dying breed is the fact they are similar to math teachers, for the have a specific teaching acumen that doesn’t apply to other areas of education. So it is no surprise that P.E. teachers would easily get the ax or be forced to coach on the side to keep the money flowing. But in California, some changes are being made to the curriculum due to some loopholes in a program that is either okay by half the country or the work of the devil by the other half. Common Core in my opinion is not perfect, for the math portion of the program kind of makes me scratch my head, but the idea of teaching kids to think about things rather than regurgitate dates and timelines is something we need to desperately improve. We can’t just say we went into Vietnam because we wanted to stop communism, we need to teach kids the whole story and be able to think about the intricate nature of it, from the fact we were seeking to aid our French allies against the communist uprising in the 1950s to the very reasons why our military campaign failed to put a dent in the uprising’s efforts. We can’t just say we wanted to stop communism and then lost. Anyway, some provisions in the Common Core legislation in California is allowing them to bring back actual physical education teachers. Part of the reasoning behind Common Core is to allow teachers time to collaborate efforts, exchange ideas and combine teaching ideals in the classroom. What better way to get some free time than start P.E. programs? With the help of some provisional funding for “high needs” students (ESL students, children from poorer families and kids in the foster system), several school districts in California are going to re-implement the programs next year, hiring full time positions and providing some respectable budgets for equipment. These school districts are hoping to tackle not only the obesity problem that is growing in young school children, but also help with the very learning process itself.
While the first intuition when you see a kid that is a little hyperactive is to shove pills down his throat, shouldn’t a little physical education be more in the cards? I have previously illustrated in other blog posts that kids who engage in physical activity frequently typically learn better due to the fact they have not only used up some excess energy that allows them to pay attention a little better (while combined with a solid diet of course!), oxygen is also being relayed into the brain due to the heavier breathing. Just how much does our brain need oxygen? Well, if you want to be highly functioning, then you need the stuff to stay alive! http://nacd.org/journal/riggs_my_brain_needs_oxygen.php With increased oxygen circulation going into our brains, it allows for better function and healthier synapses over the long term. Basically, if our brain is functioning faster and more quickly, it allows us to think quicker and maybe even better. It’s a reason why physical education needs to be reintroduced back into the curriculum. Now I will admit, because of my own body image issues and my heavy sweat problems, the fall of P.E. was a welcome one to me. I will gladly stand up and take some punishment for being one of the people that stated, “P.E. is P.U.!” But over the years and during the course of my life and the issues afflicting our country in regards to obesity, it might be time to dust off the old primers and start making physical education more important in the everyday schooling of our youth. Through my own research and observations made through this blog, I think it might be time to actually re-adopt this idea so that the “old days” will be more akin to the strange time when not having physical education will be something to revel about.
Now of course, doing this is going to be tough, especially in a state like my own where education is not a priority in any sense (the Arizona legislature continues to cut funding or the schools every year, but keeps giving tax breaks to prisons…hmm). But this is where we need to actually start doing things for the kids, which is always a rallying cry for whatever self serving agenda a wannabe activist has up their sleeve. Back in 2013, NBC conducted their own poll about whether P.E. should be added back into the curriculum, and supposedly 94% of those that answered said yes! http://www.phitamerica.org/News_Archive/NBC_Poll.htm According to that article, nearly half the high schools in American had no P.E. and the average budget for P.E. was $764 bucks! That’s pretty much nothing in the realm of a nine-month school year! Of course, a great many schools have tried supplementing this problem by having the teachers do their own thing by having kids do some sort of physical education. But look at it this way, if you are the supposed brunt of all society’s ills and you have to make sure your kids pass a silly standardized test because your job depends on it, would you really care about taking the kids out for a morning run or would you care more about making sure they pass the test?
Now it is pretty easy to just say, “Do it!” and reintroduce the programs, but I’m sure there will always be some issues with the implementation, especially when it comes to qualified applicants (but this is based largely on how much you are willing to spend, much like a personal trainer. If you don’t want to spend money, go to YouTube. If you do, go to Parsons Training!). So here is the problem. With the childhood obesity rate growing, isn’t it time we start making drastic changes? I mean, we can’t start stuffing fat loss pills down kids’ throats, which I am sure that is one the horizon once the drug companies catch wind of the idea. Isn’t the point of raising kids to help them be the happiest and healthiest they can be?
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