The Phys Ed Conundrum {Part 2 of the Let Them Fall, Let them Fail..series}

I would love to sit down across the table from the brainiacs who came up                                                                        with the idea that kids should have pens and pencils in phys ed class.

By definition this is what it SHOULD be:

{a course taken during primary and secondary education that encourages psychomotor learning in a play                                                        or movement exploration setting.}

Do the teachers and administrators ever consider what the purpose of physical education is?  Have they lost sight of the idea that we need to motivate, ENCOURAGE and facilitate movement, playtime, team work and sportsmanship?   Yesterday I wrote about the heavy-handed phys ed teacher we’re dealing with right now.  She is a miserable person who rarely smiles, yells at her students, is never satisfied with their efforts and constantly berates and punishes them using various “suicide drills”.   

The principal of the school assures me that this teacher is passionate and wanting to see the kids succeed and yet all I see coming out of her class are whipped and broken students.  Is this motivation?  As for wanting to see them succeed, she actively sets them up to fail time and time again.  Her tests are too hard for the age level and the only method of motivation or intimidation , as I like to call it, is making them sweat and suffer till they nearly puke.  I’ve had 2 daughters go through her class in the last 2 years and they both have said you don’t give half an effort in her class, you give 150% every time or you will be repeating the drills.  Very often individual students are singled out to run laps, drills or push-ups while the others watch. Or she has students come back at noon or after school to do drills.   She’s hard core.

But this is phys ed.  This is supposed to be that one class in the day where you get a “break” from assignments, studying and a lot of brain work.  You go and let off steam and energy.  You get your blood pumping and square off in challenges against your peers.  The point of this class is to foster a life-long love of being active.  I’m sure we all have some great memories of gym class and maybe some not-so-great ones.  I was great at track(I know how hard that may be to believe for some of you but I was pretty darn good) and I loved track season.  I loved volleyball , floor hockey and  badminton. But I didn’t really care for basketball or field sports much.  However, I still enjoyed gym class and did my best regardless of what sport it was. The point was for us to be moving and learning how to play by the rules.  Our gym teachers were great and many of my classmates went on to enjoy years of extra-curricular sports even into university and adulthood all because the teachers made it fun, challenged us and ultimately encouraged a love of sport.

In the past 6 years I have noticed a rapid decline in my kids’ enjoyment of sports and organized play.   The fun has been taken out of it. This teacher is not the first one to bully their students on the gym floor and sadly won’t be the last.  Parents, it’s time to speak up.  Do you know what’s going on in your kids’ school?  Phys ed class is not what it used to be.  They’ve stripped down the “physical” side and amped up the  “education” end of things.  Now it seems that gym teachers are more concerned about high test scores, definitions, written workout routines and an individual SUCCESSFUL fitness level as opposed to a good attitude, good effort and overall participation.  What happens to the clutsy kids? What happens if you’re just not good at basketball or if you’re not interested in weight training?   I have always told my kids to put out the effort and they will be rewarded for it.  But in this case, that is wrong.  They have to get it right, do it right, score  high and be perfect or they will fail.  There’s no fun in that.  And now my kids don’t want to take gym class. I have two kids in grades 11 and 12 and they both enjoy team sports.  But one of them reluctantly takes gym class because she wants to pursue post-secondary sports and the other wants nothing to do with it because of very negative experiences in jr.high.  And we wonder why we have an epidemic of sedentary teens and young adults??

And there’s more.  If you miss a phys ed class(this is not just our current school, we’ve had this experience before) you are forced(obligated) to write a paper, do an assignment for what was missed.  For example, my son was very sick in grade 8 with bronchitis.  I kept him home for a few days but then he had to get back to class. I never expected phys ed to be the class that he would have to make up the most homework in but their “policy”(which I think was actually bogus) was that for every phys ed class a student missed, they would have to submit an assignment that the teacher picked.  My son was not well enough to return to active participation and so this continued for days after until the point where he just said he’d rather hurt and cough his way through gym class than have to write anymore assignments.  The effort, study time and writing involved in each assignment was far more effort than what was required by just participating! How is THAT fair? Well, according to the teacher it isn’t fair that a kid gets a “pass” on gym.  Hmm. I wonder when having bronchitis became a  pass.

This week in our school, the grades 7-10 classes had a scheduled ski trip.  They went yesterday, had a great time.  But the rule is, if you don’t go you’re in class or you get an unexplained absence…even if your parents choose to keep you home for whatever reason.  Whatever, I can agree or disagree but it doesn’t do any good to argue this point.  What really burns me is the fact that one student broke his leg last week.  He was looking forward to the ski trip and in my day he would have been on the bus, enjoying the sights and camaraderie of his classmates anyways.  But no, at this school what was he doing? Writing a 10 page essay. TEN PAGES.    He is being punished because of an accident.  I shake my head.  If I were his parents I’d be in that office so fast. There’s NO WAY my kid should have to do an assignment that no other kid has to do because of his physical situation.  This is , after all, PHYSICAL EDUCATION.  I wonder what would happen to a kid in a wheelchair?? Oh wait, there was a kid in a wheelchair last year due to a severe car accident.  He had to write several essays.

Parents, this is so ridiculous.  The very teachers we trust to care for, mentor and motivate our kids are sometimes the ones who are responsible for breaking their spirits and abusing their power over our children.  These teachers belong to a union that would NEVER allow them to be treated in such a manner and yet, here we are allowing them to intimidate and control our kids using threats, abusive language and tasks and punishments.  I am so fed up.  And this is not over.

Bring back the slides and twirly rides on playgrounds.  Let the kids play shinny at noon.  Allow the kids to scrape their knees, get a little rough and in the midst of it have fun and ENJOY being active! We have taken away everything that is fun about being a kid and growing up.  Kids can’t climb trees because they might fall. They can’t step on any ice surface because they might slip and hurt themselves.  Trampolines are dangerous. Skiing is dangerous.  Hockey is deadly. And walking to a nearby swimming pool might get you hit by a car.  There is nothing fun anymore.

I say “let them fall, let them fail but PLEASE don’t push them over the edge to never want to be active in their adult lives.


Next post~ Part 3….My take on Outcome Based Education


8 thoughts on “The Phys Ed Conundrum {Part 2 of the Let Them Fall, Let them Fail..series}

  1. I’m dealing with a few teachers this way: jr.high as well, who seem to forget these kids are human and have families and lives outside of school…ugh! I always thought flexibility and grace were the characteristics of a good teacher, but some seem to think it’s a power-trip that they’re entitled to!

    • I think you’re right Cindy. I don’t know why it has to be this way. Just because these kids have hormones raging and are trying to find their identity and place in the world doesn’t automatically make them bad kids in need of some “reigning in” or brow-beating. We have gone through this with 3 kids now. I am so tired of it.

  2. My kids had to do 10 minutes of exercise for every class they missed. For us this was not a problem because they walked to school. Having to be at school if you didn’t go on skiing always seemed reasonable to me. However, our kids got a day to catch up on homework not do extra assignment. Hopefully your next school brings a better outcome.

    • I don’t have a problem with the kids having to be in class if they’re not on a field trip, I just have a problem with excessive “punishment” type assignments for kids who are injured or sick . I guess I’m getting soft in my old age because it sure doesn’t seem fair at all.

  3. OMGosh, don’t get me going on Outcome based reporting! I am upset with my son’s school today too so reading your posts from yesterday and today, I can sadly relate to the education system in our province!

    • Oh, believe me…it has been considered many times. I am very frustrated but I am also overwhelmed with life in general and I just don’t feel like I could handle it. But I’m not ruling it out.

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