Friday, September 01, 2017

Physical Education Gets Short Shrift in NY

The Daily News has a piece today on how many schools aren't meeting minimum PE  requirements. I'm a little surprised. Minimum PE requirements in NY State are pathetic. For most of my career, students had PE one period per day. A lot of them would be off one day to go to lab. That's no longer the case in my school and others.

A few years ago, the geniuses in Albany gave an alternate formula that required only 90 minutes a week for gym. So many schools went with giving a 3-2 program, giving gym every other day alternating with some other subject. In my school, these subjects have included health, art, music and enrichment in social studies. It's a troubling trend.

First, despite all the crap you hear and read about gym teachers, it's pretty clear that physical activity is something we need more of in the United States. Our diets are among the worst in the world, if not the worst in the world. Other countries are beginning to suffer from obesity just as we do, and that's only because our national treasures, McDonald's and KFC, are replicated everywhere.

It's remarkable that in the face of such issues NY State sees fit to diminish PE and health rather than expand it. But that's pretty much to be expected when the only thing of importance is test scores. That's underlined by our standards, the much despised Common Core. This has caused 20% of students to boycott tests for the last three years. Regrettably, the geniuses in Albany have chosen to respond to this by renaming the standards, leaving us the same old crap, and hoping that no one notices.

I guess if you're working in Albany, you have priorities. What they are I have no idea. If the physical well-being of school children isn't paramount, there must be something that inspires your decision. Lobbyists? Bags full of cash? Opium dreams? It really could be anything. Maybe PE is flawed in its current form. I don't know. It's been a long time since I was in a gym class. If there are flaws, slashing it in half is probably not the optimal improvement.

Let's turn from negative effects on students and look at this from a teacher point of view. All of us are facing multiple observations based on the Danielson rubric. It's ironic that you have supervisors lecturing you on how you need to differentiate when we are all judged in exactly the same way. It's a little stupid too, actually.  Consider that gym teachers are somehow supposed to ask penetrating questions while students are playing volleyball. I mean, it's an absurd expectation, and when you consider that there's a 40-minute period less time to dress and undress, when are the kids supposed to play?

Consider also that PE classes run as high as 50, assuming city class size rules are even followed. This means that gym teachers have 500 students a week. How are they even supposed to learn student names, let alone form relationships with them? To me, that's a really important part of teaching, more important than tests. I don't know about you, but I remember a lot of students. I don't recall what grades they got on standardized tests, or even my own.

What message do students take when they see you only on Tuesdays and Thursdays? How is that message reinforced when the teacher struggles to remember who you are? And when we add classes like music, art and health to the mix, what are we telling our students about those subjects?

Hey, it's nice that you can get a 4 on some standardized test. But when you drop dead at 54 of a massive coronary while chomping that double cheese Whopper, will that be any consolation? Do we serve kids well while ignoring their health?

The geniuses in Albany think so, and that should be good enough for anyone.
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