Yesterday, the weather did not cooperate with our middle school Physical Activity period — we had to cancel soccer practice, cross country, the works. And suddenly we had seventy kids without a clear plan for a replacement activity. What do we do?
In truth, we had more time than that. We knew the weather would be terrible, and one of my colleagues did a great job of checking the weather, and lining up an alternate plan. She did great — we had ‘indoor cricket’ (which is considerably sillier than traditional British outdoor cricket, but gets kids moving) in the gymnasium. That took care of half our students, almost. And my forethoughtful colleague organized an aerobic dance workout for another group. And another colleague offered country-western line dancing. And I offered a combination of yoga and tai chi.
I am not a great yoga instructor, nor a great tai chi instructor. I have a tendency still to get lost inside each posture for a while and feel what it does to my body. But yesterday I did OK. We did the five postures my tai chi instructor called “the Golden Coins” which stretch the spine and shoulders and waist and legs. And then we did the Shorter Sun Salutation which I do every morning.
The girls did great. The boys… did not. Two of them, to be fair, did try. Three were flopping and falling all over the place, partly to be funny, and partly because they could not do most of the postures. It was an eye-opener for me and for them, but they gradually bought into the idea that this could be a challenging workout, and they began to participate. What do you know? Ancient exercise programs really do work the whole body, including the mind! What a surprising discovery…
It boggles my mind, when I think about teacher education programs, to realize that none of us receive any training in running a sports or exercise program. Nearly every school I know of is constantly short of coaches, of exercise teachers. My own new school only offers one “season sport” a year — partly because we don’t have the field or gym space other richer schools have, but partly because we don’t have the personnel. We face a dramatic obesity epidemic in this country, and yet the teachers who could change things at the root level of the children are largely untrained in running exercise programs, and don’t have to engage children in their own exercise programs. Several of my colleagues go to the gym on a regular basis, for example, but they don’t make weight training and cardio part of what they teach the kids.
Does anyone else see this as a problem?
I work in the inner-city district just named the most obese in MA. I agree with your thinking wholeheartedly. But there is already tremendous pressure to do so much in schools. There’s no doubt we should be adding physical health and exercise to what we must do, but until we reinvent what school looks and feels like, it will be difficult in the current structure to do more than what you and your team did this week.
Thanks for the post,