A Letter to a Teacher Who Witholds PE

A Letter to a Teacher
Who Witholds PE

Michelle Gaus, Contributor
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Elementary school teachers already have their hands full teaching academic subjects. Most have no PE background and work in schools without a trained physical educator.

The result is that many elementary kids are taught physical education by teachers with no PE background or sensitivity who, to be quite honest, don't appreciate its importance. Such teachers don't think it's a big deal to take away "PE Privileges" as a form of discipline.

Our elementary school children get little activity as it is, and a teacher would never think of taking away math class as punishment, so why do it with phys-ed?

This very real situation is wonderfully expressed by Michelle Gaus, a physical educator whose own child has experienced this form of discipline. Here's her letter to her child's teacher. Feel free to use it yourself.

"Dear Mr. M., Josh has learned a lot since you have arrived. I am glad that you are doing a lot of science with them. Many teachers are afraid to touch that subject. Josh is enjoying your class immensely. He is constantly telling me about the experiments that you are doing. I do have a concern, however.

I have heard a lot of talk about gym being dropped because students are not listening or doing their work. I do not like hearing this because it sets a bad example for the students. It is telling them that phys-ed is not important. It is OK to miss it. This obviously is not true. It is a curriculum requirement as much as math or English. It is required all the way up to grade nine.

The latest stats show that today's youth are becoming obese. They are not getting enough exercise due to greater educational demands, video games and TV, and a lack of parental push. It is to this end that I stress that gym should be taught even more than it is in our school systems. I do however, realize this is not always possible thanks to the extra load the Premier of Ontario has created for each grade.

I have therefore included some alternatives to using gym as punishment. If the students are loud and active why not let them use up that energy in the gym instead of threatening to take it away. Why try to contain it in the classroom? Perhaps we can tell them we'll let you run around but then I expect you to settle down when we get back. A good routine that includes lots of activity or slow music works well in calming a body down.

For other problems, I have included the following suggestions:

  1. Take away part or all of recess. Most kids really hate that one.
  2. Whatever happened to writing lines? "I will remember my books…"
  3. Assign extra homework when they are rowdy.
  4. If it is habitual, call or send a note to the parents.
  5. Send the student to another teacher's room to work until he/she gets caught up. We do that a lot around here and the kids do not feel comfortable in an older or younger grade (i.e. kindergarten or grade eight).
  6. Have a homework book so they can keep track of their homework. (Now being done).
How about rewards. The "little honey" theory:
  1. Extra gym time or you can pick the activity we do.
  2. Extra silent reading time
  3. One less spelling word if the class gets at least 7/10 in the next test. I know Josh would probably try hard if something else was at stake.
  4. Settle down or the next test will have 11 words.
  5. Lolipops or stickers (you can use the money that our parent's council donated to purchase them). They are still at the age that they enjoy these.
  6. If you are good all week or get X done, then we will play a game on Friday. The ten minutes in the game used here will more than make up the time lost to discipline.
Here are some fun games:

  1. Heads Up Seven Up, or Beep: In Beep, count down the rows. If your number is a multiple of five you say beep instead. If you mess up then you are out.
  2. Baseball: Create questions they should be able to answer. If they get one right they flip a card that would reveal a single, double, triple or home run. Wrong answers are an out for your team.
  3. Spelling bees.
  4. Jeopardy or Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
If you want, I have someone who could come up with questions for these games, or Junior Trivial Pursuit works well for this.

We should be teaching kids the basics of running, jumping, catching, and throwing. I realize that not everyone is a phys-ed grad so if you wish I could supply you with some books, drills, or games to help make gym time easier. You also have some human kinetics grads that you could tap into in the school.

If you have any questions or wish to discuss this further feel free to contact me by email, phone, or a letter.

Thank you for your time."

Mrs. Gaus

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