I admit it. I’m disappointed, confused, and more than a little bit frustrated. It’s now two-plus years since SHAPE America announced 50 Million Strong by 2029 (50MS) and some people still say they don’t know what 50MS is. Well, okay, “some people” (as in, those outside our profession) I can understand. But physical education and health education professionals, really? I don’t get it. So, let me give it another try with a teaching example:
In your mind, think about a school location you are familiar with. You are the elementary physical education teacher and teach 400 different students annually. Now imagine a world in which each and every one of your students is regularly physically active and doing their best to make healthy lifestyle choices. What are your students doing to live this lifestyle? What does the school day look like that supports this vision? What are you doing in your classes and outside of your classes to help your students succeed? What are your students choosing to do before and after school that keeps them physically active and healthy? What is happening in their homes, with their families, on weekends, and during holidays that supports this vision? Close your eyes and take a moment to visualize what this new and very different world looks like.
Welcome to the world of 50 Million Strong. It’s not hard to imagine. It’s not hard to understand. And it’s not hard to commit oneself to creating a classroom, a school, a state, and a country in which all school-aged students are choosing and doing their very best to live physically active and healthy lives. And isn’t this new world precisely what most physical educators and health educators would agree is the best measure of teaching success? Why else do we do what we do? If getting our students to be active and healthy is not our purpose what is? Surely this is our reason for being?
For New England-headed SHAPE America convention participants, it was almost unbelievable to learn that five years after a power outage cancelled the last Boston convention, a major snowstorm threatened to derail this one. Sadly, weather-related flight cancellations messed up the travel plans of some people, but for those able to get to Boston it turned out to be a hugely successful convention.
Tuesday’s high-energy 50 Million Strong by 2029 forum included more than 30 presentations, four hours of opinion and idea sharing, and lots of notetaking. If you couldn’t attend maybe you saw some of the Facebook Live streaming? Participants discussed topics such as “What does 50 Million Strong look like in practice?” “How can research support 50 Million Strong?” “How can we prepare future teachers to succeed with 50 Million Strong?” “How is teacher leadership vital to the success of 50 Million Strong?” “How will embracing diversity advance 50 Million Strong?” and “How can we measure and assess 50 Million Strong?”
Because the presentations were very brief, supporting materials were put online. I encourage you to download them and share them with your colleagues or future teachers. You can find out more through the SHAPE America 50 Million Strong webpage or using this link. Information collected from forum discussions will be shared shortly. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to keep sharing ideas and asking questions via the SHAPE America member blog Exchange.
It’s been almost two years since SHAPE America announced its commitment to changing the way health and physical educators do business. It might not have sounded much at the time but on closer examination it was a seismic shift in thinking. For years, those of us serious about being “good” teachers had done our best. We thought a lot about our instruction, kept up with new ideas, let national standards guide us, labored over designing quality lessons, sought to adopt best teaching practices, and embraced the need for better assessments. We were serious about our profession and critical of those throw-out-the-ball colleagues whose don’t-much-care attitudes were cringe-worthy. Given the many limitations we faced – the lack of resources, space, and support – what more could be expected from us? We already worked countless often unappreciated hours. Frankly, our cup was full. Surely enough’s enough! Quit asking us to do more!
But that’s exactly what SHAPE America was doing. At the 2015 Seattle convention, on behalf of SHAPE America, President Dolly Lambdin challenged us to rethink, retool, and reimagine how and what we did in our health education and physical education classes. And WHY? She wasn’t suggesting that we weren’t trying. No one doubted that most of us were trying as hard as we could. The problem was that our efforts weren’t getting the outcomes we wanted. Simply stated, to just teach well was good, but not good enough. Trying hard maybe counted for something, but the profession wasn’t getting the results it needed to thrive. Just as dieting means little if you don’t lose weight, teaching well isn’t so praiseworthy if student behaviors don’t change. And in most places, they weren’t.
The data was clear. Three decades of worsening childhood obesity. Kids moving less and eating more. Now no one’s suggesting that it’s our fault alone. But clearly as teachers, we’ve failed to successfully motivate America’s youth to become and stay physically active and to make healthy lifestyle choices. It just hasn’t happened despite the devastating and very predictable social, emotional, and financial consequences if these trends continue.
No matter your political preference, the results of the 2016 election surprised everyone. And while I don’t claim to be a political pundit – why would I since pretty much every prediction was wrong – I believe physical and health educators should learn an important lesson from this recent election.
Regardless of what you might think about the qualifications of either candidate or the two parties they represent, what’s striking is how effective Mr. Trump was and how ineffective Mrs. Clinton was in capturing voting support.
Please click here to read the full essay that was originally published on the GOPHER PE Blog. What do you think? Share your comments below this essay on PHE America.
Five years ago my wife and I moved into a new house. It was first time construction for us and turned out a pretty intense experience. Fortunately, when we started two years earlier we knew what we wanted the finished house to look like. Together, we sketched out a design. We then got our doodles translated into construction blueprints and hired a contractor. We chose a builder after looking at projects he’d previously completed. The homes were attractive, beautifully built, and he convinced us that he could translate our vision into reality.
Turns out we were right. We love where we now live and guests routinely compliment us on the beautiful wooden cathedral ceiling, open floor plan, unobstructed mountain and water views, and the house’s overall appearance. To date, no one has yet commented on how well our home meets the latest ISO or ICC construction standards. Now obviously, it’s important to know and follow proper building standards. Our construction crew impressed us with their skills, knowledge, and professionalism. As the house evolved it was obvious to us they weren’t just making up the various steps, but knew and were following some sort of building standards. We weren’t much interested in knowing or checking these standards but noticed that from time-to-time someone else would.
Foundation checks, framing checks, plumbing checks, electrical checks and so on followed the site, drawing, engineering, and other approvals. Now I’m not a builder, but I imagine this heavily checkered list was intended to ensure the builders followed best practices and met national construction standards: Presumably all with our best interests as future home owners in mind. And following proper building protocol was mostly a good thing, except of course when a particular standard was prescribed, yet made no sense in our situation. In construction as in other life areas, it turns out sticking stubbornly to standards isn’t always the perfect solution.