Author’s Note: I wrote this on October 18th of 2016 and shared it with a few colleagues. I held off publishing it because it’s just my opinion and I’m not sure that non-profits should be critiqued. I’m publishing it upon return from Boston as a concerned professional – Chris Hersl
What if you had a party and no one knew they were invited? When no one shows up is it an insult to the host or the reality that the message didn’t get out there? As health and physical education professionals we are living out the party analogy in real life with SHAPE America’s 50 Million Strong campaign that calls on, “…all of America’s health and physical educators to unite and focus on a common purpose — getting all of the nation’s children physically active, enthusiastic and committed to making healthy lifestyle choices.”
Healthy lifestyle choices seems like an admirable goal. Personally, if my 6 and 3 year old were enthusiastically choosing healthy options, engaging in physical activity I would feel very content as a parent. So great, I’m a health and physical educator and I’m ready to do it; but what is it? SHAPE America’s website dedicates an entire section to the 50 Million Strong movement. Excitedly, I see that there are three places I can start; Commit, Champion and Advocate.
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.
Don’t Just be a Future Professional, Be the Future of the Profession
-A letter to future professionals-
To whom it may concern
When will “New PE” simply become PE? That’s a question I think about from time to time. It speaks not only to the direction of the profession, but also the stereotypical lens that outsiders view us through. It’s a question that pops in and out of my head, typically without too much consideration, and usually in a moment of reflection, or frustration. At last summer’s National PE Institute in North Carolina, presenter Naomi Hartl mentioned how she and Sarah Gietschier-Hartman had been discussing this same question. And Naomi had an answer.
After attending SHAPE America sessions where the 50 Million Strong by 2029 commitment was unveiled and explained, I began thinking, “What can I do as an individual to further this exciting vision?” As a retired secondary HPE teacher – coach, I now work facilitating our Sheboygan (WI) Area School District’s Pre K PE program in what began as an Emeritus project. The Early Learning Center houses approximately 600 children ages 3 – 5. These are the graduating students of 2029, so what better place to begin promoting 50 Million Strong!
During the preparation of developing a plan to promote 50 Million Strong, I developed the following eight guidelines to help us reach the SHAPE America goal:
- Design/implement lessons teaching fundamental skills based upon standards and assessments.
- Integrate curriculum using literacy, math; PBIS (positive behavior according to a school goal).
- Place emphasis upon physical activity.
- Offer activity events (JRFH, FUTP60, etc.) that involve parent- child interaction of a physical nature.
- Conduct parent/other adult educational workshops relative to PE & H literacy.
- Promote Health Education inclusion.
- Seek out community partnership.
- Expand activities into the community beyond school.
When teaching, I regularly followed the first five guidelines, but after the information came out about 50 Million Strong I thought I could do more: