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.
Without question the most controversial subject in sports today is concussion risk and awareness. This is particularly true for youth sports. Lots of information is already in the mainstream regarding the effects of concussions, its direct sports related causes, and the preventive measures that are already in use and in development. For readers who are physical educators or coaches I imagine that you are already very familiar with this topic and knowledgeable about the effects and causes of sports related concussions. My commentary here will focus on my experiences and current opinions regarding the measures we are now seeing in sports.
Over my fifty plus years in sports, from my playing days and throughout my coaching and administrative years, I’ve witnessed concussions in several sports. As a high school basketball player I saw one of my teammates get undercut while rebounding and hitting the back of his head on the floor with a such huge boom that the packed crowd went deathly silent. When I was young basketball coach, one of my players collided with another player while going for a loose ball. Our player was immediately knocked out and suffered a short burst of convulsions while on the floor. As a soccer coach I witnessed the worst concussion incident in my entire career. One of our players, while going up into the air to head a ball backwards, collided heads with an opposing player trying to head the ball forward. Our player immediately went to the ground and began convulsing. It was a most horrible site indeed, but happily the player recovered nicely.
I coached football for more than twenty years and we likely had players receive concussions, but I really can’t recall one of our players experiencing a serious concussion. I strongly believe that the reason for this is that we taught both tackling and blocking with the shoulder and strongly urged players to keep their head up when tackling or making any kind of contact with opponents.
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:
Schools across the country now have step-by-step guidance and evidence-based strategies to support school recess for all K-12 students and enhance active school environments. Two new guidance documents, Strategies for Recess in Schools and Recess Planning in Schools: A Guide to Putting Strategies for Recess Into Practice, were just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators, and can be downloaded free of charge here.
According to SHAPE America Chief Executive Officer E. Paul Roetert:
This is a milestone in our quest to increase children’s physical activity levels. Daily recess, monitored by well-trained staff or volunteers, can optimize a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. Recess contributes to the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity for students and helps them apply the knowledge and skills they learn in an effective health and physical education program. In addition, recess supports 50 Million Strong, SHAPE America’s commitment to empower all kids to lead active and healthy lives.