Behind Gym’s door you may find yourself in a crossfire game of dodgeball. Although Gym say that students can only target the legs, you know that there is a strong possibility of a ball whipping against your head.
Behind Gym’s door you may find yourself standing in a line facing two team captains who are also the star athletes in the school. You know you will be chosen last to join a team, so you look down hoping this will make you invisible.
No matter what grade you are in, behind Gym’s door the following games have a high possibility of being played all year long: Octopus, Red Light Green Light, What Time Is It Mr. Wolf, and Freeze Tag.
Behind Gym’s door you are also expected to play the following sports as you know that Gym’s class is a way of preparing the athletes who will make the volleyball, basketball, badminton and soccer team.
Behind Gym’s door you know the ticket out of Gym’s class is forgetting to bring your Gym-clothes. What’s the point of coming prepared to move, when you know it is the same 5 students who are always dominating the game?
Meet my friend Debbie...
I would like to share her talk at Tedx KitchenerEd, Reclaiming Space with you. As Debbie takes us through a series of stories from her own childhood, there is one story I’d like to highlight for you as it gives a glimpse of what it was like for her behind Gym’s door.
Debbie: "So in 8th grade we did the 12 minute run. Now I know you probably find this surprising, but I was not the best runner. In fact, I was literally the worst runner.”
Gym would call out to everyone in class: “The runs over, Debbie just arrived.”
Debbie: “I don’t actually remember my classmates making fun at me, but I remember the teacher. I remember as we would do our neighbourhood runs, how she would drive through the neighbourhood in her car and scream at us.”
Gym: “Hurry up, go faster!”
Debbie: “And I wonder if she recognized the hypocrisy of this while she was sitting in her air conditioned car while my legs were chafing and my lungs were on fire.”
As Debbie struggled with her physical and emotional safety in this class, she mustered the courage to prove to the teacher that she had the confidence and competence to complete this fitness drill. Debbie looked for support from her friend to help her practice for this run. Everyday for 3 weeks, Debbie was preparing herself for another attempt at the dreaded 12-minute run.
As Debbie proudly finishes the fitness drill, Gym yells out loud: “There’s no way you did that many laps, do it again on the second round.”
Debbie: ”So i’m bent over, you know those running cramps that you get? I’m Red faced, I can’t do it again? I’m exhausted.”
Gym: “Then do it again at 4 o'clock.”
Debbie: “I told her that I wasn’t lying. Beth told her that the count was accurate. But she was so convinced that we were both lying. And when I look back I wonder how did it serve her to say that we were lying. So me, the well behaved you-could-always-count-on-me-student changed forever in that moment. And I looked up at the teacher and in front of everyone in class, I told her to... ”
Please take the time to watch Debbie’s full TedTalk as she takes us through a range of emotions from disbelief, to empathy and and ultimately to empowerment. Her childhood stories not only helped me understand body shaming and discrimination experienced by fat people, but it also made me think about the neglect of good teaching practice behind the gym doors.
So... who is this Gym anyway?
Let me share one of my favourite T-shirts a friend gave me... literally off his back. (Thanks Ted!)
Yes, that’s right.... I am not Gym. A gym is physical space where I consider it as one of my classrooms where I deliver Health & Physical Education. Behind these gym doors is a subject that requires the dignity and respect as any other subject area in our schools.
Before I dig deeper into this subject, I’d like to share an interesting fact with you. The 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth is the most comprehensive assessment of child and youth physical activity in Canada. This is our current grade level on physical activity of children and youth in our country:
We all know that physical activity improves brain health, heart health, helps maintain healthy body weights and builds strong bones and muscles in kids across a range of skills and abilities. The data from this report card continues to scream the same message:
Children and youth are sitting too much and moving too little!
So where can our children and youth learn to develop the comprehension, capacity, and commitment needed to lead healthy, active lives and to promote healthy, active living? Schools! Schools are where we can reach ALL students of ALL abilities. And for many children and youth, schools are the only place where they have opportunities for physical activity.
C'mon, the gym should be more than memories of this…
The learning in this classroom should be purposeful…
The learning in this classroom should be intentional…
And most importantly, the learning in this classroom should be a place where students can learn the joy of movement in a physically and safe environment...
Our children and youth deserve more than just a gym. They deserve a Health and Physical Education curriculum that helps them develop an understanding of what they need in order to make a commitment to lifelong healthy, active living and develop the capacity to live satisfying, productive lives.
The Ontario Physical & Health Education Association created a video of Ontario students sharing the many ways that the H&PE curriculum impacts their lives. As you watch this video, think about your role in education. How does this video prompt you to think about the overall well being of children and youth today?
The Ophea's Student Voice: Activate the Discussion resource is paired with an elementary and secondary discussion guide that also provides questions to help educators, students, and their families reflect on how they see themselves in the Health & Physical Education curriculum:
Where are our children learning how to move with competence and confidence?
Where can they experience the joy of movement?
Are schools motivating students participate in exploration experiences and providing numerous opportunities to practise and apply new learning?
How are educators motivating students and instilling positive habits of mind, such as the willingness and determination to explore, persist, think, ask questions and take responsibility and risks?
Are children and youth given opportunities in health and physical education to develop personal and interpersonal skills as they acquire the knowledge, skills, and habits that will lay the foundation for lifelong healthy, active living.?
How might a quality Health and Physical Education program benefit your child outside of the classroom in their everyday life?
How do you see Health and Physical Education reflected in everyday life?
So the next time you step foot behind Gym's door, know that it should be more than just a room!