Quality Physical Education Can Solve a Major National Issue

A few weeks ago, Jordan Shapiro of Forbes.com wrote The 4 Issues In Education That Every Presidential Candidate Should Be Talking About . Look closely at his second issue and it is “inclusiveness”.

He writes: “The bottom line is that we cannot eliminate hateful actions without eliminating
hateful thinking; and the process of transforming how people think is precisely the work of education. Therefore, at a time when we are experiencing high racial tension, ubiquitous rape, mass shootings, religious fundamentalism, and hyper-polarized political value systems, school curricula need to prioritize inclusiveness for the sake of long-term social justice.

Who has the greatest opportunity to teach inclusion in our schools? (I know many of you are jumping up and down with your hands raised up high 🙂 Yes, PHYSICAL EDUCATION TEACHERS. While fitness is always at the forefront of our teaching, we need to add inclusion right beside it. Physical educators have the ability to to change a school’s climate and we need to make sure we are doing just that. Here are my suggestions:

1) Bring Project Adventure curriculum into your classes. There are many resources for Project Adventure on the web. If you establish a full value contract with your students/classes, it will go a long way into establishing a wonderful school culture.

2) Be involved with your school’s recess/lunch program. Volunteer to set up a recess activity and make sure you have a presence everyday. Nobody on campus knows your students “outside” of class behavior than you do and use it to your students/schools advantage.

3) Set up a lunch intramural program. At my school, we have a lunch flag football league in the fall, futsal in the winter, and soccer/baseball in the spring. Use a simple app like this to setup your games and make/print schedules/standings. It can be great benefit to your school’s environment.

4) Have your students write about inclusion. In California, we have this state standard in 8th grade: “ Model and encourage others to be supportive and inclusive of all ability levels.” I’ll post this standard, talk about it with the students (i.e. what does “ability levels” mean?) and later on, have them write about how they demonstrated this standard in action. Examine your state standards and/or use SHAPE America’s standard 4 and put it into action with your students this year.

It is time we showed our communities that teaching physical education is much more than play and fitness. Physical education teachers should be thought of as synonymous with students inclusion into their communities and society.

About the Author: Dennis Gildehaus (@DennisinSD) is a middle school physical education teacher at Pacific Beach Middle School in San Diego, Ca.. He’s been teaching physical education for 17 years.

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