“Our actions may seem small, but their collective impact will be great” –Kevin Carroll (author of Red Rubber Ball). There has never been a better time to advocate for quality Physical Education. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed by Barack Obama in 2015 has included Physical Education as part of what is called a “Well-Rounded Education”.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) put all funding strictly on what were considered core classes such as math, science, and English. The NCLB unintentionally harmed the health of American children as it drew funds away from improving Health and Physical Education programs.
We turn over a new leaf with the 2017-2018 school year, as ESSA is now putting physical education on a level playing field as it is now part of a well-rounded education. Instead of Washington dictating the details, the standards taught, funding, priority of Health Education and Physical Education. How great is that?!
Image from SPARK PE
Know your purpose
To fully understand how these changes will affect us we need to understand the purpose of Physical Education. The purpose of physical education is to give students the necessary skills, knowledge, and attitudes to be fit and active for a lifetime. As educators we need to provide a standard- based curriculum that can give the average student the ability choose a healthy lifestyle.
Our purpose as Health and Physical Education teachers is to provide that quality physical education program. Respected physical educator Jorge Rodriguez (@physednow) shared his thoughts on what a quality Physical Education program would look like. Rodriguez said “I think quality PE is huge! A good program helps kids develop into the best version of themselves. Education is about helping our kids develop into positive, productive members of society. This includes their physical
social, and emotional well-being. A quality PE program helps students learn how to improve their well-being so that they can positively affect the people around them, their community, and ultimately improve the world”. Even though I have never met Jorge in person I know he is providing a quality program in Texas. We need to understand fitness, motor skills, social and emotional development and health concept so these core areas can be firmly established in our programs.
What does this all mean?
The State of Iowa physical education was under attack. That’s right I said “was”.
Senate File 2273: This bill authorizes a student in grades 1 through 12 to be excused from the physical fitness requirements under the state’s educational standards if the student is engaging in physical fitness activity for at least two hours per week at a fitness exercise club or other physical fitness or sports center that is approved by the school.
This bill was going to send Health and Physical Education to a point of no return. It would be hard to validate our position if this bill passed. Why would any school district need Physical Education teachers if students could get their Physical Education requirements outside of their school day?
We ADVOCATED! Iowa Physical Education teachers along with other supporters emailed legislators providing our expertise that Physical Education is how our state positively impacts the inactivity crisis. We also explained the differences between physical activity and Physical Education, and pointed out the heavy burden this bill place on the schools to track evidence of the exemption requirements.
Great news: Senate File 2273 is now dead! As the professionals of Iowa we came together and provided legislators the information they needed to hear in order to veto the bill. I want to thank all those involved. It was a great fight. Our knowledge and expertise as educators gave us the ability to advocate for our job, our students, and the life of Iowa Health and Physical Education.
If you want our profession to remain, and even better if you’d like it to be respected, then this advice is for you: Be an advocate for standards-based quality physical education. We need to paint a new portrait of what PE is today. We need to be engaging with PTAs, school boards, administration, local leaders, and anyone who will listen. Let your passion spill over to the people around you. Show them evidence, and tell stories of student growth that might change their perspective of what quality Physical Education is.
Here’s what you can do
Start small. There is no reason to be advocating nationwide if your own school does not see your quality program.
Invite your principal to see your classroom. Use an open door policy
Start a school wide event (Fitness Night, Take your parent to PE week)
Let parents know what students are learning with apps like Seesaw, and Class Dojo, put up a photo bulletin board in a prominent place. You can also attend PTA meetings and share information from SHAPE America’s Advocacy page
Email local legislators, offering your professional perspectives and asking for their support
Hang up Advocacy posters
Attend school board meetings and consider sharing your successes in a board report
Use professional development to improve your teaching
Join your state association of health, physical education, recreation, and dance
Attend SHAPE America’s Speak Out day at the Capitol
Become an advocate today by providing your students a quality Physical Education program. If you want to do more, but do not know where to start, look below for links to some great resources that can kick start you. Now let your voice be heard and let your students speak about the importance of Physical Education. IF you don’t, who will?
Special thanks to Cassie Brooks and Bob Knipe for some insight and FOR being awesome advocates as well!
If you don’t know where to go next here are some of examples of quality resources that can help you understand the how and why of becoming a PE Advocate.
Support Real Teachers
Cap’n Pete’s (Charrette) Pinterest Advocacy Page
Jaryd Prince has been teaching for 4 years. He has been with Jefferson Elementary School for those 4 years. Jaryd and his wife Tiffany have 2 children. A 4 year old daughter named Kadynce and a 1 year old son named Joziah. Jaryd has spent time advocating for his program by starting a walking club and presenting the benefits of the program to the school board. Find out more about what is happening in his health and physical education program at his Twitter page @jprincephysed