There was an article in the Hamilton Spectator today about how students who exercise do better in school in terms of their behaviour, attention and achievement.
Next week I am fully expecting a study on how feeding children fruits and vegetables is healthier than giving them chips and candy. Really. Did we need a study to prove what every teacher (& I dare say, parent) already knows. Exercise is good for kids – physically, mentally, socially, emotionally and academically.
I’m fairly certain that you are still nodding your head and agreeing with me so far. But the article got me thinking about what we consider good exercise. Right now seems to be sign up season. Chequebooks out, parents – (seriously – I only have a chequebook anymore for my kids’ activities). We need to co-ordinate. Swimming lessons, hockey, basketball. There are only 7 days in a week and school eats up a big chunk of 5 of them. When there are multiple kids with multiple schedules, and sometimes in widespread locations, that co-ordination requires more precision than time tabling a school of 900. I speak from experience. Time tabling the school was WAY easier than figuring out how to get all my kids to where they need to go.
So why do we do it? Most of us understand that we are not raising a future Olympian. Yet we still devote so much of our time, money and a fair bit of our sanity to ensure our darlings get to the gym/pool/arena/studio on a regular basis. Why? The same reason we make them drink their milk, wash their hands, and go to bed at a decent hour. It is good for them.
How good is it if our children are so scheduled they only know how to engage in physical activity with a coach standing over them? Or how good is it if all of those activities that we diligently take them to from the time they are 3 years old are out grown by them at 13 and now they don’t know how else to be active? How fair is it if some parents have the time and means to put their kids in physical activities but others don’t?
We talk about the work we do in schools to help make our students critical thinkers to ensure they have the skills to be lifelong learners. We encourage learning beyond the textbook to truly applicable life skills. The parent may choose to take their child to a tutor that does drill and kill activities to “teach” their child, but that won’t stop us from teaching them the skills we value in learners.
It shouldn’t be any different with physical literacy skills. Sports have their place. For some kids. At some times. But physical literacy in schools should be about educators teaching students how to develop life long habits to support their physical well being and understanding of self. I am thrilled that here in Ontario we have a Physical Education curriculum that places more value on teaching skills and self awareness over specific sports. We also have a provincial requirement that all students must be physically active during instructional time for at least 20 minutes per day. I’m thrilled that educators here are supported by resources like OPHEA (Ontario Physical and Health Education Association) and amazing learning opportunities like our own local Ontario Physical Literacy Conference (physicalliteracyhamilton.ca) to foster this mindset of life long involvement in physical activity. Phys Ed teachers are some of the most passionate educators I know, but they also shouldn’t be the ones solely responsible for teaching our students physical literacy skills.
As we head into the fall, I want to reflect on a few questions. Maybe you might join me in them.
How are my students learning physical literacy skills?
How well do they know what their bodies can do, how to goal set to make them better, and how to learn and apply new physical skills?
What opportunities do my students have to explore activities outside of gym class?
What do we have to do to hook that student who declares he/she hates Phys Ed?
And how do you convince the “star athlete” that being physical literate means more than a being able to shoot a beautiful lay up?
I want my kids – my own home grown ones and the ones in my care at school – to be physically literate because of all those reasons mentioned in the article in the paper today. It is good for them as students. But I also want them to have those skills because once they leave school I want them to have happy, healthy lives and these skills can certainly aid in that.