by Kelly Thew
An encouraging PE teacher and a school that invests in PE can make all the difference. As the parent of a first grader who has been going to school virtually since March 2020 and a 4-year-old who tags along for some of the lessons, I was naïve to how critical PE is to a child’s ability to learn until this past year.
When I was growing up, I didn’t always enjoy PE because I wasn’t a very strong kid. But I had this PE teacher that was very encouraging – tough but motivational. And I grew up in an area with the resources to devote to physical activity. We had outdoor PE, relay races, field days, and a giant, brand new playground. Between frequent PE classes, multiple recesses per day, and these other events, we were moving a lot.
Now, though, it’s disheartening to see my daughter sit from 7:45 to 2:15 every day with only about 15 minutes to get up and move around during one very short recess. I don’t even do that at work! It got to the point where she would say, “Mama, I can’t sit here any longer. I need to move around.” It was making her really anxious and she couldn’t focus. The counselor gave us some self-regulation activities, so now we’ll turn the camera off for a few minutes, put on some music, and do activities like “crawl like a bear” or “hop like a frog.”
But by far the biggest impact – the thing that has really made a difference this year – is PE with Coach Quentin Adams. Like many PE teachers, he’s had to find ways to engage the kids there in person and the ones at home who are in living rooms and in basements – their creatively is boundless. It’s just amazing.
In addition to showing up on his own time to kids’ games and events to cheer them on, he makes PE so engaging because he knows how important it is for them to feel validated and stay motivated to get healthy. Coach Adams makes PE class fun and kid-friendly, playing KidzBop music and using household items for activities (such as a broom and socks to play golf) or making PE videos using Harry Potter or Star Wars to teach various exercises. He also teaches them how to eat healthy and gives them little things to do each day at home to start creating a healthy routine.
My daughter gets so excited about PE now, and my kids love learning from Coach Adams how to make their bodies stronger and what it means to be healthy. It’s gotten to the point where my daughter, who isn’t very athletically-inclined, now wants to participate in the annual school 5K (which is a mile for the kids). Since I’m a runner, we started training together, incorporating math into our walks and jogs, and now she always reports back to Coach Adams with her progress.
Unfortunately, PE, which is only once or twice a week (depending on the time of year) anyway, is at the very end of the day, so there’s no break until she gets to that class. We all do PE together as a family and then we go outside and run around until dinner. After PE, my kids are well-behaved, they’re not frustrated, and they play really well together. It’s so unfortunate we don’t get that benefit during school instruction time.
Seeing what happens when we miss recess and seeing the change after 45 minutes of PE is unreal. Coach Adams is amazing at making the mind-body connection and instilling coordination and confidence. It’s a great way for my daughter to grow up, having that influence and that involvement.
We’re an active family who is involved in sports – she does tennis and soccer. But there are plenty of kids who don’t have access to activity like she does, and their only exposure is in school. If they only get 45 minutes once or twice a week, how can they sit at a desk and learn all day long? It blows my mind, seeing firsthand what happens when they can’t move. They tell adults we should get at least 30 minutes of vigorous activity each day, but these are kids with twice as much energy as us. I didn’t realize how important it was, but now I believe PE should be daily. Kids need at least 30 minutes of activity each day.
If this school year showed me anything, it’s this: PE is a necessity.
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