by Quentin Adams
Garrison Mill Elementary
Cobb County, GA
PE is about more than just education—it’s finding activities that give you balance in life. As a PE teacher, I just really want everyone to understand that PE forms the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Setting the stage in elementary school is so important to get them to not only be active but choose healthy foods and try new things. I want them to discover new passions, like dance or basketball.
Sixteen years ago, I became a PE teacher because I love to see kids succeed in other aspects of life besides just in the classroom. I wasn’t very good in the classroom myself, but I excelled in PE, and my elementary PE teacher encouraged me and told me there are other things you can set your mind to. I also really want kids to get out of their comfort zone. You don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy PE. You can enjoy running, yoga, or the other parts of a healthy lifestyle that help you take care of your body and mind.
I currently have a student who is very, very scared of our new jump rope unit. She’s so terrified of not being good at it. I sat down with her and said, “All I want you to do is try.” She’s so smart that she gets paralyzed by anxiety over things she might not be good at. I told her that you’ll never know what you can do until you try, and you’re not going to fail just because you aren’t great at jumping rope. The student was able to get a jump rope and after about four days of practicing, she was able to do ten jumps in a row. That’s what I want from my kids – just to give it their best effort. It was really gratifying to see her put in the effort and succeed in her own way. I always tell my students, “Don’t worry about the person to the left or right of you—just do what you can do.”
In addition to reinforcing healthy habits and building confidence, PE can be really effective by making it fun—it has to be fun. You need to cover a lot of different skills – locomotive, muscular endurance, etc., but with elementary kids, they don’t know they’re working hard if they’re having fun. Kids sit in their chairs all day, especially during COVID. They don’t get to play or intermingle with classmates. So I’ve adjusted my teaching methods in order to put kids in small cluster groups where they can at least socialize and work together with their friends during PE.
If I had it my way, one thing I would change about PE is that I feel kids need PE every day. Right now, they’re just not getting enough activity, especially since they can’t use or share equipment due to COVID. Obviously, they need art and music, as well, so even three times a week for PE would be better than what we have now. I often go five days without seeing my students. But at the same time, dual teaching (doing face-to-face and online teaching at the same time) during the pandemic can be mentally exhausting. Sometimes I feel like I’m failing as a teacher because it’s hard to balance how much attention I’m giving to the kids that are in person versus the kids on the screen. You have to figure out what works best for one group or doesn’t work for another, so I’m just constantly tweaking my lessons.
Thankfully, I’m not really worried about what will happen to PE at my school next year as we come out of the pandemic. Plus, the parents in our community have been amazing. If I ask them anything, like having a certain piece of equipment ready for their kids, they do it. I think they realize how important PE is now, so that can only mean good things going forward. If there’s been some positive from COVID, it’s that parents have seen that their kids need to get up and move around. When they sit all day doing lessons and all evening doing homework, there’s no chance for play and being active. So now people have seen firsthand just how important it is.
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