Tom Levett is a PE teacher at Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Boston, MA, and Luke Boring teaches PE at Heritage High School in Leesburg, VA.
When it comes to championing the importance of PE and its benefits for young people, there’s no one quite like physical educators. But how does that enthusiasm translate into the role of parent?
Role modeling healthy and active behaviors is a key component of both teaching and parenting for Tom Levett and Luke Boring. Both Luke and his wife are PE teachers who try to incorporate activity into as much of daily life as possible, and Luke believes this is why his kids look forward to PE class and seek out activities they enjoy. “We have told our children that we don’t care what activities you want to participate in, as long as you are doing something, and that you enjoy it. We try to send this message to our students as well.”
Similarly, Tom and his wife, a gymnastics and movement coach, believe in setting an example. Tom engages his students (including his 7-year-old son, who followed along with his remote classes early on in the COVID-19 pandemic) by always participating with them. He says, “I’m constantly moving, and I’m hoping that by seeing me move, it’ll inspire them to keep moving.” In fact, once his son started in-person school again, he started comparing his PE lessons to his dad’s, telling Tom, “He doesn’t jump around as much as you, Dad.”
Not only do their kids get excited about attending PE class, both dads expressed pride at seeing how energized and upbeat their kids are afterward. It’s this positive physical and emotional result of PE class that has both Tom and Luke optimistic about how the pandemic will influence PE in the future. Says Luke, “The pandemic has reinforced the importance of physical education. PE has always had its stigma, but now it’s come to the forefront as a necessity due to the excessive screen time during virtual learning. I have heard story after story about students needing time away from their computers. We, as PE teachers, have stressed this point for years. Although the pandemic has caused pain for so many, I firmly believe it has led to a better understanding of the importance of leading a healthy and active lifestyle. I have even had students express their excitement about returning and participating in a number of activities that we offer. I believe students will have a different perception of PE in the years to come.”
Tom’s experience also indicates a glimmer of hope about how schools will prioritize PE. “Even I realized it’s so much more important. Thankfully, my school’s administration is 100% on board with PE – they even hired two more movement teachers. But PE has always been in a precarious position; I’ve been cut before for budget reasons or for schools closing. I’m hoping that with everything going on, this is the motivation for [schools] to put movement at the forefront. This pandemic could be a positive thing for movement.”
One thing that Tom and Luke noted as an element of a strong PE program that keeps their own kids and students enthusiastic about PE class is the shift to focus on whole child health, including skill-building, teamwork, and learning how to better one’s self and others. Says Tom, “Early on, it felt like PE was glorified babysitting (and other teachers felt that way, too). But over the past few years, PE has evolved so much—from the old days of dodgeball to the fun and engaging skill-building games we do now. It’s got a huge curriculum that covers mind, body, and spirit.”
Luke hopes that PE will become mandatory in all four years of high school in order to have the biggest impact. “Providing students the steppingstones to lead an active and healthy lifestyle is crucial during this time. Creating healthy habits that they can take with them as they graduate would do nothing more than benefit all involved. Being active should be fun, not something you feel like you have to do. The more people that turn to lifelong activities and pass that passion along to our youth, the better chance we have.”
If both dads and PE teachers could offer advice to other parents out there about supporting physical education, it’s for parents to reinforce the healthy activities and social interaction taught in PE class at home. Whether it’s by participating in [virtual] PE class alongside their child, talking positively about physical activity, role modeling healthy habits, or using their voice to advocate for PE and tell the school administration how positive it has been for their child, parents can be a driving force for PE moving forward.
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