Physical “Education”

by on May.05, 2009, under life, thoughts

You know what class this is? P.E. You know what that stands for? Physical Excersise.

This quote is attributed to a P.E. sub at my high school. I’m paraphrasing, because I don’t remember the actual words, but believe me: this phrase was actually uttered by a substitute P.E. teacher. Perhaps this wasn’t the best way to start of the blog post. Let’s go back a bit.

A couple weeks ago, I needed a form signed so I could go on a field trip. All of my teachers need to sign a form saying that it’s OK for me to skip out on class, and acknowleging that they realize that I’m not going to be in class that day. Granted, most teachers just sign the form without looking at the date, but that’s beside the point.

On this form, we also have to write which class we have each hour. So, for my seventh hour class I wrote the following: Gym. Seemed fine to me. I go up to my teacher and have her sign it. She first crosses out “gym” and writes “PE”, then signs the form (all without saying anything to me). I thought this was slightly humorous. I didn’t think much of it because, after all, the form was signed. However, I’ve started to think more and more of this small action.

To me, and to most of the world, PE stands for Physical Education. Education, to me, implies that I will learn something. It could be useless information, and it could be useful information, regardless, I should learn something. I would attribute a class like Health to this title. It suits all the requirements: physical — You learn about how your body functions and how to keep yourself healthy; education — did I not just use the word learn?

Let me make this a bit more clear. Here’s how Google defines eduction:

knowledge acquired by learning and instruction

Once again, the key words here are knowlege, learning, and instruction. These are the three important requirements in order to have the “education part.”

I would define my “P.E.” class this year as anything but that. It consists of:

Today we’re playing tennis. Grab a ball, racket, and partner, and start playing tennis.

No instruction, no guidance, no help while attempting to play the sport, just a: “This is what we’re doing. Go.” So, where, then, does the education come in?

Freshman and sophomore year was different: we actually learned about the muscles and bones in our body. We learned about what excersises work which muscles, and we were taught easy excersises to help keep us in shape. Once again: we learned. This was not gym class, it truly was physical education.

So, I suggest a reform of the class. Because Illinois is the only state that still requires four years of gym P.E. in high school, we must be true to the classes title: teach us. It doesn’t even have to be individual attention (although that would be nice). But, at least inform us of the rules of tennis before telling us to play. If you want to get really crazy, try to make us play by the rules. If we are going to take Physical Education, let’s keep the Education there.

Although, I’ve heard an alternative suggestion: make P.E. half-classroom. This alternative would suit Illinois perfectly. We could still have a P.E. class, but we would actually learn. Once the program got started, the school could start offering “specialized” P.E. classes, where you can learn about one specific topic. You could then take the P.E. class that sounded most interesting to you, instead of being stuck in a general gym class.

After all this, I have to question my school’s definition of P.E. I was always taught that P.E. stood for Physical Education (acronym finder agrees), but it seems the crazy old gym teacher is right: PE stands for Physical Excersise.

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1 Comment for this entry

  • Helena

    I enjoyed reading your post and think it is shameful how PE has been taught in your school. Your moto:”put education back into the physical”, is exactly what PE should be about. It is more than just “play” and you are totally right to stand up for what you believe is “bad teaching”, or should I say “no teaching at all”. It makes those PE teachers who “teach” look bad and it demoralizes our profession. So keep it going, let your voice be the one that stands out so PE can be pronounced “Physical Education”.
    Good luck!

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