Monday, April 30, 2012

Too Targeted

My kids, both my daughter and my first graders, complain about P.E. This has surprised me for a while because I remember enjoying P.E. in elementary school and felt like it was typically a favorite activity. But it's been pretty consistently whined about for a few years now. The kids like the P.E. teachers but not P.E.

When I've dug a bit deeper with my daughter I've learned that what she hates are the push-ups and curl-ups at the beginning of P.E. class. Often she loves the rest of P.E. but all she can think about is that beginning. The same seems to be true for my students. They focus on this one small piece of P.E. class and forget about all the parts they enjoyed.

I asked one of our P.E. teachers about this phenomenon recently. She wasn't at all surprised to hear how the kids felt. She told me that at the end of the year the kids would all be tested on their push-ups and curl-ups (state requirement, I think). So they practice them at the beginning of each period to prepare them.

When I heard this I nodded my head and thought, "Well, that makes sense."

As I've thought more about it, I don't think it does.

Doing push-ups and curl-ups doesn't make a child healthy or fit. Those two exercises aren't the greatest ones ever created, ones that will work all the muscle groups or anything. They are simply the two exercises someone far removed from the kids has decided they need to be able to do.

It seems to me that this is what school has become, a focus on the specific content and skills required for a test rather than offering students opportunities to follow their interests or to develop themselves broadly. I just didn't realize it had hit P.E. as well.


Alex Valencic said...

I would like to think that this ultra-focused view of education will be off-set somewhat by the Common Core, which is trying to make learning standards based on broad concepts that cross several categories. It will be interesting to see if this actually happens, though.

Jenny said...

Alex, I have to admit to not having paid very much attention to the Common Core standards because my state is one of the few not adopting them. I will keep my fingers crossed though. I'm for anything that will allow us to widen our vision and help our students do the same.

Alex Valencic said...

Oh, I see. I think there is a strong likelihood that many of the adopting states will not implement them as written, but I am glad that they at least *attempt* to increase scope and depth of understanding.

Of course, implementing them across the board at the same time will also cause some headaches, but the goal is a good one. And who knows, maybe your state will jump on board!