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I feel like the problem with "traditional" forms of Physical Education is that it wasn't so much "education about your body and how it moves and how you train it" as it was "sports". The two things are entirely different! Yoga or stretches, learning about the way your body feels during exertion, and how to move in it, how to improve the range of movement or the hands-eye co-ordination - these are all a different aspect of physical capability to 'sports'. And even 'sports' has different sections to it: primarily competition and pleasure, but also building up skill levels through training but not necessarily for competition purposes.

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Totally. Sherri talks about that, how in the U.S. at least PE is still closely tied to athletics, so even at young ages instead of "education about your body and becoming friends with it" it's more about introducing skill sets that are useful for sports. And a lot of that is driven by the program needing to prove its worth to people who make and cut budgets, as well as parents who expect it. But I'm sure a lot of that is also just inertia: "This is what PE has always been" kind of thinking that doesn't see it could be something different.

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I will never forget my 8th grade gym class test, where we had to throw basketballs from the free-throw line. If you got all 5, that was an A; 4 was a B; 3 was a C; and so on. I was small and awkward and couldn't throw a ball to save my life, especially with everybody's eyes on me. Gym class not only soured me on playing sports, it soured me on WATCHING them as well! I would have LOVED less of a sports-focused PE experience.

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That is such a bummer and also surprisingly commonplace. Those experiences stick. They shape perceptions and attitudes for a lifetime and that's the aspect that pains me. I'm more optimistic that the next generation and many of the current cadre of PE specialists are far more attentive to these dynamics than before. I hope you find/have found ways to enjoy being in your body.

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Thanks! I wear a Fitbit and walk 3-5 miles every day (I have an active young dog who loves long walks, so he helps get me out and moving).

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Ugh, yes, the societal nightmare of having to prove that something has 'value' when the value it provides isn't something that's easily measured.

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What's interesting for me as a teacher who has stayed in the same institution for ages is what alumni tell us when they come back. Often they're eager to relay which movement activities they've found fun as adults and the good stuff (usually) that they remember from school PE. Those instances remind me of the long game we're playing. How we encourage different students in our care over time has implications for how their attitudes and physical efficacy may develop over time. They may remember sports or class but above all they'll remember how they felt and who was a part of those feelings, for better or worse.

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It really is a long game of physicality, isn't it? After all, these people will be in their bodies for the rest of their lives, so the object shouldn't be to make them hate their physical habitation, but to help them work out what they can (and can't) do, and what makes them feel good - about themselves and their bodies and what they're doing. Which is unfortunately a more tailored approach than most schools have the resources to do.

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I was a weirdo who was bullied in gym but loved it and sports/ball even though I was also quite klutzy. Getting picked last was both humiliating and vilifying and I thrived on showing out that I could both score goals accidentally with my stomach, or on purpose with my head, I could make a catch off the bridge of my nose and throw out the runner. It's called special TALENT. But it for sure should not be this traumatizing environment for so many kids, and while I did have some teachers who gave time to stretching/flexibility most of it is all about competitive sportsing.

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Glad you were able to make the most of your experience despite the bullying. Recognizing your unique strengths in that context served you well. Just from your crisp description here I think this has the makings of a great story for kids.

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Oof, this was a surprisingly rough read for me -- I guess I have more unexamined wounds from my long-ago PE classes than I reckoned! So often in my K-12 education, I encountered teachers who were very happy to fall in line with the bullies, and this was especially awful (for me) in gym classes. I remember being so terrified starting grade 10, because my assigned gym teacher that year was the locally-famous high-school football coach. If female gym teachers, and gym teachers who seemed to have little more physical prowess than I did myself as a scrawny and uncoordinated kid, were horrific bullies to me -- if they supported and encouraged the kid-bullies who tormented me -- how much worse was this muscular, male coach going to be??

Plot twist: he was great! He was incredibly supportive of all kinds of different body types, all levels of athletic ability. He managed our classes in such a way that I don't think the bullies ever got a toe-hold. He brought lots of guest "experts" to teach us about different sports and body-based activities, people of all ages and from all kinds of different backgrounds and with different body types and presentations, and really emphasized that there are so many different ways to be physically engaged, and that physical movement and activity is for everybody. He actively encouraged me to see all kinds of movement (walking or taking the stairs to get around, playing a musical instrument or singing, writing or drawing by hand, etc.) as valid and worthwhile parts of my physical activity.

I wish all kids could have PE teachers like Mr. Johnson, like Sherri Spelic, who have a holistic and inclusive approach to this facet of early education.

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What an incredible, unexpected twist! I moved around a lot, and every single one of my PE experiences were at a minimum not good. Weirdly, though, the last place I moved to they realized that I was short a PE semester and I tried to persuade them I didn't need it but they made me in order to graduate. The teacher was a longtime football coach, very much a guy's guy, and I also dreaded it. He was actually very patient and understanding with me, and I'm not sure why because to this day my classmates have very different memories. But he managed to make PE, if not great for me, at least not unbearable.

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Yay!! I am cheering! Thank you for sharing that plot twist. I like to believe that there are many more PE professionals out there who definitely have this awareness and are working towards more positive outcomes. So glad you had a positive experience finally.

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Aug 10, 2022·edited Aug 10, 2022

Thank you, Sherri, for this great interview! I think the most troubling thing about Phys Ed being used to combat obesity and using BMI as the measure is that body weight does not equal athletic ability! We need to teach kids (and adults) how to move their bodies better no matter what size clothing they wear, and to show them role models that have larger percentages of body fat.

Growing up, I always heard the examples of muscular professional athletes who would fail the BMI test (like say, Michael Phelps or Peyton Manning), but none of people with more body fat while still being incredibly athletic (like Jessamyn Stanley or Mirna Valerio).

I never made the connection before how as a society we frame obesity like fighting a war! It certainly contributed to my disordered eating growing up. The first time I engaged in anorexic eating behaviors I was in 6th grade. I remember thinking that once I was thin I would be more popular, more athletic, and I wouldn't be picked last in gym class. Lo and behold, I lost weight but was still bullied, was no more athletic than before, and was still picked last in gym class. Instead of being overweight and unathletic I was skinny and unathletic.

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Yeah, that line about American treating PE class like a tool in “fighting ob*esity” definitely helped something click in my brain. Of course fat kids are going to have a hard time in PE - it’s a class whose current purpose is the elimination of fat kids, and all the other kids know it. No wonder so many of us are traumatized by that.

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Yep, and the irony is that because we were the fat kids in class, we had even less chance to practice skills because we'd be the first ones hit in dodgeball and the last ones anyone would think of passing a ball to in team sports like soccer or basketball. We are thrown out into right field in softball/baseball because that's where the least number of balls are hit.

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Thank you for your candor, Wren. I will admit that I still had a lot to unlearn in my approaches. Unpacking fatphobia is an ongoing process. Dealing with kids of all kinds I've learned to focus on what they *can* do and are interesting in doing. The outcomes are so different that way. Also no movement topic lasts for long. We're constantly mixing it up which I hope gives kids opportunities to work at one thing that may be a little tougher, knowing that we're also doing something else that they enjoy a lot more.

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Thank you so much - I wish I had gym teachers like you! The hard thing for me is that I actually really enjoyed playing sports - I just sucked at them. Also, I grew up in white middle class millennial helicopter culture where parents enrolled their kids in all of the sports from age 5 onward (rec teams, travel teams, club teams) which made the athletic disparities even worse. My parents allowed me to play one sport, and I chose softball, which has the least skill translation to other sports, so that didn't help! Also, my parents didn't have the time and resources for me to play travel or club, so I eventually fell behind in skills in softball, too. It sucked that by middle school rec softball was seen as "practice" and not taken seriously by the other girls.

I really liked that in 8th and 9th grades they split the PE class into "competitive" and "non-competitive" for each activity because then all of the athletic kids went to the competitive unit and mostly tended to themselves while the non-competitive unit helped the rest of us work on really improving skills. Honestly, they should have started that breakdown in 4th and 5th grades (conveniently the onset of puberty) because that's when gym classes started to really get lopsided. By 4th grade you had kids who had been playing some sports as much as five years outside of class!

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I have a lot of thoughts about this dynamic you've just described, of competitive cultivation that happens in the middle class and up. I think it's fine if families choose to have their kids pursue the activities they enjoy at whatever level applies and I also see how it is often very much tied to a sense of competitive individualism that lends itself to reinscribing already existing social hierarchies.

In PE, this has also made me question the relevance of our "grading." could it be we that we are assessing kids not on what they've accomplished in class but on how engaged and active they are outside of school?

Thanks for sharing that specific piece. That may be a topic to circle back to along with some of my colleagues.

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So much to say "yes" to here, but what's coming to mind for me is a sudden reminder of school dress codes, which are still incredibly common and tied in with all of these expectations and dynamics.

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Aug 10, 2022·edited Aug 10, 2022

Yeppppp! I've had G cup sized breasts since I was 10 and it's so gross how often I was told that my chest was distracting in gym class (because they bounced under my t-shirt) and how "my boobs were hanging out" if I dared to wear anything lower cut than a t-shirt in my other classes. That's also a symptom, though, of not wearing properly sized bras until my 20s because of the fashion industry not marketing larger cup sizes to women who fit in their narrow band of "normal" and "plus" sizes. Therefore, I walked around in ill-fitting 36DD bras (with oversized hoodies worn overtop to hide my chest) for years.

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It came to mind because someone who was a sports coach when I was in high school was then in the administration when my kids started school in the same district, and a friend's daughter came home with a story about how that administrator lectured the girls about how they were dressing (I think it was tank tops or shirts that showed a little bit of stomach?). My friend wrote a very angry letter, and then other friends -- people I'd gone to high school with -- started talking more about how that coach-turned-administrator traumatized them in high school. It feels very connected.

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Oh, it definitely is connected!

On one hand you have teachers and administrators getting on you because you dared to bend over and show a little bit of stomach, and then on the other hand teachers where they graded you based on how much skin you showed. The disgusting thing is how it was such an open secret that my chemistry teacher graded that way - "the lower the shirt the higher the grade". I wore my oversized hoodies and mysteriously got Bs and Cs that he couldn't back up in his gradebook. The mixed messaging about our bodies was so disturbing.

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Gross. I had more than enough teachers with similar dynamics, and complaining about them never did any good. Nobody should have to put up with that!

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This was a really tough read. One thing that I really struggled with was that it wasn’t until I was an adult did anyone say that it’s okay to NOT enjoy moving your body. (Ragen Chastain has great things to say about this.)

Exercising and physical competence has always been presented as a moral obligation and this interview brought that up for me — that the job of an educator is to make sure every child knows and continues to move their bodies as much as possible, because that is a must for a well rounded individual. I am a very fat autistic person with complex trauma and I recognize that physical educators cannot address every kid who has these kind of challenges when it comes to spatial processing / feeling safe being in their body / being overstimulated in a gymnasium or on a playing field, but it very much colors how defensive I feel about going beyond “BMI shouldn’t be a measure we use” and going into “physical activity shouldn’t be an obligation”.

I think I wanted to see a more robust defense that children come in all different sizes and abilities and that even with many choices for physical activity there will be children who are still left out. I want to see a robust examination of anti-fatness that is explicit in physical education that acknowledges that it is not safe for fat kids in PE classes. We have to talk about fatness early on, because even if you aren’t pushing anti-obesity messaging in class, that is the water every child is swimming in in our culture, so kids are naturally going to be approaching PE from an anti-fat lens.

I learned as an adult that we all get different amounts of endorphins from physical exertion. Some of us get none! Learning that and divorcing physical movement from morality — not just from weight loss, but I mean from in a broader sense — actually opened up an autonomy about my body that I never had, even though I have had some “good” PE teachers. Now, physical activity is less about enjoyment and more about doing it as if I was cleaning...it is not fun, but it can be a kindness to my future self, and at the same time it’s not a moral failing if I don’t do it and I owe it to no one.

I know this isn’t a well thought out comment. I am hoping some other readers can help me see this interview from a less reactive way, not that anyone is obligated to! I know my own trauma of weight stigma is influencing my response.

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I hear you and yes, there is so much more to say about the inherent ableism embedded in the field of PE. Acknowledging and confronting my own ableism is an ongoing process and addressing the needs of neurodiverse learners is an area where I've made progress and still have miles to go. I agree that body-affirming spaces are much needed and being explicit in how we do that in schools is a step we need to take. You've given me lots to think about. Thank you.

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Thank you for such a kind response. I appreciate your thoughtfulness!

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I had to skim it because I still carry trauma from the bullying I got in PE classes. A glasses wearing nerd with no hand-eye coordination made for ROUGH times and I remember being so grateful when I got to my sophomore year which meant I didn't have to take gym class anymore. The worst times in my schooling life were all in or around PE class

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I HATED gym class. I was a glasses wearing, braces sporting, overweight, klutz. Luckily, we had a pool in our tiny rural school...I still don't know how that happened. So, I took "Swimming" as much as possible because I was a good and powerful swimmer. When I was forced to take gym, instead of swimming, there was one great teacher and a few horrible.

I have finally found peace with and love for my body but it took a LONG time.

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Ha, my rural-suburban middle school had a pool, too! Not sure if the reasons were the same in your area, but in my county the majority of the middle schools were built in the late 1960s and into the 1970s (due to suburbanization as well as overcrowding of 7-12 secondary schools post-integration), and it was at this same period of time that they added swimming pools, the planetarium, and better athletic fields, so they ended up at the middle schools instead of the high schools.

Opposite of you, swimming was my least favorite unit because of being extra self-conscious wearing my bathing suit in front of everyone. I was the fat girl with G cups, so my bathing suits weren't cute or cool, and I was always terrified of my boobs popping out!

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Kind of tangential, but I'm always amazed by the number of rural or small-town areas that have a pool due to funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF, a kind of tax on oil and gas royalties that then pay for improvement projects like pools and parks). I don't know that they went to on-site pools in schools but would be curious to know.

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Glad to hear that you found peace and had opportunities to experience your unique strengths in at least one area of school organized physical activity. There are so many more ways to be active, to enjoy movement than we traditionally introduce in PE, although we're improving in that area.

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I'm sorry you had that experience. You are far from alone unfortunately. I do believe that the field has improved significantly and that many more PE folks are considerably more attentive to community and trust building as key to better short and long-term outcomes.

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Your students are lucky to have you!

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I think you've expressed this really well! “Physical activity shouldn’t be an obligation” is a great framing and lens, and so much can come out from that starting point.

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My one really stand-out PE memory (amid all the bullshit elementary/junior high PE stuff) was the year I was in Geneva as a sophomore, the PE teacher decided "Hey, we have this American student with us in class, and she's from Chicago (this was peak '90s Bulls era), so we should do basketball!" Plot twist: exactly nobody, teacher or students, knew the first thing about how to play basketball. I knew...vaguely, just from years of doing it in dumb PE classes. But my main memory of this was a kid would get the ball and just start full-out running to the basket, and the teacher and everyone else on their team would be all "Yay! Go!" and I was losing my mind like "You can't just grab the ball and run!" Vocabulary was a bit of a problem, as I did not (and still do not) know what "dribbling" is in French. I'm standing there trying to explain "No, you have to...keep bouncing the ball while you go" and everyone was kind of like "Ummm...but it's so much quicker to NOT do that?"

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Oh my goodness, this is hilarious! Thanks for sharing! In all my years in Vienna, one of the hardest American sports to explain is baseball. There's so much standing and waiting. Also, even the simplest game can be remarkably challenging to explain succinctly. Writing PE sub plans are a serious writing commitment!

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That sounds amazing! Basketball is the sport I knew the least about as a kid and but I did know that i didn't have the skills to shoot or score so when we played in PE I'd just flail around and try to play "defense". I remember one of the "jocks" trying not to lose his patience with me while explaining the concept of a foul (you can't just...grab someone's arms! Or push them from behind!) and I could not even comprehend how you could play the game with such restrictions!

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It was hilarious and frustrating -- this happened towards the beginning of my year there, so my French was still not great, and trying to explain the complex rules of a game I didn't really know _that_ much about, without the specific vocabulary to do so, was...kind of impossible. Every time people got confused because some rule made things harder or seemed arbitrary, I wanted to say "Yes, this is why sports are dumb, guys!" Ha.

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It's the Culture Study/On The Commons crossover event of the summer!

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It’s so interesting to me that EVERYONE seems to have *some* kind of PE memory, for better or worse!

I remember juggling as one of the best PE units as an elementary kid! Pretty inclusive (also, nearly everyone struggles at first so there’s not a lot of hierarchy/shaming), especially when different materials are offered (starting with scarves on up to rubber balls). I can still do it (with scarves only lol)!

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True! I actually have a hard time recalling my own early experiences. I think we didn't have formal PE because I attended a Montessori oriented school through 5th grade, I guess. We had lots of outdoor play time and went on several local excursions... That probably has an influence on how I think about all this now. *Insert thinking emoji* Also, I love to teach juggling and remember well the summer I spent learning how to do it so that I could teach it.

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I love the parts of this interview that touch on how visible you are in PE class so often. That was always the worst part of it for me - the parts that felt like a performance. I didn't mind team sports so much. The chaos sports like basketball or soccer or ultimate frisbee or even dodgeball were fine - I was nerdy and deeply uncoordinated (and often had a fuzzy understanding of the rules) but had a strategy of just moving around a lot and occasionally throwing myself at the ball or another player so I could blend in. The orderly sports like softball and football are the ones I know the most about so I could position myself to do the least damage. Thankfully I was not the kind of nerd that was hated, but the kind that was just ignored or forgotten. But that made the individual things nightmarish because everyone was looking at me. Literally half of the year in 6th grade was track & field (culminating in a several day "olympics") and that was the highlight of middle school for a lot of kids but I hated every bit of it. (A core memory is standing on the high jump mat with the bar in my hands and the entire class laughing hysterically. ) No one wanted to play me in tennis because I could not hit the ball anywhere in the vicinity of my opponent so they were always having to chase it down. There was a gymnastics unit during which I somersaulted into a wall because I was afraid to keep my eyes open. And then an aerobic dance unit (girls only) which I was dreading - the final was to choregraph your own aerobic dance and perform it for the class, I'd rather die thankyouverymuch. I rarely stood up for myself back then, but another girl felt the same way and we successfully lobbied to be allowed to skip and join the boys in over-the-line which was much much better.

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I loved this interview! I had never thought about PE as an entry point to these kinds of political and social questions.

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Thank you! I'm so glad these ideas resonated.

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As someone who has failed PE several times in high school and a few times in university, this really hits home. Funnily enough, the only real PE classes I aced were dance (which I'm horrible at) and basketball (which I'm decent at).

No choice in dance; the teacher was a real hardass who required us to arrive an hour before class began. Even my rebellious self folded since his hardassness appeared to be genuine; he really thought that dancing, by any means necessary, was the key to life.

With basketball, I was the one of two boys who played in high school. Liberal arts kid, so the only jocks we had were soccer players. Our teacher was a woman (played in college) who didn't laugh at my 60s style of playing: no crossovers, bank shots, and looping layups from afar. She seemed genuinely happy that my cornball style of play was beating all the other boys more obsessed with form. I just wanted to get the baskets in every time. It was so freeing.

Obviously she knew how to play the "right" way but she was letting me do what my body could, as long as it was effective. She gave me pointers based on the things I was already doing. Such a change of pace from my basketball teachers in high school who chuckled along with my classmates when I would use bank shots, pantomiming stepping on a lizard on the floor (which they said fell out since I hit the board so often).

I don't know, just reminiscing, I guess. I used to think I hated PE; I love that kids today are starting to have more options with teachers like these.

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We had to do square-dancing in 4th and 5th grade (small-town Montana, never change except in all the ways you should absolutely change), and I was surprised as heck 40-ish years later to find that my kids still have to do a square-dancing unit in PE. They, uh, do not love it.

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I had square dancing as a unit of lifetime sports in my HS which was an independent day school outside Cleveland, OH. The other units were bowling and golf!

Have you read about the white supremacist origins? It's wild! Read this not too long ago: https://qz.com/1153516/americas-wholesome-square-dancing-tradition-is-a-tool-of-white-supremacy/

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Well, that explains a LOT. And Henry Ford, of COURSE.

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yup! and it is interesting, bc square dancing was actually one of the only things in PE that I liked--that and parachute day--I loved dance, but hated running, don't have good hand/eye coordination, etc. but I always wanted to do more of the square dancing. and then learning about these origins as an adult--I'm not sure what to think about it all

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(Also parachute day here.) I liked square dancing, too, I think because I like patterns and it felt soothing to follow a pattern. And we did it slightly young enough that it didn't feel socially awkward, not, like *dancing.* But now knowing the history it makes me feel squeamish.

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I've only seen that in movies but, from where I am, the alienness of that seems fun.

We did ballroom dancing in a third world country. It wasn't alien at all, it was just corny. But our teacher truly was uplifted from poverty by dancing. He was a famous consort (dancing instructor, or DI, in our parlance) of society women, politician's wives mainly, and he danced like a dream. I remember his hips when I first saw him dance in earnest; the air around them like tiny tornadoes whipping into our brains. Couldn't smirk or laugh at him after that experience.

Feels like a similar experience, no? Vaguely familiar physical activity but corny. If organized PE continues to be a thing, I hope they at least use activities alien to the kids. Like sepak takraw for Montanans and square-dancing for us!

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I would like to read an entire book about this person!

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Aug 10, 2022·edited Aug 10, 2022

Nice goin' Antonia! PE class was oddly affirming to me, even though our teacher, Marv Liskie, was an ex-Marine and actually had us do a military lineup with that weird snap-turn of the head on his command every day — once we were changed into our tight whities of course. Yes, he liked discipline. I got a B one quarter because I got a single demerit for goofing off. But I also recall he really liked individual effort and didn't care if you were slow or uncoordinated, as I was, just so long as you gave it your all. We did a lot of dance and Presidential Fitness-grade activities, and of course dodgeball. There's about one third of PE class I wouldn't wish on my grandkids but the other two-thirds were great.

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People can surprise us in so many ways! This PE teacher sounds really good, and like he understood people are individuals and have their own strengths and challenges.

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I mean, the point of boot camp isn't to win, it's to make it out alive and stronger, right?

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Literally, my sister went to boot camp (she was in the Army Reserves), and I never thought about it that way!

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Oh yeah. If you go in wanting to win, they will try to knock that right out of you.

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I could have used her in Middle School. As a chubby, uncoordinated kid who was always slowest, couldn't climb the rope, couldn't throw worth a darn, I always just knew I was going to be the last pick. I dreaded PE--especially when we had the President's Physical Fitness Test and EVERYONE was assessed in front of the whole class, task by task. But I usually would just grit my teeth and endure. Until MS and the über-awful Ms. Foster. I will never forget when we were doing the horse. I could launch myself onto the horse, but (with super long legs and zilch arm strength) I could never get myself over it. Anyway, one day it was my turn and I started off at a run to try and make it over this time. Just as a I reached to plant my hands, I heard Ms. Foster yell, with the whole class standing there and waiting their turn, "Hurd, you run like a cow!" That was it for me. For the rest of MS PE, I gave up trying. It was a bit better in HS, but 50 years later, I still cringe at the idea of organized sport.

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That is truly horrific. I’m so sorry!

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I LOATHED phys ed class when I was in school. I never thought much about sports or PE one way or another until we moved when I was 8 to a town & school where sports were everything. I was thrust onto the baseball field with absolutely no clue about what I was supposed to do, what the rules were, nothing. No matter what the sport, everyone seemed to know what to do and had the ability to do it. I soon developed a strategy of putting as much distance as possible between me & the ball (whatever ball it was...!), but sometimes, the ball was hard to avoid. The disdain and sometimes downright hostility of my classmates was unbearable at times, and completely destroyed my self-confidence.

The heavy emphasis on team sports continued in junior and senior high. Occasionally, we would do gymnastics or play badminton for a few weeks. In high school, there was a man-made lake down the street. We had canoes and cross-country skis at the school, and took those out for a session occasionally. I enjoyed doing those sorts of things much more than team sports, because for the most part, there was only myself or perhaps one other person and not an entire team watching and relying on my every move. These days, I enjoy walking and yoga, but I still have very little interest in team sports, playing or watching.

In the first term of Grade 10, my phys ed teacher gave me a D. I was normally an A student in every other class and I was in tears. There was no clear criteria as to how I was being marked. I was a lousy athlete, but was that my fault? My mother met with the teacher and got her to agree that so long as I was trying, I should not be graded lower than a C. Thanks, Mom.

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Wow, I'm sorry you had that experience. I'm glad your mom was able to advocate for you. Assessment in PE like many other parts is playing catch up. So often the criteria were hidden/unspoken and the final grade delivered without reference to anything specific. I'm not convinced that we should be grading PE in the traditional sense at all. There's so much to glean from the many examples here of damaging experiences, so thank you for sharing. All of these stories give me pause and help me reflect on our direction as a field.

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I loved so much about this interview! One thing that really surprised me was the default position that PE should be about teaching kids what they can do with their amazing diverse bodies, and about giving them guided agency to discover that.

I'm from the standard catch-as-you-can American PE programs of multiple states; not one of them took this approach. That said, I wasn't traumatized by PE, either. I certainly "knew" I wasn't athletic, and PE confirmed that for me. In my middle-20s, I finally started the journey to identifying as someone who hikes, climbs, long-walks, dances, and lifts weights because those things feel good to do with my body. An athlete. Who knew. I sure wish PE classes like Sherri's had been there to help me find that path as a much younger human.

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So interesting! PE is in a weird position where my kids go to school. In middle and high school very few kids take traditional PE classes - most take it online (and have for years - pre-pandemic). The weight training class is the only one that seems somewhat popular to take but its not even during the traditional school day - you gotta get there at 7am which really limits who can take it! Online PE is a series of worksheets, quizzes, recording steps on a fitbit-like device and attesting that they do the assigned physical activities. Also you can take the high-school version of online PE in middle school and have it count for both so a huge number of kids take no PE at all after 8th grade. Because there is so much pressure to take advanced academic classes and lots of extra-curriculars, having PE online lets kids meet the requirement, but it seems like such a cheat - and it really gives kids the idea that physical education is not really very important. Like if its required, it should be real and if its not important enough to take seriously then it shouldn't be a requirement.

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founding

I have never heard of this structure before! So interesting, and it really feels dismissive, not just of PE but almost of physical existence?

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Its also just dismissive of...school requirements? Saying "here is an official, sanctioned, encouraged, way to meet this requirement that we've set for you by doing the least amount of work possible with almost no accountability" is not a great message IMO. (Also set up my older kid to expect online classes to a piece of cake, which has not been a useful mindset to say the least.) And maybe there could be a way to have online PE be worthwhile, but as it is now, its a joke. The lessons are almost identical each of the three semesters so if you saved your work from the first one you just edit slightly and turn it in again. And other than the step count, the teachers don't really have any way to confirm that the physical exercises were actually done. I think it might do less harm to just drop the requirement all together.

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It's interesting. To me this sounds like a saving money way to say that PE is offered at least in name and that kids still have space in their schedules to cram in all the hard academics. What a world!

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Malcolm Gladwell recently addessed some of this as well.

https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a40818335/malcolm-gladwell-david-epstein-cross-country-debate/

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Before I read this, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that my view might be tainted by his recent commentary about people working from home. LOL

Will definitely check it out. Thanks for sharing.

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LOL, I have had problems with his social science commentary for years. I know little about high school sports and I doubt that his solution is a great one because it focuses on extra-curricular activities unlike the PE you were discussing which I think has the potential for having a far greater impact. The largest impact, of course, would be to shift the emphasis on elite sports from day one or to somehow recapture free play outdoors (which reflects a rather privileged background obviously) and acknowledging the broader picture you also take pains to point out throughout the interview.

David Gzowski had a great book about pick-up hockey, The Game of Our Lives, where he argued how many skills were gained through experimentation and unstructured time on the ice. A similar point could be made about Brazilian soccer players and their ball-handling skills.

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founding

I, uh, had the same issue 🙃

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