Lack of Exercise in the Schools

My daughter is nine-years-old. Her public school has a gym teacher who comes in every Friday. The rest of the week the children get no exercise, except at recess. This is very different from the way school was when I was young. Do you think this could be harmful to our children?

Question:

Specialty areas in public education seem to have fallen by the wayside. With limited funds, administrators and school board members don't always have the resources they need to supply well-rounded educational programs. As a result, some classroom teachers have the responsibility of including physical education instruction in their already overcrowded lesson plans.

If the teacher has to choose between working on math, reading, writing or physical education one day, chances are that that physical education will not be the teacher's top priority.

While there are some fantastic resources for teaching physical education, classroom teachers are simply not as well-trained in teaching PE as physical education teachers. In general, physical education teachers have a better understanding of exercise, physiology and the development of gross motor skills.

I feel confident in my ability to teach my students simple playground games, but my confidence ends there. I appreciate the expertise of our school's physical education instructor because it is an area in which I have very little knowledge. Unfortunately, our schedule allows that she spend one forty minute period with each class per week in grades one to six, which is similar to your daughter's situation.

I agree with you that it isn't really adequate. Classroom teachers try to make up the difference, but in some cases it still isn't enough.

I think that schools today rely on the hope that many children will become involved in extracurricular athletics. When enrolled in those kinds of activities, children not only get specific instruction but also have the opportunity to explore in depth an activity that truly interests them. Gymnastics, soccer, baseball, karate and hockey are just a few of the extracurricular sports options available to parents. The downside, of course, is the cost of these activities, but the return in increased skill and confidence is usually worth the money invested.

Since you are clearly concerned about the amount of physical education instruction that your child receives, you may want to share your concerns with the administration of your child's school and school district. Write letters to the district superintendent and school board members expressing your concern. Encourage other parents at your school site to write letters, also. Change may not come immediately, but it may come eventually.

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