Updated: Nov 6, 2021
I suppose one of the benefits of being a voluntary section editor is the opportunity to offer my opinions on physical education. The main editors are welcome to strike this article down, if it seems too controversial. That's OK, because I’ve already supplied my quota of articles to www.pelinks4u.org for the March 2006 issue. I don't have a blog (now I do). I haven't tried to reach the world via the Internet (now I am). For the most part, I believe it is our main responsibility to put forth our efforts to those who are physically with us from day to day. But, I do have opinions. So, I shall offer a few of them now.
The profession of Physical Education goes back quite a ways in my family. My Dad graduated from Ohio University with his degree in Physical Education in 1949. He taught physical education for 30 years. It seemed to me that he was always ahead of the curve in good teaching practices. Dad was making classes fun before the profession was advocating fun. He was breaking down classes and teams into various forms of statistics before statistics became fashionable. You should see his baseball efficiency rating system. When my Dad retired from teaching, he was far from ready to 'officially' retire. Chet was concerned that fitness scores were going down, particularly students' ability to pass the pull-up test in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. Dad reasoned that kids who can do pull-ups are never obese? But, if students can't do even one pull-up, how can we, as teachers, effectively and efficiently help them to improve to the point that they can pass the pull-up test. So, my Dad invented the Pull-Up Trainer in the early 1980s. It was a simple, practical device that allowed all students to do pull-ups by taking their body angle from upright to various angles by laying on a wagon and successfully executing pull-ups. He even set up programs on how to use the Pull-Up Trainer in elementary and secondary classes within the regular class format
So, Dad spent a good 20 years after retiring from teaching, selling and delivering Pull-Up Trainers in his van to all parts of the country. In my opinion, he always marketed his product at a price well below its worth. It wasn't about making his fortune. It was his way of solving the problem. The logo on the Trainer said, "The Pull-Up Trainer - The Need Fulfilled." It was Dad's way of solving the obesity problem. Don't worry so much about spending time losing weight, though we should watch our diets. Rather, gain in strength. If your Pull-Up Trainer score went down, chances are you didn't get weaker, but you gained weight. If your score went up, maybe it was because you lost weight.
I graduated high school in 1983. This was the year the Surgeon General's report "A Nation at Risk" was published. When it came time to pick my major in college, Physical Education seemed a suitable profession. I liked gym class. Even when PE was an elective as a high school upperclassman, I chose to take it. I liked to move and be active. I felt like I was already involved in the profession, whether it was through the countless dinner table conversations about PE with Dad, more discussions while helping him to load his van with Pull-Up Trainers for yet another delivery, or helping him exhibit his product at state and regional AAHPERD conventions or coaches clinics.
After I graduated from college, it was time to look for a job. I had difficulty finding one. I was born after the baby boomer generation. There weren't many PE teaching jobs available. Then, by some twist of fate, I received a call from one of Dad's former students who was teaching at an American school in Kuwait. She had seen my application at a local teacher's hiring fair and asked if I would consider teaching overseas. After driving to Detroit for a summer interview with the Superintendent of the school, I held my first teaching contract in my hands.
After a couple years teaching PE in the Middle East, mostly outside in 105 degree temperatures, I then worked at an international school in Indonesia, followed by a job at an American School in Mexico, and then a remote Navajo school in New Mexico. In between some of these experiences, I would return home and take a teaching position at a local school. I now reside as a teacher at a small school in Hawaii. All these years were spent trying to build up physical education programs at schools that weren't necessarily loaded with spectacular facilities or equipment. More than a couple of these schools still have Pull-Up Trainers as part of their program. I had wonderful success with Dad's invention. To this day, I still enjoy teaching my classes.
For many of my summer vacations, I would return home Ohio and watch my nephew excel at baseball from little league onto college. Cory's ballgames were typical summer family gatherings. Dad and I would continue to get into yet more conversations about Physical Education.
So, I finally come to the point where I had hoped to take you (if you are still reading). Dad has taught and observed physical education classes for over 50 years. Whenever he delivered a Pull-Up Trainer to a school, he would teach a lesson to the classes on how to use it. I have had the opportunity to view US physical education through the prism of working at schools overseas. I have been blessed to work with every ethnic group that is to be found on a typical job application - White/Caucasion, African American, Hispanic/Latino, Arab/Middle Easterner, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American. While I don't mean to over-generalize, my Father and I see chinks in the armor of the physical education profession. What do Dad and I see as underlying threats to our profession? What are some of the questions that need to be dealt with? Here is our Top 10 list.
1. Since when did "obedience" become a pathological condition? I know we've spent the last few decades teaching children that it is alright to question authority, but is it wrong for students to follow directions because they trust the teacher is looking out for their best interest? Is it wrong for students to be obedient and to expect it from them?
2. Is exercise a support or punishment? Most all teachers have given students extra exercise at one time or another i.e. another lap or extra pushups when they are having difficulty paying attention. Well, doesn't research show that exercise is beneficial for students with ADHD tendencies? Are we supporting the needs of the students to move or are we punishing them?
3. Do PE teachers have to make every single activity fun? We like fun. For the most part, teachers of physical education want their students to enjoy gym class. After all, smiling students are good for all schools. But, aren't we treading on dangerous ground when the students expect everything to be fun? When it's not fun, maybe the students will one day refuse to participate. Shouldn't we have some sort of 75/25 or 80/20 fun to old fashioned hard work ratio?
4. If trying hard warrants an "A" in physical education, why doesn't it work for just about every other subject area? If a student tries hard in math, that doesn't necessitate an outstanding grade. But Physical Education teachers are somehow not being thoughtful if a student receives a low grade for not being able to pass the mile run test, even though they've been given all year to pass the standard or improve on their previous score. How do we justify this if we agree on the concept of multiple intelligences, meaning all students have stronger aptitudes in some learning domains over others?
5. How much responsibility should school systems and physical education departments bare for graduating overweight, unfit students?
6. Are we really uncaring of their feelings if we bring a student's obesity problem to the attention of his/her parents? Shouldn't school administrations more fully support PE teacher's efforts to see that No Child is left on their Behind?
6a Will physical education teachers now be more emboldened, with respect to the associated risk of COVID-19 and obesity, to have discussions with obese students and their families and to enact targeted instructional programs to support them (2020). Will school administrators support PE teachers in this most important endeavor?
7. Why does academic well being hold such predominance over physical well-being, especially when physical well being is shown to aid and support academic learning potential?
8. Are praise, rewards, and consequences really reflective of a controlling teaching profession? There are those out there today hitting the lecture circuit accusing teachers who praise students as attempting to control their students. These people wish to outlaw standard compliments or praise. Yes, rewards can be overdone, but aren't they alright if used judiciously? As far as consequences go, yes we want students to understand the "why" of their actions. But, in reading developmental psychology, most primary and secondary students haven't yet hit the formal operational stage when they are able to understand the "why" of their actions and consequences, like the loss of privileges may still be necessary. Seriously and practically speaking, how will teachers ever be able to teach without the use of fair, just, and natural consequences?
9. Shouldn't students bear more of the burden of learning? It seems that in this present day, if students are not learning, it is entirely the fault of the teacher. Aren't teachers bearing an overwhelming responsibility for student achievement?
10. Why does it seem that "competition" has become such a dirty word? We believe in cooperation, and games to that end. All of us who have taught early elementary Physical Education know that competitive games must be used sparingly because of the difficulty K-2 students have with handling the concept of competition. But, in my mind, the only thing worse than being too competitive is not being competitive enough. The practice of being on a team forces us to cooperate with our teammates. Aren't we wise to teach students how to win with grace and to lose with dignity, and to exhibit the highest levels of sportsmanship?
These are some of the major issues in Physical Education my Father and I have discussed over the years. We're pretty sure that others who care are talking about them also. I will continue to try and improve the Physical Education programs wherever I am sent. Where is my Dad? Nearing his 9th decade on this good Earth, he just finished the past fall season as the offensive coordinator of the high school football team where he head coached the state championship team of 1964.
Final Note: Chester R. Rojeck passed away on February 7, 2007 in a tragic car accident during a blizzard in the middle of the night while acting as a courier of bank documents between Cleveland and Detroit. I had last been with him over the Christmas holiday celebrating my parents' 50th golden wedding anniversary. A few days before his death, dad called me to offer his thanks and appreciation for this article which he had recently read. I expressed my own appreciation and love for his great example and guidance. Little did I know that would be the last time we would speak.