Why Schools Should Revamp Gym Classes

W. Stephen Parker
W. Stephen Parker
Middle/high school principal; M.A. in Educational Leadership
A young girl stretches in gym class while her teacher helps her form by supporting her back.

With our ever-changing environment, schools are looking to revamp in many educational venues. From the classroom to extra-curricular activities adapting to students in ways that are unprecedented is a common goal. Gone are the days of “cookie-cutter” curriculums that students must strive to perform within.

The gym and physical education classes are not exempt from these changes. In fact, these classes are important to give students opportunities they would never experience in the classroom. Likewise, for some students, a more typical classroom setting even within the confines of gym class is often desired. Add COVID-19 pandemic protocols to the equation and you have a perfect venue for open-minded change for the good of all students.

Why Schools are Revamping Gym Classes

There are wide and varied reasons for revamping the “old P.E. class” into something all students look forward to and thrive in the environment. Gym classes must be more diligent than ever to being inclusive.

Inclusivity

With often large classes and some co-ed, teachers must be aware of the needs and be willing to ensure that everyone has the opportunity for a wholesome opportunity. Being more inclusive includes many factions and each should be addressed.

Student Growth

Also, while gym class (P.E. class) should help a student grow in the overall educational environment. Students should also enjoy gym class. This can be accomplished by ensuring programs or units of study are in areas that students are interested in. That is why it is important to allow students to have a syllabus outlining the entire course of study.

With this knowledge, students will be more likely to try something new, knowing that the next unit is something they are looking forward to. In addition to this, it is important to remember that student fitness is a strong component of gym class. Again, this component must be a part of the overall program but evaluating each student in current fitness and abilities is very important.

Students Excel in their Own Health

By having this knowledge, students can be guided in their physical fitness endeavors in areas where they feel comfortable and can see success. Additionally, great care should be taken to ensure the students are comfortable in front of their peers. For example, you would not expect an extremely out of shape student to climb a rope to the top of the gym in front of everyone. But finding ways for that student to excel in some form is significant for their overall health and increasing their self-esteem.

Gym teachers as staffing permits can also allow for more than one study unit to be conducted simultaneously. This then gives students opportunities to pick and choose which activities they are the most comfortable with. Also, this gives the teacher opportunity to encourage a student to try something new, and if unsuccessful then try something else.

How Schools are Revamping Gym Classes

As more and more schools are making gym classes optional after receiving the minimum credits for graduation, effort must be made to engage more students. Students today often would rather take other classes that allow them different freedom without changing clothes or going from the gym to the classroom.

Safe/Fun Zone

With this said, the school must make gym class a desired class that a student wants to go to for enjoyment but also for the opportunity to grow. By educating students through advertising within the school, the gym class can become something for everyone. Additionally, the gym class must be extremely supervised to ensure students feel safe there and that it is an absolute “no-bullying” zone. As mentioned earlier, a variety of educational and physical options must be available to students considering signing up for gym class.

Student Input/Surveys

One way to achieve this objective is to get input from the students themselves. School-wide surveys can be used to determine the student body’s interest. Then as opportunity presents, offer courses of student suggestions through P.E. classes that appeals to a lot of students who might have never considered gym class without those classes.

Offering Different Types of Gym Glasses

As far as the fitness part of gym class, offering different intensity level workouts can be inviting to students. This can range from beginners to those students who are already involved in high-level physical training. Further, some students do not enjoy playing basketball, baseball, etc. in gym class. Providing a “personal fitness” gym course which offers unique daily workouts instead of games, could also appeal to groups of students.

By incorporating different levels of fitness courses, the teacher can also then incorporate peer teaching opportunities furthering the experience for all students. One additional item can also be a component of true general health class. Some students would gain valuable knowledge about themselves through such a class, and maybe be motivated to join the physical fitness/work out component in the future.

Not all students are “natural born” athletes. Truthfully, physical activity for some students is little to none. However, through gym class a student can be motivated to become more active, which we all know parlays into the regular classroom as well. When students are engaged in physical activity, it stimulates so many parts of the body. Additionally, a student in better shape will often feel better about themselves overall.

As everything else evolves around us in so many ways, it is important that we make sure our gym classes evolve as well. It is an ever-changing world we live in. Today’s students are not yesterday’s students, and certainly not the students of generations ago. There are so many resources available, we just must be willing to remember we teach students and not subjects and make sure we are teaching each student to the best of our ability.

Additionally, we need to make sure our classroom/gym is inclusive and inviting for all students. Gym class is a place where we can make a difference in our students’ lives differently than in the regular classroom.

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