Monday, July 06, 2015

Idea #5: At Least They've Still Got Their Health

At the end of the school year I met with the administrator who does my evaluation and he/she asked me to think over the summer about some "big ideas" that would be worth discussing that could improve our school. This is the fifth of an undetermined number of blog posts that will explore some of those ideas. (Eliminate Letter Grades, GPA and Class Rank; Eliminate Curriculum (As We Know It); Think Differently About Time; Think Differently About Classes)

Name of Administrator,

When I was younger I didn't really get the phrase, "at least you've still got your health." But as I've gotten older, and as I see folks deal with everything from relatively minor colds, to more chronic conditions, to serious illnesses, I get what a huge impact health has on everyone's lives. Our health not only impacts how we feel, but our ability to do what we want to do and, crucially, our ability to learn. That's why it's so curious to me that "physical" education seems to be such an afterthought in our school.

I don't mean to imply that our physical education teachers aren't thoughtful or don't do a great job, they are and they do. But physical education is clearly not an emphasis or a priority at AHS. We require 12 hours of physical education to graduate at AHS, including a required swimming class and 2 credits of health. That works out to an average of only 1.5 class periods per week over the course of our students' high school careers.

Yet what is more important to our students' present and future than health and physical education? This is one area where we can clearly answer the question of, "When are we ever going to have to use this?" Unlike, say, the quadratic formula or the periodic table, the first bank of the United States or Macbeth, the ability to conjugate aprender or to make a table in Microsoft Word 2013, we can guarantee that health will be important to each and every one of our students for the rest of their lives.

The healthcare system in the United States has lots of problems, but some of our biggest problems are self-induced. So-called "lifestyle diseases," such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease are threatening to actually lower the quality (and perhaps duration) of our students' lives. So why wouldn't wellness education be just as high a priority as subjects we deem as "core"?

In some of my previous posts I've questioned whether "classes" are the best way to approach learning, and whether a "one-size-fits-all" approach makes any sense. I still believe that, but this is one area which I think all students should learn every day, and perhaps in a form that looks somewhat like a traditional class with a regularly scheduled time. I still don't think it needs to be one-size-fits-all, it can be customized to meet the needs and interests of each student, but I do think that every student needs to participate in physical activity and health education every day.

I think every student (and staff member - we should do this together) should have at least 30 minutes of physical activity scheduled into each school day. We should also have regular, on-going education around wellness, including nutrition, exercise, sleep, emotional health, and brain and learning science. Our students cannot reach their potential, cannot learn and grow and contribute their best to society, if they aren't as healthy as they can be. This is truly a "core" subject and we should give it the emphasis it deserves.

I look forward to having this "healthy" discussion with the entire staff.


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