Physical education remains one of the most controversial subject in schools, because it is often seen as something that divides the students. This creates a noticeable love/hate-relationship between pupils towards PE. Is the subject really only supporting gifted individuals? Where should the focus be for future students and teachers?
In this blog series I discuss the most common problems regarding physical education and try to alleviate the problems they cause. Continuing from the first installment to this series, this post focuses on equality in a classroom setting and discussing what the teacher can do to answer the most common questions and issues while teaching physical education.
The teacher is sexist
Equality has been the talk of the town for the past few years now – and rightly so! There has been immense debate, even protests, about whether we are living in an equal society that provides the same freedom and rights to everyone.
Same goes for education.
In the worst case, snarky remarks and ”locker room talk” can still be heard even from an educator’s mouth sometimes, even if they are ever-so subtle. You know, joking around just us boys/girls.
The teacher is a role model and should do just the opposite – sway away from widening the gap between what others can or can’t do. A good example you look up to can make a real difference in how you see your peers. No matter what their background is.
The focus should be on the students that don’t show interest in any sort of exercise.
Nevertheless, there is still an underlying problem in PE with favoritism especially between athletic and not-so-athletic students. This poses the real problem that should be talked about more often. Actually, the focus should be on the students that don’t show interest in any sort of exercise. You see, active kids already show athleticism which is also a great indicator of future physical activity and healthy lifestyle. The spotlight should be on those who are at risk of not being physically active at all. Inactivity as a youngster is one of the biggest indicators of a physically stagnant lifestyle when you grow older.
Inequality in lesson planning
Inequality in lesson planning can be a double-edged sword sometimes. On one hand, sports and exercise is an incredible way for people to have a social interaction with each other. Having a variety of activities and students with different strengths can be a real eye-opener for the kids and teachers alike. This way the teacher could be able to use the strengths of said students for educational advantage, almost like supporting teachers. In a broader sense, this encourages skilled students to help those in need, which is an important lesson to learn for the future as well.
More freedom to choose leads to better motivation.
Equality in education should mean more variety to choose from and listening to the students wishes and needs. For example, giving students a bigger variety of sports to choose from. This does not mean that you’d have a firm schedule of the same activities day in day out, but rather creating the schedule together for enhanced overall motivation. More freedom to choose leads to better intrinsic motivation, even for those who don’t really participate in traditional ”school approved” sports. This solution would also be stepping away from a system that only concentrates and supports gifted individuals.
Should we be working in mixed groups?
An important thing to understand is that having gender-specific PE classes is not done for the sake of leaving out the other sex to do its own thing. You see, some statistics show that girls tend to like certain sports and boys tend to like others (ESPN, 2013). Whether this is a result of what sports are actually taught for either sex is a whole other debate. However, would these statistics change if students were given the exact same classes from the get go?
I feel that there should be a solution in the middle where mixed groups should have certain lessons together. My main reason for this is; how do you motivate kids to exercise together (especially with the opposite sex) when they are in puberty? For a lot of people this comes naturally, but for others it can be a new, stressful environment that is only hindering their ability to socially interact and participate in the class together. On the other hand, why not create an atmosphere where mixed group kids learn to work and support each other from the very beginning?
To me, the aim is to use sports and exercise to break down these barriers between students regardless of their background or gender. However, I do not feel that going 100% into mixed groups would solve this issue. As I said earlier, the smartest thing would be to find a perfect balance between mixed group and gender specific activities to slowly ease into a new way of teaching physical education.