Friday, April 29, 2011

Accountability in the Gymnasium

Getting children to live a healthy lifestyle is no easy task.  It requires committment, control, and consistency.  Parents, teachers and other community members must act as advocates for the health and well-being of the children and adolescents around the world. As a Physical Education and Health teacher in the 21st century, I am committed to my goal of reversing the childhood obesity epidemic and helping the students of America become more active and maintain a healthy weight.
I start my school year by gaining information about the current health and skills my students possess through the use of a fitness test.   This fitness test is given in the beginning of the marking period, and at the end of the marking period, in order to closely monitor results, provide feedback, and make changes as necessary.
Students are tested on their muscular strength using a one repetition maximum, muscular endurance using a ten repetition maximum, cardiovascular endurance using a one mile run, flexibility using a sit and reach test and body composition using skin fold calipers.  Using the information from the fitness test, I organize and plan a fitness program for each student.  Students use the data from their fitness tests to create a short term and long term goal and reward.  In order to provide the student with the maximum amount of social and emotional support, this plan is shared with parents or the caregiver at home.  
Students who score at above average fitness levels may chose a short term fitness goal such as 'improve performance time by thirty seconds on the one mile run'.  A long term goal would include 'running a 5k race'.  For students who perform at average levels, they may choose short term goals such as 'exercise more frequently with friends' or long term goals such as 'try out for the school soccer team'.  For students who are performing at low levels, more immediate intervention is necessary.  PHYSICAL EDUCATION TEACHERS MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE!  The school nurse and I work closely together to provide a total life solution that involves planning changes for improved nutrition, gradual weight loss, and behavior modification. For students with varying disabilities, I help them establish obtainable goals that improve their physical performance.  One such goal may be 'to jump rope ten times without error' if they struggle to perform that skill.
Throughout the marking period, for every unit, every student is fitted with heart rate monitors to exercise in the appropriate training zone throughout class.  These monitors measure how many calories were burned, how many active steps were taken and how much time was spent in each activity zone, ranging from easy to vigorous.  This objective information is recorded daily, evaluated on graphs and monitored on an ongoing daily basis by myself, but also students and parents.  In the event a student is not progressing according to my fitness plan by the middle of the marking period, I first speak to the student to see if a re-evaluation of goals is necessary.  Then, I work with the student during extra help hours to get them back on track.  Next, I contact home if the goals are still far from being completed and send the student home with an activity log for after-school hours.  Finally, I invite the family to exercise with the student during family activity nights to encourage cooperation and motivation from home.
Overall, I enjoy using heart rate monitors in my classroom because they are vital to successful physical education programs.  They provide for assessments of individual fitness levels, which in turn shifts the attention from athletic ability to personal improvement.  This is the ultimate outcome for developing positive, lifelong exercise habits.  

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