Jefferies, pelinks4u publisher
Old Dogs and New Tricks
As some of you know, in addition to writing editorials for pelinks4u, since May I've also written a monthly blog on SHAPE America's Exchange. I've focused almost exclusively on promoting SHAPE America's 50 Million Strong by 2029 goal. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I encourage you to take a look because this goal represents a significant change in thinking about health and physical education teaching.
For too long we have been the school underdogs. And too often we've felt like whipped puppies. We've longed for respect and lamented over the lack of appreciation for the young lives we've changed in our classes. Some teachers have tried harder and produced extraordinary results. Some have withdrawn, lost interest in teaching effectively, and focused instead on satisfying their quest for success through coaching. For several decades, we've witnessed professional ups and downs. Positions and programs are cut here and added there.
We've enjoyed remarkable success in funding through PEP grants. Yet despite close to a trillion dollars of investment, what do we have to show? Where are the success stories? Not the short-term ones. The sustaining changes. Certainly, the massive infusions of equipment in our programs transformed teacher and student lives for a few years, but then what? After the dead batteries and the run down, worn out, broken, and no longer usable stuff? Long-term what have these grants achieved? It's an honest question and I invite you to answer. pelinks4u is ready to showcase truly transformative PEP grant change.
Which brings me back to the importance of 50 Million Strong by 2029. This is something different. It's a lifeline for the profession. Didn't realize we needed one? Well look around. If you haven't noticed, over the past decade there's been an explosion in physical activity-promoting organizations. And they have your school in their crosshairs. While I don't doubt the motivation of these organizations, it's clear that elevating respect for health and physical education teachers is not their priority. They want us to help them but their interest in helping us is less clear. You see, what they want is not something they can easily deliver without us. Presently, they don't have a permanent existence in our schools. They need us or they need to replace us. And in some places the replacing has begun. Outside groups have taken over the organizing of physical activity within school settings. In some places even replacing physical education.
Now that should get your attention. Yes, I'm talking about your job, your future. It may not matter if you are close to retirement, but should strike fear into most teachers. Do you have an alternative career in mind? Doubt this could ever happen? You forget, it already has. No one saw that coming either. No need to look very far back in history to see companies, organizations, and professions who were here one day and gone the next. Remember someone shouting to you, "Kodak moment?" Today, it's no longer a photo-taking opportunity, but an example of an organization that didn't respond fast enough to change and is now close to extinction.
50 Million Strong by 2029 has the potential to transform the trajectory of the health and physical education professions. But only if all of us get onboard. Just like the teams many of us coach, we can't succeed if too many of our teammates don't contribute. And it's this that worries me. If we don't care enough to change the way we teach, we like other professions risk demise. Nothing lasts forever and neither will we. Most people outside of teaching understand that their jobs are not guaranteed. But many of us who teach have been lulled into thinking that we are irreplaceable. It ain't true!
To succeed with 50 Million Strong by 2029 the path health and PE teachers need to take is not complicated. We need to assume responsibility within schools for getting kids physically active and healthy using the time periods before, during, and after school. It may not be the job you thought you signed up for, but it's the change that is going to save health and physical education teaching. It's time to quit using the limited time we have to trying to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. That's not our job. It's a distraction to what we should be doing: Preparing students with the skills, knowledge and motivation to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Steve Jefferies, pelinks4u publisher
SHAPE America President