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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Kids Don't Learn Everything In The Classroom

Kids Don't Learn Everything In The Classroom

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"Oh you teach gym? That must be easy?"

I always want to hand over the reign and title of coach to people who say that. Ya, it's true that anyone can be a coach just like anyone can be a teacher. But not everyone can be an effective coach or an effective teacher.

As a Physical Education teacher, that is exactly what I convey in my teaching. My goal is to educate every student in my classroom about maintaining a strong physical well-being so they can get the most out of their lifetime and possibly extend it beyond having an early heart attack or being diagnosed with diabetes at age 10.

There are so many qualities that a student learns in an effective Physical Education classroom. Here are some of the following things:

  • Development of strong social skills with others
  • Learning teamwork in small and large groups
  • Developing stronger muscles and cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Sports skills, movement concepts, and techniques
  • Quick decision making
  • How to handle winning and losing with respect

The list could go on forever.

Do I play kickball sometimes with the kids? Yes, of course, it is a classic team building game.

Do I sit back and allow students the autonomy to perform a task and allow them to experience success on their own? Yes, what good is it if I do everything for them? If I give them all the answers and don't allow them to develop problem solving skills, I am prohibiting their growth and learning.


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Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Teaching Middle School 'Technology, Engineering & Design' in Northfield, NJ

Eric, I hear you, it's easy for those of us who teach classes in "non-core" subjects to sometimes feel like what kids learn in our classes is somehow less "valuable" ... but that's clearly not the case. As far as Physical Education goes ... if you haven't heard the phrase, take some time to explore the concept of "whole child" education - this ASCD site is a great start:


See what is listed FIRST? Being HEALTHY!

So, feel free to use the information in this site (and the 'whole child' concept in general) any time you need support for what you do every day, because IT DOES MATTER.

Oh and by the way, of all the things you list, my personal favorite is the last one - winning and losing with respect. Character education is SORELY NEEDED in our society. So, thanks for making sure your students get that!

Best, kj

Eric's picture
K-5 Physical Education Teacher

Ya Kevin, health is the number one thing because this is the only body we have to live in. If we don't have a healthy body, how can we have a healthy brain to function? During physical activity our body systems are better able to function. Thanks for your insight and the "whole child" education website! That will prove to be very informative.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

This piece is timely --- it comes at a time in my life when I'm returning to a sport that once dominated my life: tennis. Yup, after ten years of retirement, I'm picking up the rackets again. This time, however, it's to supplement my jogging and to have some fun with friends instead of intense tournament and league play.

I will never regret playing tennis. The hours spent on court playing, teaching, and coaching carved me into who I am today. It's almost safe to say that tennis is responsible for most of my professional success off the court.

On a tennis court (not a classroom):

Friendships: Tennis is social. There's really no choice. Well, at least in a non-competitive situation. The social aspect of tennis allowed me to have conversations with strangers and friends alike. I've built many personal and professional friendships along the way.

Health: I grew up an obese child. It wasn't because I didn't play sports--it was what I ate. However, with the transition to high school, I knew my little league playing days and street hockey playing days were coming to an end. Around the seventh grade, I decided to take control of my eating. I lost around sixty pounds. I transformed into a new person. After hurting my arm playing freshman football, I started playing tennis my junior year. Tennis kept me fit for the next fifteen years.

Lucrative: Tennis allowed me to teach privately and work for various tennis facilities and country clubs. I also learned how to string tennis rackets. And by working at tennis clubs, I earned playing rights (Free indoor play). I could have easily made tennis my career. Hey, if teaching doesn't work out, I might just do that.

And lastly, the most important quality engrained in my skull, pounded in my skull, even melted by the hot summer sun on a tennis court, and then drizzled over my brain...is CONFIDENCE (which includes- tenacity, will power, persistence, work ethic, courage, and resilience)

After I stopped playing tennis, I redirected my intensity, will power, persistence, etc... that I learned from tennis, into my professional life. And it paid off. I was able to shrug off writing rejection and keep on submitting until I finally published a story. I worked hard to earn a Masters Degree. I don't want to list my resume here, but I think you get the picture. What I learned on the tennis court is, and always will be, irreplaceable and the reason for a lot of my success.

Wish me luck. See you on the courts.


Eric's picture
K-5 Physical Education Teacher

Thanks for sharing Gaetan. Sports and athletics are and always will be the foundation of where I learned a whole lot of life skills.

Confidence is a good one to add to the list. Seeing that accomplishment in sports can really help flourish other areas of your life. And like you said, that confidence tags along with the persistence to continue on, the dedicated work ethic, and the courage to face any challenge.

Janicerwagner's picture

I am new to this group. But being a parent i am little concerned about my child's study. He is studying in SunnyBrook School Toronto, he is always interested to play computer games. Don't even talk to me. I am really afraid. What should i do? His school has many facilities like clubs, musical programs etc. They are giving good education also.
But i need a solution for this problem? I scold him many time but no response.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.


How are is grades?

He's a gamer, no doubt. The new "Sport". As a parent, it's hard to see your kids show no interest in a sport or music. As hard as this might seem...sometimes if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Start playing video games with him to see what it's all about. There might be value in the video game you're not seeing from the outside.


Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Teaching Middle School 'Technology, Engineering & Design' in Northfield, NJ

Great response, Gaetan!

I think balance is key. Find out what outdoor activities your son really, really enjoys - and make time to do them together. If he's not been to a professional sports game, consider taking him. Remember that he's going to "try on" several different forms of entertainment until he finds what's right for him. I also agree that playing WITH your son is a great idea to try. Take a genuine interest in the games he's playing. Ask him to show you how to play. If possible, join in right then and there.

There are many benefits to playing video games, but, again, the key is balance. Have you tried setting limits with him, building in incentives for compliance rather than punishments? In other words, if he keeps to the schedule you develop together, he gets to do something really enjoyable (and preferably, something involving physical activity?)


Eric's picture
K-5 Physical Education Teacher

I love the idea of incentives for compliance rather than punishment for not complying. Punishment is beneficial but there also needs to be a balance between punishment and incentives. Showing children love is what they really need and that you care about them no matter what their decision. Parents need to set the expectations for children and stick to them no matter the response of the child. Don't give in because then they will begin to take advantage and know what they can get away with.

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