At the start of a lesson the phys ed staff would chase the stragglers out of the changing rooms, lock the door, collect the equipment from the pavilion and then walk down to the stone monument by the 1st XV rugby pitch (by winter and spring) or the athletics track (by summer). It was the same routine every time we were on ‘double games’ and as we walked the last few metres one of us would cry out “Red door and back!” E v e r y l e s s o n and every time the pupils would start moving towards the door. Now the red door was about 100 metres from the monument and the minute or so it took the students to amble the course gave us time to set up the first drill and deal with the malcontents who were trying to ‘avoid’ participating. Behind us and up the slope the other groups was running around the hockey pitch or the netball courts and so on...this is how the habits of phys ed go.
Is such a bad habit just another expectation or character trait of the stereotypical physical education teacher? I didn’t shout “red door and back” because I had thought about the consequences of the instruction but because I learnt to copy my head of department. However, once I had assumed this catchphrase it became part of my repertoire. I used it naturally, often unconsciously, and it became the way that lessons started. I vaguely recall similar warm-ups when I was a pupil but nothing so memorable as this enduring catchphrase. This got me wondering...is this the same the world over? Does phys ed have a bad habit that it doesn’t really know about and isn’t that bothered about?
I am planning a blog but could do with some help. Can anyone remember how their phys ed lesson used to start? (i.e. three laps of the pitch)
@DrAshCasey when I was at school we had to jog round the painted lines of the netball court in a line, with the leader choosing the route.
Later @JoeyFeith, an phys ed teacher from Canada, wrote:
@DrAshCasey I remember attendance, followed by a long intro, and then drills #physed
This shows up a popular manifestation of phys ed that we must eradicate but which still persists but the pedagogical implications of this approach need discussing at another time. Anyway, before the weekly ukedchat on twitter I took advantage of the crowds and asked the question again only to receive the following disheartening replies from @JfB57 and @chickensaltash respectively:
@DrAshCasey Skipping round the room swinging arms, running on spot, star jumps! Agh! #ukedchat
@DrAshCasey We always had to run round the field 4 times - if PE teacher was hung over it was 20 times then lesson finished! #ukedchat
@DrAshCasey I remember laps of the oval and star jumps.
@DrAshCasey I actually like to start with an easy warm up game. When I was a student it was always a run to the gate and back.
@DrAshCasey I know a teacher (experienced and very well known) who stretches instead of warming up. Even 1st period of morning in winter.
@DrAshCasey My middle school PE teacher always started with, "Boys on the court. Girls on the bench." Seriously.
The habits we have are not always good and sometimes they are detrimental to ourselves and others. I would not like to liken smoking to poor beginnings in phys ed lessons but both are highly damaging. The ways in which we prepare students for phys ed will, as these twitter conversations suggest, be remembered for life. If we make lessons an enjoyable and positive experience then we begin to encourage students towards a lifelong habit of physical activity but that simple though just doesn’t seem to be the case - even nowadays. I have blogged before about the backstream chatter around physical education on twitter and it really isn’t very good. Still, on a positive we can decide not complain about the complaints students are making and do something about it. In the words of the poet Rita Dove “There are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints.”