I have been teaching P.E. at the community college level since 1993, and when I decided I wanted to pursue it as a full-time career, I went back to school in 1997 and received my masters degree in Physical Education in 2002. Having my M.A. gave me the credentials to be hired at the local university as well as travel and teach education courses for fitness instructors.
When I first started teaching activity classes at the local college, the requirements to earn an A in my classes were to have no more than two absences and either write a paper about taking part in an outside fitness event, like a 5K, or to take some type of exam at the end of the term which covered fitness principles, safety and choreography. There were times when I would also do pre/post fitness testing so students could ascertain how much they improved over the semester. Even though there was either papers or exams given, every single person I ever told that I teach P.E. would say, "At least you don't have any papers to correct." I always found that offensive and assuming and it used to really upset me. It has always been the typical mind set of everyone from other teachers, to the general public that anyone teaching P.E. was a slacker.
Fast forward ten years and now if someone says something like that to me, I want them to walk in my shoes for a few weeks and then tell me what they think. First, we don't call it P.E. anymore. It is Kinesiology. That term takes into account that we study and teach anatomy, physiology, psychology and biomechanics as well as all forms of sport, and exercise.
A typical semester for my students includes pre fitness testing, using computers to analyze results, writing fitness/health goals, writing updates of those goals every 3-4 weeks, or keeping a fitness journal, performing choreography or teaching movements to the other students, taking post fitness tests and analyzing those results to write a comparison and a reflection at the end of the term.
For me there is a constant flow of papers coming in to correct, analysis of music, creating new choreography for my dance classes, watching dance DVD's and memorizing them, creating and uploading online study tools for handouts (PDF's), attending 10 hours or more of continuing education each semester, and holding office hours. For every hour I am in class there are 3-4 hours outside of that class each week of preparation and that is just for my activity courses. Lecture courses the work triples, but that is a different scenario.
These new standards have risen up because at least in California we have had to increase our standards to prove that activity classes are worthy of remaining on the schedules in Kinesiology departments of both community colleges and universities. We are still being attacked, but are doing everything possible to prove teaching movement has just as much credibility as teaching students math, English and history. One of my supervisors says. "You can come to college and earn a degree, but it won't do any good if you die at age 35 of a heart attack because you didn't learn how to take care of your body."
Educating the general public is our duty as fitness instructors, so that ignorant thought processes that belittle what we do are replaced with respect and admiration. Always stand up for your profession! You are not "just a gym instructor, or just a P.E. teacher," you help people live better, longer and more productive lives. That is always something for which to be proud.
Written 3/05/2011 for the community.spinning.com blog by MI Sabrina Fairchild
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