The last two days
In college, our academic building used to be the "Men's Gym". It had a newer, fancier name but no one ever remembered what it was. The sign in front still said, "Men's Gym". Student's and faculty alike referred to it as, "the old Men's Gym". It was a wonderful place. I learned and taught great things there. I hope I do the same here.
Talk to your kids "Ask them, 'Do you like P.E.?'" advises Susan Kalish, director of the American Running and Fitness Association. "Kids naturally like to exercise and, if your child doesn't enjoy P.E., he's probably not getting much out of it. You should ask him, 'Why don't you like it?' and then you should talk to the instructor."
Support equality Perhaps the world's worst sport is dodgeball, or murderball. In it, a player "kills" another by pelting her with a ball. The least agile players inevitably die early on, and then just sit, embarrassed, on the bleachers. Parents should lobby against such elimination games, advises Judith Young, director of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. "P.E. teachers," Young says, "need to make gym class comfortable for all children by grading tasks. If you're throwing balls at targets, for instance, let kids stand closer. and move back as they master skill"
Make sure they're active In a 1993 study, Bruce G. Simons-Morton, a researcher at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, found that, in an average P.E. class, students were physically active only 8.6 percent of the time.
Simons-Morton advocates an "organized chaos." Classes, he prescribes, should often be split into small groups. A recent study showed that, by making such changes, P.E. teachers were able to increase kids' active time to more than 50 percent. "But it's really hard work for the teacher," he warns.
Promote lifetime sports: Over the past 15 years, progressive P.E. teachers have increasingly turned away from sports like football and wrestling to embrace walking, running, and racquet sports -- in other words, activities that students are likely to continue for an entire lifetime. "Teachers should help kids develop a level of competence in several lifetime sports," argues Kalish, "so that when they're older, they can, say, go to a hotel that has a badminton net and think, 'Oh, I know how to play that!'" P.E. teachers should also teach kids why exercise is important, adds Young. "If they do that," she reasons, "kids will be more motivated to stay fit."
Do your homework: "Students aren't going to get all the activity they need in P.E.," says Young, "and parents need to reinforce lessons," by asking teachers for homework. A typical instructor might tell you to practice throwing -- to have your child make ten overhand and ten underhand throws each afternoon, for example -- or he might, alternatively, advise you to supplement gym class with activities like after-school dance, soccer and karate class. "Exercise needs to happen daily," explains Kalish, "and most kids have P.E. only two or three times a week. Parents need to make sure their children stay active on the other days. It's hard work, but it's worth it."