Blog #2: Obesity and Teachers

Blog #2: July 6, 2009: Obesity and Teachers
“Walk our Talk” – “Jog our Blog

My daughter once asked me, “Why do dogs bite when they get rabies?” I thought for a moment and replied: “Because, its their nature to bite.” She said, “Oh,” paused, said, “thanks” and walked away

The Nature of Teachers
It’s the nature of teachers to teach! To lead! To inspire! That’s what we’re all about. And, that is why the crisis of obesity will be defeated by us – The always dependable, always reliable teachers of America.

(After you read this, please go to my websites (www.TeacherFitnessUSA.Com and and help me get a Fitness Academy in every school … a Table Tennis Club… a Rag-Tag Marching Band… Let me know what you think… I need feedback and ideas… We can change America one teacher at a time!)

Not By Government Mandate
The problems of obesity will not be solved by a state or federal program. The problems of obesity will be solved by one teacher at every school – And, not necessarily the PE teacher (I am credentialed in PE, Spanish, School Administration, and Special Education). I have been a school teacher, coach, principal, and director of special education. I am a father of five children and currently a professor of education and I know the k-12 system very well.
At this point I am going to jump to my solution to the obesity problem and show you how we teachers will rescue America one more time! After my proposal you can read about my personal experience in school that lead me to this proposal. I started the Fitness Academy Model a number of years ago when I was teaching high school and again when I was teaching grade school, and it worked.
Now, some thirty-seven years later I am revising this model and offering it as the best hope for an immediate attack on the problems of obesity. And, this proposal can re-energize the vitality of every school in America – especially our elementary and middle schools. However, I need your help. The children of America need your help.

My One Teacher Proposal
We need one teacher at every school in America. One ordinary teacher who is actively involved in being physically fit. Or, a teacher who wants to begin to get physically fit. This teacher sets up a bulletin board and displays his or her fitness activities. If he or she is a tri-athlete, put up pictures showing competition and practice. Also, show schedules of events and tournaments and contests. There is no better exemplar than a teacher putting it all on the line! This serves as a source of motivation and encouragement. Also, there is no better way to motivate kids than to see their own teachers in action. (See my personal story below). This teacher then recruits fellow teachers and staff and all fitness activities are displayed. Then, these teachers start and American Fitness Academy.

An American Fitness Academy
An American Fitness Academy is a formal organization started by a teacher with membership composed of students and teachers. The members of the American Fitness Academy serve as the Board of Directors for “Everything Movement” – a series of movement activity clubs. The Board of Directors sponsors a series of fitness activity clubs by offering support and strategies. The process is the same for every club. It’s like a cookie cutter template for each new club. Some clubs are only for teachers, staff, and administration; some are only for students; and, some are for both – teachers and students (see Table Tennis Example). Basically, the American Fitness Academy serves as the umbrella organization offering support and advice to each of the clubs it sponsors.

A Movement Club – Offer It And They Will Come
If we want kids to become physically active we have to provide them with opportunities in the form of movement clubs – “Everything Movement.” The clubs I will propose are only suggestions – any club will suffice as long as it involves movement and is done on a team basis. Some examples of the clubs are: Table Tennis, Team Dance, Square Dance, Jogging, Track & Field, Walking, Badminton, Martial Arts, Ultimate Frisbee, Jumping Rope, Orienteering, Hiking, Stompers, Marching, Gymnastics, Yoga, Skating, and Skate Boarding.
These clubs can be coached by teachers, staff, parents, volunteers, older students, and almost anyone. The idea is to get the kids moving and having fun. America’s Got Talent is an understatement. We have the talent, we simply need the opportunity to demonstrate it. I was coaching an 8th grade basketball team when I was in the 9th grade myself – it can be done. I have seen a group of 6th graders coach 2nd and 3rd graders and it was a real hoot. Don’t underestimate potential.
Three Roles of Each Club
Each club will perform three functions: First, it will organize grade level by grade level contests in its area of dedication. Second, each club will sponsor a competitive table tennis team that will compete against other schools in the district/area. Third, each club will sponsor and organize community events and activities as well as public relations.

A Rag-Tag Marching Band
Finally, I am suggesting that every school in America start its own Rag Tag Marching Band. This is no ordinary band, but rather a band that plays tambourines, harmonicas, kazoos, fifes, flutes, etc., and a few other similar types of primitive instruments that are fun to play and entertaining. The theme, dress, and music of these bands must be patriotic, Americana, historic, pioneer, frontier, early American and western in nature. These Rag Tag Marching Bands should provide entertainment for any and all fitness, movement, and sports programs. These are marching and syncopated teams with a careful focus on choreography. It is hoped that all uniforms will be low-budget and perhaps home-made. Hats are welcome and recommended. The image in mind should be the classic Drum and Fife type band depicted with the Yankee Doodle Dandy portrayal.

Table Tennis Club – A Teacher & Student Team

The first club that I am going to strongly recommend is a Scholastic Table Tennis Club. It will consist of one male and one female teacher/coach who will compete against other teacher/coaches. Their scores will count in the final tabulations for winning. Aside from the fact that table tennis is an Olympic sport, is cheap and easy to play, tables will be donated by parents, PTA/PTOs, and other community groups, and table tennis takes limited space, I chose it for the following reasons.
A) Everyone can play it (or thinks they can play it);
B) It is easy to learn;
C) It is fun to play;
D) It costs almost nothing for a paddle and balls;
E) The tables are easily donated by parents;
F) Every grade level can play;
G) Fund raising is easy and profitable via tournaments:
* grade level by grade level,
* faculty & staff tournament,
* parent tournament,
* faculty vs parent tournament,
* faculty vs student tournament, and
* community-wide “open” tournament.
H) No one has their ego involved in table tennis;
I) Everyone believes he or she can play,
J) Everyone wants to play,
K) you don’t have to be in shape to play,
L) No one will ache the next day,
M) injuries are almost non-existent,
N) Table tennis will attract a number of students,
O) Table Tennis is a social sport, and
P) Table Tennis attracts kids who often do not play sports.

The pain and suffering of being an obese child leaves lifelong scars and painful memories of childhood. Obesity robs a child of life. Obesity robs a child of the fun of being a child. Obesity is destructive of happiness and harmful to health and wellness. One of my sisters was obese and the other was always in great shape – their childhoods were totally opposite.

My Personal Experiences – Olympic Trials
The previous recommendation is based, in part, on my own personal experiences as a high school teacher and coach in 1972. Aside from coaching football and wrestling, I was wrestling and preparing for the Olympic wrestling trials. I typically ran everywhere, watched my diet, and exercised daily. What I quickly realized was the tremendous influence I was having on my own students. They kept asking me why I was always exercising and why I wouldn’t eat certain foods at lunch…

When I told them about preparing for the Olympics and that I played Rugby as well, they were keenly interested. I told them that I was keeping in shape for about 35 other reasons, as well. I told them that I played football and I wrestled in college and I wanted to stay in good shape so my clothes fit better, so I could go camping and hiking with my wife, so I could always feel good, stay healthy, and teach better. I said fitness kept me healthy and made me a happy teacher and not some miserable ole’ grouch. I said I liked playing sports and it was fun to be fit.

My Fitness Bulletin Board
My students wanted to know more about my work-outs, my rubgy team matches, my wrestling tournaments, and even about my diet and rest. So, I started putting up pictures and schedules and articles about fitness and wellness. To my delight, my students were impressed and started their own after-school fitness program. Some started jogging and weight lifting, and even a bike-riding club – The Trail Blazers.

Fitness Homework
I then started to assign “Fitness” Homework (not totally mandatory – but highly encouraged). My students loved it! Their parents loved it, also. In my experiences at all levels of education I have found that there is no real proof that homework actually works – ask your school for any efficacy studies about what types of homework is best for which types of students. Ask your district if they have any data on the effectiveness of homework. We do know, however, that fitness homework is effective for everyone – No questions asked. Fitness works.

The Teacher Fitness Club
The Teacher Fitness Club is intended to have teachers compete against other schools in the same district or city with monthly or bi-weekly assessments of fitness. The best process is to use the President’s Council on Fitness as the standard for fitness achievement. It is a free, on-line program designed to record fitness levels for both children and adults. There are a number of other competition sites, but the President’s is the easiest to use and very accurate.

That’s my story and I am sticking to it!

American Fitness Academy


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