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 http://www.ScholasticTableTennis.com) 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

http://www.TeacherFitnessUSA.com
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

http://www.ScholasticTableTennis.Com
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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Our Great American Teachers

Blog #1: July 4, 2009: Our Great American Teachers

Thank God, for teachers! We are the backbone of American culture. We are the front line of every attack and every assault on our system of education. We are there for the children of America. And considering everything we have to put up with – We do one hell of a job! And, we have a long and storied history of serving America and our children. Why? Because teachers are that rare blend of the Arts and Sciences – We couple our knowledge with our humanity and we work with students to develop talents and potential. We are known best for two basics: We give hope in the future and the skills to be successful. One without the other will not suffice. Author, John Steinbeck, said it well…

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”
– John Steinbeck

I have been a teacher all my life and I am proud of my profession, because like Taylor Mali (www.taylormali.com) says, we make a difference. We hold kids accountable for the standards of life. We develop talent and we make kids recognize their responsibilities to themselves and to society. We make kids understand their part in the story of America, their community, their school, and their family. And, we do it with the deck stacked against us.
We teachers uphold the values of our American Cultural traditions. We perpetuate the ideals of America and we establish the basis of every new generation. Our youth who join the military and serve their country developed their patriotism in schools as well as families. Our youth who become law enforcement officers were molded in our schools as well as our families and churches. Our youth who dedicate their lives to bettering the world through science, technology, and literature developed their moral values and their sense of loyalty to the pursuits of life, liberty, and the happiness formed their insights and loyalties through our schools and the context of schooling. Our system of education may be under constant attack by the press and the public, but let them try to teach! It is one thing to preach, but quite another to teach! Our system of education has always been under attack – so what! What else is new! However, we have always responded with integrity and with dedication. After all, we are teachers. The purpose of education, as Plato said, is to make men good, and we do indeed make men good – And, to improve upon Plato, we also make women good too – just a little poetic license here – its always healthy to poke a bit of fun at those historic old foggies of yesteryear!
Speaking of Plato, he was one of the first to recognize the significance of teachers and who it is we who transmit the culture of a society, inspire the youth toward ideals of their culture, and unify the values of the body politic, religion, and family. He advocated for a government system of education for the perpetuation of a democracy. He predates Thomas Jefferson in stating that the strength of a democracy depends on the education of its citizens. Plato was the one who stated that a democracy called for the best of education for its citizens in order for its survival. However, it wasn’t an education aimed at some narrow and prescriptive set of standards that were academic in nature. Plato and all the Greeks realized that education must provide its citizens with a basic understanding of right and wrong, good and bad, noble and base. Education was necessary for all citizens, not just males. Plato saw the necessity of universal, state run education for the perpetuation of the entire society. And, he fully understood the relationship between the system of education and the cultural context of the society in which it functioned. His biggest fear in a democracy was not the abuse of power, but rather the abuse of liberty. He feared that an uneducated populace would abuse the very rights that made the society great. Unbridled liberty would be the death of a democracy. Rights, he maintained must be tempered by responsibilities. Plato also saw to it that the culture of the people should define the purpose of its government as well as the system of education that supported the government.
Our system of education is perpetuated by the teachers. We make or break the society in which we live. We are the transmitters of culture, and values, and ideals. Without us, our Great American Culture would cease to exist. God Bless our teachers and our schools.
That’s my story and I am sticking to it!

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Hello world!

Hello Out There in Blog Land,

I am not your typical university professor…

I know that teachers are the saving grace of our system of education and democracy itself…. I have five kids who have gone through the system… And I have been everything from a teacher, coach, principal, professor, and department chair at the university level.

Education has problems but it is not because of the teachers….

Schooling has problems – But it is not because os the teacher…

I think the system of education has a lot of problems and much of it needs to be replaced by common sense logic. Here are some of my major concerns – all of which will be addressed in up-coming blogs…

1. Homework – The schools have no right to take away my family’s evening time. That is family time. Ask you school or your district if they have ever undertaken a study to determine the efficacy of homework. They haven’t … We have no proof that homework actually works… except for PE homework… What kind of homework is best for what time of student? I think homework is the greatest, most destructive force that has every been established by our government and forced on every family from late August until mid June – And, we have no opportunity to negotiate or bargain about any part of it… So much for parent input in education.

2. Multiculturalism is a step in the wrong direction – Perhaps it was founded on good intentions, but it is not the way to go… I will give you some reasons why and some great ideas for overcoming it…

3. Special education is getting way out of hand … And, I am a professor of special education and two of my brothers died as a result of disabilities… But we are way off beat in this arena…. Inclusion is the big problem – Not the spirit of inclusion … But the misinformed manner in which school are going about it… The very kids for whom it was intended to serve are being harmed… And no one has the courage to stand up and say enough is enough… I will…

4. Schools are zoos – They are obese and bloated! – We need small schools and, until we have them we will have to put up with lots of violence and wasted time in the classroom…. Small is beautiful…

5. Teacher salaries are about one third of what they should be! Teachers deserve so much more than we pay them… And, society needs to understand how significant they are in our culture of freedoms and responsibilities…

6. Classrooms should be a 1:10 ration in K-3, 1:15 in 4-6 and 1:20 at the most from then on…

7. Kids need to be held accountable to basic manners and respect… We have a sloppy parents who fail to discipline their kids and schools need to step in and do the job for them if they won’t … But, most parents have no idea about the basic manners their kids need just to survive in our civilized world…

More to come later… I have so many things to say  – all backed up with logic and facts…

Steve

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