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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Speaking of gym class

In a serendipitous moment, just as Alpheus tries to candy-coat the futility and cruelty of gym class, my own high school district finally relaxes the class's iron grip on students.
The plan as voted on will reduce staff in the physical wellness department by incorporating health–now a one-semester stand-alone class–into sophomore physical education classes, cut drivers education, and schedule junior and senior electives more efficiently...

After listening to teachers talk about the importance of physical activity and drivers education, Superintendent Nanciann Gatta pointed out that while physical activity is important, the district now requires eight semesters of physical education and one of health–and only six of math and four of science.
I suppose I should not get worked up over the fact that these requirements have been in place--in that ratio--for at least a decade. One semester of gym class for every semester of high school enrollment--and no exceptions for such irrelevant substitutes as varsity sports participation. (Although that last rule may have changed since my tenure.)

Sure, I would've preferred to have a lunch period my senior year instead of standing out on a softball diamond in shorts and a t-shirt in November for 40 minutes a day. I probably could've found something better to do with my time instead of a summer school health class I was forced to take because it too was required for graduation on top of all that gym time, during which I spent eight weeks watching powerpoint presentations depicting the symptoms of chlamydia that the instructor had outsourced to the students so that he could get paid to surf internet sports sites. (He also told us he invented the cheese hat that Green Bay Packers fans wear and became a millionaire from it.) One day, when we look back on the successes and shortcomings of NCLB, the elimination of the colossal waste of time that was health class at Niles West will rank among its triumphs.

It's true that things worked out ok for me in the end. Now, maybe they will also work out better for other people. After much searching, I finally found the actual restructuring plan. (Notably, the revamped school "newspaper" has opted to forgo coverage of teacher firings and curriculum changes in order to whinge more extensively about how unfair the school ban on Facebook is.) While I am deeply dismayed to see such illustrious traditions as "Fashion Workshop," "Sports and Entertainment Marketing," and "Interior Design 1 and 2" (we had this???) bite the dust, I find it difficult to be upset about increased emphasis on real subjects at the expense of such otherwise edifying and important instruction as "Chlamydia 101, or How I Became Rich By Selling Cheese Hats."

9 comments:

Andrew Stevens said...

Ralph Bruno was your health teacher? That guy's a living legend, but I thought he still lived in Wisconsin.

Miss Self-Important said...

No, surprisingly, that was not my health teacher's name. And I mean, who would've suspected that a part-time summer school health instructor in Skokie would lie about inventing cheese hats or being a millionaire?

Alpheus said...

"If You Can Read This And Don't Have Chlamydia, Thank A Teacher."

Miss Self-Important said...

"But probably not your health or gym teacher, who may not be able to read this."

Anonymous said...

My mother's strategy at her Catholic high school was to take 4th year Latin, and that got her out of phys ed. dave.s.

Miss Self-Important said...

Well, we had neither Latin nor exceptions to the rule. I took so many classes one semester that they cut my lunch, but not gym.

Michael said...

FYI:

The administration at your old high school now micromanages the online newspaper to the point of making the principal the de facto editor in chief. That is the reason why you see so little coverage of the issues involving anything having to do with the school board.

Michael said...

FYI, part two:

It should be noted that four tenured teachers lost their jobs as a result of that decision. However, considering that tenured teachers are the new anti-Christ, I am sure that does not resonate.

Miss Self-Important said...

Why is the administration more concerned about the online newspaper more than the paper one?

If it's necessary to keep offering health and fashion workshop and interior design regardless of their value to students in order to keep people employed, then no, it doesn't resonate very loudly. The district can shuffle those teachers somewhere else if it wants to hold on to them personally, but I don't see how this is a strong argument for never updating the curriculum.