School Outrage of the Week: No Cartwheels Unless “Trained Gymnastics Teacher” Supervising

Hi Readers! If you send your kids to the Drummoyne publics grammar school in Sydney, kindly instruct them to stay upright their whole day, as cartwheels, head- and handstands are no longer allowed unless  “under the supervision of a trained gymnastics teacher and with correct equipment,”‘  according to the Local West Courrier.

The ruling comes from the principal who is worried abut (all together now) INJURIES and LIABILITY, the twin Dementors driving schools crazy with fear and dread. The fact that the school just re-surfaced its playground with soft stuff to make falls even safer plays no role. Or perhaps it plays it usual PERVERSE role: The safer things get, the more safety we demand.

Rebecca Chown, the mother of Estelle, 10, an unrepentent cartwheel enthusiast, started a pro-fun petition that already has s250 signatures. According to The Telegraph:

Ms Chown first heard about the ban when her daughter Estelle, 10, came home on August 17 and said children had been told they couldn’t do anything that had them “upside-down”.

Estelle said: “It’s really frustrating because they ban everything and there is not much else for us to do.”

While Ms Chown said she understood the risks, children were playing, not training to be gymnasts.

Instead, we’re training kids to sit and blob out, all in the name of safety. Oh, and don’t be joyous either, kids. For your own sake. — L

AND HERE’S A DRAMATIC 38-SECOND RE-ENACTMENT OF THE BAN, STARRING THE GIRLS OF ROSMARINS BUNGALOW COLONY

62 Responses

  1. So ridiculous…. what next? Eliminating the playground because injuries incurred on it will be a “liability”. Another stupid rule from an overly litigious society. I think the kids at that school should all just mutiny and have an all out Cartwheels Recess. See if administration could stop that !!!!!😉

  2. Bah. This reminds me of the time I got 4 demerits in the 8th grade during GYM CLASS, while we were doing GYMNASTICS for doing a front handspring. This, despite the fact that I’d taken gymnastics for nearly 10 years and knew precisely how to safely do a handspring. Eff that gym teacher.😉

    Seriously though, I hate this fear of getting hurt. I was in the nurse’s office several times a week after recess throughout most of grade school, getting cuts and scrapes cleaned out and bandaged. If you regularly make it through recess without injury, you’re doing childhood wrong.😛

  3. Of course kids shouldn’t have any fun! Isn’t it obvious? If they have fun even once, how will their little hearts cope with all the times when no-fun activities are imposed on them? If they never had fun, on the other hand, they just don’t know what they are missing, and go on living in the neither-happy nor-unhappy limbo.

  4. My son Alex finally learned with confidence to a round off back hand spring on the grass not the gym mats. He’s been doing it at recess and he knows to do it wasy out there where the yard duty won’t see him. They haven’t banned gymnastics but I’m quite sure they’d tell him to cut it out if one saw him.

  5. JUst found out from the school that my 11 year old son is allowed 30 minutes of recess per week on Wednesdays …”if the children do not lose their privilege by misbehavior” Let’s just beat all the joy out of them and get it over with.

  6. My 2nd grader is a cheerleader this year, and they banned any “stunts” (cartwheels, handstands, etc) in the cheers or during practice. I thought it might be because of insurance, but our first game was this weekend and they were doing cartwheels all over the place. My kid was really looking forward to doing that sort of thing..

  7. I was at a wedding two weeks ago and the kids, and several adults, were doing cartwheels on the ~gasp~ dance floor, which was hardwood! On noes!

    Also I keep hearing more and more about them cutting back on recess time, and yet I still get the age old “What about socialization” whenever I tell people I’m homeschooling. Sheesh.

    @Cheryl, I noticed the policy says “children” does that mean if one or a few children get in trouble they all lose recess?

  8. And on the other end of the spectrum, I recently had a conversation with my sister about elementary school gymnastics. I mentioned to her that I was always terrified of that stuff. She actually took gymnastics growing up, and she said that she was scared to do it at school, too, that the equipment was old and rickety. I don’t agree with the cartwheel ban, but maybe gymnastics isn’t the best gym class unit for public schools, since it is rather dangerous if the equipment is poor, or the teacher isn’t super-familiar with it or can’t give individual supervision. Might archery not be better? That’s a good skill, much less dangerous, and more people could participate.

  9. “Also I keep hearing more and more about them cutting back on recess time, and yet I still get the age old “What about socialization” whenever I tell people I’m homeschooling. ”

    I once had someone tell me that sitting next to another student doing the same worksheet is more socialization for a child than having a conversation with people such as a bagger at a grocery store.

    I really can’t understand why people choose to ignore study after study that says sitting in a classroom all day is not good for kids. It’s not making them smarter, and it’s making them less healthy, yet people still convince themselves it’s better for children…

  10. I am so glad to live in a sane part of the country. When my daughter was in the first grade, they were doing cartwheels on the lawn of the school. One girl actually did break her wrist. Her mothers reaction? Were you doing stunts? No, turned out she was on a slight hill and landed badly on her wrist. The administration told the girls this was an accident, be careful landing on a hill and continue to have fun.

    On another note, many kids were getting foot injuries from running around in the woods behind the school. Rather than banning this activity, kids were required to wear closed toe sneakers on the playgground.

  11. This is the 2nd insane ban from an Australian school in less than a week. Only a few days ago a Melbourne school banned children from all ball play before and after school on school property. And not too long ago another Australian school banned children from any physical contact with each other – not even a high-five, or a helping hand when a friend fell over!

    There is no possible justification for any of these bans. Children have been doing this sort of play forever. Very occasionally someone gets hurt, but It’s very unlikely that a school would ever be successfully sued in an Australian court for such an injury, and if they were their insurance would cover it.

    Children need risk in their play, and the new Australian Curriculum and the Early Years Learning Framework both support children taking risks in play. Decisions like these are positively harmful to children and are not in the spirit of those documents.

  12. Archery? OMG! My son is into archery. His training arrows (no sharp point) will still go about 8-12″ into a solid haybale. The kids that come by our house think I’m overly strict, but I enforce firing line rules and will take any kid out who is not following them. His child’s crossbow will sink the bolt completely into the haybale; at a guess it will go through a human body (again, this is with training points, not hunting points).

    He will not allow some of his friends near his bow, crossbow, or rifle because they’re too irresponsible; I can’t imagine in today’s “children can do no wrong and my child is perfect” upbringing that a marksmanship program would be allowed in any school. 😦

    OTOH, while archery and rifle marksmanship improve eye-hand coordination and mental and physical focus, they do little for overall physical health.

    Back to the original article: I noticed this weekend that the overhead slider (the kid hangs on and slides to the other end) now has a big dip in the middle, which means that it slows down, and more importantly makes it impossible for the child to swing him/herself back to the starting point.

    So the change means that what used to be active play – grab the handle, launch hard to bounce off the other end, and then swing back to the beginning – has become a passive one – lanch, wait for the truck to settle in the middle, and drop off.

  13. I am happy to see our new playground at school, which I feared would be a safety monger- inspired design, is instead crazy and fun. Spinning chairs, spinning monkeybars, and way high off the ground platforms. When I saw the old one go out and I heard one mom tsk, tsk the monkey bar-gotten broken arm by one child of 500, I worried. Thank you Austin school district for kicking it up a notch.

  14. Gosh, cartwheels make those dreaded soccer balls look like angels now, don’t they?

  15. This ranks up there with that school banning high fives. As much as we want our children to behave in a proper manner, and follow the rules…….we have to draw the line somewhere.

    Start telling our children they have our, their parents, permission to do cartwheels, high fives and whatever else we deem fine. Remind our children, that yes the teacher is in authority, but the teacher’s authority does not override ours, the parents.

    Then when they do get reprimanded by the school, we the parents get our asses in there, and stick up for our kids. Tell the school that we gave them permission, and that is all there is to it.

    All these schools and organizations need to be reminded, they work for us. As parents, we determine what is appropriate for our children, not them.

    We parents have to stop letting these people dictate to us, and start dictating to them. These are our children, not theirs. Our authority is the ultimate authority when it comes to our kids. If they do not like it, to bad.

  16. This is stupid

  17. mysticeye Yes. They have a stick system. Sticks are taken away for individual and group infractions. If there are not enough sticks left in the jar, the kids lose privileges. Welcome to Florida.

  18. In 4th grade, I remember being chided for doing a cartwheel at recess. The teacher was concerned that I did my cartwheel on a hard surface. I was told I should do it on the grass to be safe. I responded that I was being safe. That the ground under the grass could be uneven and throw my balance while I was upside down. And besides… I can safely to this… then I did a two one handed cartwheels back to back, on the hard surface. There were lots of gasps. But it was dropped, and I continued to do my cartwheels on hard surfaces. From time to time adults got upset, but even the principal knew, that I insisted on doing it that way, and let it go.

    Didn’t know I was such a mouthy, rule breaking, unsafe, scofflaw and liability.

  19. Oh, Australia, you were my last hope of sanity! I thought you were a sensible people, one I had looked forward to possibly joining one day in your wonderful country. Ah well, you’re still more laid back than Americans…now to convince my husband to find a way for us to be stationed there one day soon…

  20. That’s cool that your son does archery, Yan! I have read that thanks to The Hunger Games, there’s an archery boom on in the United States (probably in other countries where the books and film are popular, too, but the US boom is the one I’m aware of). That’s sort of why I suggested it. I think it could help build confidence and discipline in kids.

    I feel like I am literally the least athletic person on the face of the earth. Remember how the teacher would occasionally ask one of the terrible readers to read out loud to the class, and you’d be in middle school listening to this poor kid stumble over 3rd-grade words, and just wish someone would put a stop to it? That was me in gym class. I just didn’t get how to do a lot of really simple things. The teachers would think I wasn’t trying and yell at me. It didn’t take me too long to resent having to go to the class, to dismiss it utterly, to believe that anyone who liked it or cared about winning at volleyball or basketball was stupid. As a result, I’ve never been a physically active person. At an early, early age, I got the message that “this stuff isn’t for you.”

    But something like archery might be able to help the kids who were like me. I think it’s good to have a mix of stuff in gym class, but I definitely questioned the value of some of what we did. To this day, I’m not sure what our lengthy high-school gym units on badminton/pickleball/table tennis were supposed to do, other than fill time and give teachers on the cusp of retirement some rest. And I’m not sure that gymnastics should be taught in a setting where the teachers have likely received little specialized training, can’t keep the equipment upgraded and maintained regularly, and are responsible for a large number of children with varying skill levels. I also think, in general, schools would be better off focusing on things kids can do for their entire lives.

  21. and just HOW do you learn unless you practice? Practise involving the ocasional falling down, perhaps a doctor visit.

  22. I had poor motor function as a child. As you grow motor function can improve with practise and your general development. As in moving, biking, swimming, hand-eye coordination. You DO fall down quite a bit, can’t find hand-eye coordination. If anyone missed an open goal it was me, I could also just trip over my own feet or trip on a tiny stone and lose my balanse. Fortunately my parents took this all in stride. I still fumble and trip but it’s been a huuuuge improvement. Doing a cart wheel would most likely have had me wheeling into a wall😉, but that doesn’t take away that you should try, and be encouraged to try. I still practise by tossing a small ball up in the air and alternating catching it. Plus I do alot of paper folding which has helped to improve my fine motor skills.

  23. No matter whether it is baseball, cartwheels, tag or monkey bars, any physical activity comes with the understanding that there is the risk of injury. The risk of injury is part of it. There is absolutely no way to remove all the risk, it cannot be done, short of eliminating all physical activity.
    My daughter just had her season ending tournament. In the three games she played, she was hit by the pitch 4 times. Calf, ankle, hip and knee of the same leg. She has a good bruise on her calf, of which she is proud. Sure she is sore, and hell ya it hurt, I heard the smack on the calf from the stands. She didnt accept any sympathy from coaches or parents. She hustled down to first base, and eventually scored 3 out of the 4 times on base. Like she said, a walk is as good as a hit.

    At 13, and when she was younger, would tell you, that you play anything long enough you will get hurt in some manner. It is part of the game, and just a matter of time.

    Part of being injured, is learning how to deal with it. If kids dont experience pain, discomfort, restricted movement and the rest, how the hell are they gonna deal with it as adults.

    I am in great shape, but ya my knees hurt from time to time from various sports as does my shoulder and fingers. Guess what, I deal with it, and dont whine, and complain. Every ache and pain is associated with a fond memory of some game or specific play or sacrifice. Sacrifice as in taking one for the team.

    The morning after her tournament, when she woke up, her leg was stiff as a board. She hobbled out to the livingroom, looked at me and laughed. She is proud of herself, and I am damn proud of her,

  24. @Library Diva: I am the original Pillsbury Doughboy. At least I would be if I didn’t work out like crazy. No, I don’t have any special talents; my running is average at best, my cycling is OK, my kids call me Bob when I get in the water and try to swim, and don’t even talk to me about team sports. But it doesn’t stop me from hiking, backpacking, target shooting, or even doing duathlons.

    I really do recommend that kids try target shooting, either with an air rifle, a .22, or a bow and arrow, but only after taking a real safety class. Target shooting does teach discipline, mental and physical focus, and perseverance. My son was so mad after his first competitive experience that he tore up his targets. But that didn’t stop him from practicing, practicing, and practicing, and now he shoots on par with a good adult shooter.

    Shooting also teaches humility; we were on the range shooting at 25 yards with our rifles, and an old gentleman next to us was picking off bottle caps with a .22 pistol at 50 yards! You have shoot to understand what a feat of marksmanship that is.

    Kids need to fail, they need to learn how to overcome their shortcomings, and they need to strive for success. You can’t just give it to them. And they need to see what success looks like. Just like the old gentleman picking off the bottlecaps. Even with our rifles we could hit a bottle cap once every 10 rounds or so, while he was consistent at about 1 every 2.

    Oh, and as for school gym, I hated it too. I was no good at anything we did. It’s even worse now with gym being reduced to “safe non-impact” activities,like walking circles around the gym.

  25. @Library diva- There is something for everyone. Kids have all different ability and coordination levels. My kids could hit an archery target 100 feet away (we have them in our yard) but 2 out of 3 can’t do a decent cartwheel. Middle child is very unflexible even though she is a super fast runner and swimmer. Try archery! My son also digs his multiple slingshots (one he made himself). Aluminum cans from the recycling and rocks from the garden keep him busy for hours outside.
    But shouldn’t recess be about free play? Why so many restrictions? Seriously, when “your can’t do this” list outnumbers your “can do” list, don’t you think it’s time to evaluate what FREE PLAY really is? Sheesh, pretty soon they will be having them march in lines around the recess yard.

  26. Have they banned running yet? It’s dangerous. As is all balls, bats, sticks, snow, playground equipment (unless boringly slow or dull), touching, trees, grass (too hard!), bicycling to school, walking to school, and contact with any adult without a full background test. These are all things that have been banned at various schools in the last few years.

    The kids should only be allowed to walk slowing on soft, newly-raked sand, while completely supervised by trained, fully vetted adults. Yep, maybe walking should be out too, one student could trip on their feet.

  27. @Library Diva, right there with you! Couldn’t do a damn thing right in gymnastics, except occasionally walk across the beam without falling off, and I still regularly walk into table edges, chairs, steps….Only thing that got me through sports at primary school with some little dignity attached was the high jump, whic I could almost walk over because I was always the tallest kid in the class.

    Archery sounds like great fun, but also with Yan on the safety rules, which, beyond the basics, would probably vary with different children. For example, if someone like me was using it, the paddock should be evacuated prior to any arrows flying! My mother had similar issues with the javelin, which was standard issue at NZ high schools once – not sure if it still is. No one ever knew where she would through it, only roughly how far, so her class always moved well off the grounds prior to launch……:-)

  28. Up next eliminating typing class because of carpal tunnel syndrome

  29. My children attend Sydney schools. The primary(elementary) school forbids children to be out of the classroom when it is lightly sprinkling and when it is windy. They can’t even leave the classroom at lunch to walk to the library. Way over protective.

  30. When the children graduate from school all fat and lazy, the parents will be blamed. Just you watch.

  31. Third entry – people who live long healthy lives, including those who drink and smoke, live a long life because they are heathy through living an active life. Those who do not/can’t be active in their life are more likely to experience depression, obesity and serious health issues. All the evidence is there but no, here we are destroying the lives of children.

  32. @Library Diva – Not just Hunger Games but Disney’s Brave. My daughter – 6 and too young for Hunger Games – and her friend made homemade bows and arrows after going to see Brave this summer.

  33. Okay, fourth comment LOL – The New South Wales Government could learn from the most previous Queensland Government who made it compusory for primary schools to have children in active play for about an hour a day to combat obesity in children.

  34. School administrators are ‘lap dogs’ to the compensation culture. They know these rules are ridiculous. However they feel that they have no choice in the matter and are simply a puppet on a string.

    The strings that do the pulling are INJURIES and LIABILITY.

    If only we can pull some of these strings.

    We need to start holding them liable for failing to educate. They are causing depression in children because they are eliminating fun. They’re also reducing the lifespan of children because they are forbidding them to be active.

    Let’s build a case against them that involves injuries and liability because that’s the only thing that they listen to.

  35. Insurance companies set the rules. If schools eliminate fun then their insurance is cheaper. Common sense has nothing to do with it. Perhaps we can start boycotting or start putting out bad press about these insurance companies.

    We need a free range lawyer that will work pro bono. We need to launch a clash action suit against the school for forbidding kids from being active and thus encouraging them to be overweight and full of depression and/or anxiety. This is because they prevent children for learning life skills that help keep depression at bay.

  36. “Didn’t know I was such a mouthy, rule breaking, unsafe, scofflaw and liability.”

    Havva – these days, the school would probably call the police to have you taken away in handcuffs for such flagrant disregard for authority.

  37. @Lollipoplover: Kids may not be forced to march in lines at recess just yet, but haven’t you heard of “structured recess?” Here’s an article about it: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/15/education/15recess.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

  38. Schoolyard bullying is alive and well. Insurance thugs have school administrators shaking in their boots.

  39. Also, OMG LENORE!!! I can’t believe you put a video of CHILDREN on the INTERNET where PERVERTS could LOOK AT IT!!!

  40. In regard to suing, under Australian Law, one can only sue for lost income caused by the incident. As children are not gainfully employed, they cannot seek financial compensation.

  41. This insurance thing is a cop out, IMO.

    You don’t let the insurance company tell you what to do and what not to do. You tell the insurance company what you WILL be doing, and find the best rate you can to cover that activity. They may give you ideas on how to reduce the rate, but they are suggestions, not laws!

    If we had the balls to stand up – on mass – and say what we expect childhood to look like they would insure it. If skydiving schools can get insurance then SURELY my neighbourhood elementary school can too!

  42. My first grade daughter was not allowed to do cartwheels at her school at recess last year either. We’re home-schooling now.

  43. Emily, thanks for that link. A recess coach. No words.

    Recess is still the favorite period of the day for all my kids. They still have freedom to pick what they want to do. Running, soccer, jumping rope, and most other “free” activities are still permitted…for now.
    I hate to see articles like this. Cartwheels are fun! So is hopscotch, 4 square, and wall ball. Kids can figure out what to play without all those meddling adults standing around ready to ruin their fun.

  44. I think part of the problem here is that Drummoyne Primary School doesn’t have any grass in it’s playground (according to a parent talking on the radio this morning). It’s still a stupid rule, though.

  45. @Library Diva,
    Despite my cartwheeling antics, I lacked strength. On most things, I was right there with you getting the message that this physical stuff just wasn’t for me. Unfortunately osteoporosis runs on both sides of my family. I am studying up on what I need to do to avoid the pain my grandmother suffered and my mom is suffering… strength training and impact exercise. I’m quickly learning that there were modified versions of many exercises I “just couldn’t do” that can be used to build the strength needed to perform the actual exercise. I’m increasingly realizing that none of my “physical education” classes actually educated me on how to improve my physical conditioning. There was little to no focus on individual progress, so they largely presented the appearance that innate talent was the measure of success. Or as I tend to think of it… if the kid can’t do one pull up, and you don’t show him/her any exercises to target the appropriate muscles, how will the child do the 10 pull ups you are demanding?

    @ Lenore, I loved the video. Looks like the girls had fun flexing their acting muscles.

  46. Hi Lenore,

    You will probably find that this has a lot to do with a recent direction from the NSW State government that neither they nor the Education Department will accept any legal liability for any accident or incident that occurs at the individual government schools and becomes the subject of legal action. They have directed that the individual schools will now bear direct liability.

    Given that the State government is broke, the State schools are being constantly bled of State and Federal government funding and the Federal government is trying to bury the Gonski report (that they commissioned), a single successful civil action would virtually send any of these schools bankrupt. Hopefully this information will give an additional perspective to the discussion.

    For the government, your children’s education and welfare will always be seen in terms of money and the Pernicious Poodle of Potential Liability (close friend of the black dog of depression).

  47. When I was a teacher in Southern California about a decade ago, I was letting the girls do cartwheels on the playground under my supervision. I was a gymnast and a former gymnastics coach, so I figured I would be okay to do it. But I was reprimanded by the principal for allowing it. Sure is a different time than when I was a kid (in the 80’s). I did back handsprings across the entire playground, one right after another, pretty much every day at recess. I also did tricks on the bars. When I was teaching, the kids weren’t allowed to do anything on the bars but hang. Most playgrounds don’t even have such bars anymore.

  48. I would be interested to learn what would happen if the schools in fact went ‘bankrupt’.

    Schools were originally started – in Canada and the US, so I assume Australia too since it was ‘settled’ about the same time – by parent groups who hired teachers to provide the education they wanted for their children but couldn’t provide themselves.

    Somehow I think all the grade 1 parents would get together and hire a grade one teacher, etc, etc…

  49. I just told my 7yo this story and her spontaneous reaction was: “WHAT in the world?! OMG, I am SO glad I don’t go to that school!”

  50. I also have to think of all the high risk games we played when I was in primary. And I can only remember one being banned, and I didn’t blame them even then. It involved this game in which 2 kids facing eachother joined hands and a 3rd kids would stand between their arms. And then somehow – I forget the logistics – the kid in the middle would be turned upside down. The idea was that they would be put on their feet again in one swift movement, but it was very easy to stuff it up if you weren’t experienced in the game. They only banned it after a few kids fell head first on the pavers. No permanent injuries as far as I know, but I understood them not wanting to deal with head injuries quite that often.

    But they never banned elastics! Even though I remember pretty bad falls because we would invent more and more complicated “moves” and in the end your feet would just be completely stuck in the elastic and you then were supposed to free yourself with one elegant jump. Which regularly resulted in a face plant on the pavers if it failed. We all learnt a lot about calculating risk and knowing your own limits.

  51. For those who have been discussing how schools do not educate our kids specifically on fitness and strength. They do it thru play. Let’s look at it this way…………your child would he/she prefer an hour of games, running and interaction, or an hour of sit ups, stretching and pushups.

    Give your head a shake. Personal fitness. is personal fitness. Not a teachers responsiblility.
    As for those saying the schools didnt take into consideration of the individuals, with special limitations based on lack of natural ability…….
    I say COP OUT!
    Through school, I played hockey…well, football…..even better, and baseball even better. But I could not do a cartwheel or most other gynastics worth a damn. But I still did them, still tried and failed at some of them, and I didnt whine, or complain about my lack of natural ability to do gymnastics.

  52. How do we expect our children to grow and mature when schools make these kinds of decisions? I have no idea how to even respond to this silliness.

  53. I recently relocated to Mexico. We went to a playground one day with slides, swings, monkey bars, teeter totters, etc and the whole thing was built on cement!

  54. @Warren–I think the problem with physical education in schools is the fact that there’s no choice. I was born with a mild spatial disability (five weeks early, stuck feet first with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck twice), and as a result, I grew up with less co-ordination than most people. I was never good at team sports, and I didn’t get my full driver’s license until I was 25. Anyway, about the team sports thing, that doesn’t affect me too much as an adult, but when I was in school, gym class was almost ENTIRELY team sports, and it always turned into a total jock-ocracy, with the gym teacher as head jock, wondering why I wasn’t doing well, because I was good at the academic and creative subjects so I MUST not have been trying. The kids would tease me, I’d get hit by balls in the stomach, face, and other places (a basketball to the chest when you’re eleven or twelve and still growing breasts HURTS), and I’d often refuse to participate. As a result, I grew up thinking I didn’t like physical activity (except for swimming), so I became obese. Later on, I got old enough for the conditioning room and fitness classes at the YMCA, and discovered that I could run on the elliptical machine on my own, lift weights on my own, and do yoga on my own, and I was actually quite good at it–I eventually got my yoga instructor certification. Now, I enjoy yoga, swimming, going for a brisk walk or jog around the waterfront, and when I was in Australia, I took up body boarding as well, which is like surfing, except with smaller boards that you lie on on your stomach instead of standing up on. Anyway, if my physical education classes had given me the option of doing yoga, or other similar non-competitive activities, I would have taken them up on that option, and adopted healthy habits much earlier on. However, the way they do it now can actually discourage non-athletic kids from wanting to exercise.

  55. @ Warren…
    It is called a Physical Education class. So yes, I think there is a certain responsibility to educate the students on how to attain and maintain physical fitness.

    Play is part of that, a huge part of that, I agree. My schools also did classes which were “an hour of sit ups, stretching and pushups” and other adult fitness exercises. I don’t deride that either it is good information for many students. But those days were a huge problem for me, and many others in my class. All the hours of hockey, football, baseball, couldn’t fix the fact that I couldn’t do a pull up, and could do maybe two push ups. There were always several students in every class struggling mightily with these things.

    I disagree that these situations are outside of the PE teachers training and responsibility to educate the child about physical fitness, in a physical education class. It is no more unreasonable than expect a reading teacher to teach kids to read even if the parents didn’t teach them to read before sending them to school. And that doesn’t involve plopping a classic in front of them and laughing at them in front of the class as they stumble and guess their way through the first sentence.

    But even if people struggling with the basics/or classical exercises in PE were so terribly rare… the PE teachers should take the same responsibility that other teachers take when a student in their class, despite trying, has a unique problem. Other teachers suggest remedial exercises to help a kid get up to speed, academically. They take the responsibility to talk directly to the parents about such things. Why is a PE teacher absolved from suggesting any way to get a kid up to speed physically? Other teachers suggest parents consult a specialists if a kid is struggling (sometimes the school even provides the specialist). Why don’t PE teachers? In my school they could have replace a PE teacher with a physical therapist and filled a class every period with the weaklings the PE teachers were yelling at, rolling their eyes at, and calling “cop outs.”

    I didn’t have strong arms. As I quivered and failed at the basic exercise. The teachers zoomed in on struggling studdents, yelling “you need to keep trying.” Which I, and many others, did. After awhile more and more said forget it. I can’t blame them, It was hell, it was painful, I did my best not to ‘whine, or complain about my lack of natural ability.’ Did the teacher bother taking me and others like me aside in the weight room and saying… try this, it will help you with those push ups, pull ups, etc? NOPE. How about saying derogatory things if a student wasn’t lifting enough weight so they focused on the muscles groups that were already strong… or just hanging out by the wall because “hey quit goofing off” was a lot better then the PE teacher shouting that you “weren’t really trying.”

    Only recently did I learn that professionals absolutely don’t condone what every one of my PE teachers did. If you can’t do the exercise they target and gradually strengthen the responsible muscle groups. They don’t push you to your breaking point and then demand you do one more. Professionals modify the exercise to what you can comfortably do a few times, then have you do as many repetitions as reasonable. When you can reach the target number of reps without undue pain… they increase the difficulty. So for pushups, a physical therapist might even start a person against a wall. Once you can do 3 sets of 50 on the wall, do them against a counter. Once you can do 3 sets of 50 on the counter, do them against a table… and so on until you are doing your pushups on the floor like they were yelling at me to do in gym class all those years ago.

    That doesn’t require special equipment, that doesn’t require special training, that doesn’t require anymore time than was spent shouting “PUSH, YOU ARN’T TRYING HARD ENOUGH, PUUUSSSHHHH.” It just required a quick explanation and letting the students who couldn’t hack the pushups on the ground to get off the freaking ground.

    It is as Emily said… kids need appropriate options in order to help them adopt healthy habits at a young age. The current structure is discouraging the non-athletic kids from wanting to exercise. This isn’t recess, this is Physical Education and our tax dollars are paying for it. I don’t think it is ‘whining’ to ask schools to address common difficulties faced by students.

  56. @Havva–I agree with everything you said. In fact, when I was taking yoga instructor training, our teacher told us that, when we’re teaching a pose that has several different modifications, start with the basic one, and then give the more advanced options. So, for example, if I was teaching Vrikasana, or tree, I’d tell my students, “bend one leg, and you can have your toes on the ground, OR your foot up on your shin, OR on your thigh. Your hands can be in prayer position in front of your chest, OR above your head. IF you want more of a challenge, look up beyond your hands to the ceiling. That way, the people who can’t do Vrikasana in its most difficult form aren’t embarrassed by doing the beginner pose, and if they want, they can work their way up. I’ll never forget the time I was at a yoga class, and a visiting yoga instructor (since our regular one was out that day) tried to force my friend Jenna out of modified Triangle pose (Trikonasana) into a full Triangle. She was telling the instructor that she felt challenged enough in the pose she was in, but the instructor wouldn’t listen. After that, Jenna and I didn’t go back to yoga unless we were sure that that instructor wouldn’t be teaching the class.

  57. I’ve never had a school that I’ve taught at (or went to as a kid) have a cartwheel or gymnastics ban. My sister and I were competitive gymnasts as kids and as soon as we were old enough, we started coaching, to the point where we both were coaching provincial team members while we were in university. We were always doing gymnastics on the school yard, at the park, in the middle of baseball games, in our parents’ small living room, the backyard and in the grocery aisle of the supermarket.

    When I’m on yard duty at school, I often see kids practice gymnastics and I usually just keep a watchful eye from a distance. I intervene when I see someone doing a trick that they are clearly not ready for (back walkovers are one of them) and I then help them to do it properly or modify the skill so they can do that with success and build the strength to do the original skill.

    The thing with gymnastics, it doesn’t matter how many years you have been doing it, you can get hurt doing a simple skill that you’ve been doing for years. Thankfully those injuries don’t tend to be serious. It’s that rare occasion when the national level gymnasts doing double back something off the bars or vault where the injury can be life-changing. I’m okay with kids breaking bones- to me it’s a passage of childhood- I think adults hate them because of the insurance issues and the inconvenience it brings to their lives.

  58. […] Freerange Kids reports (via the Local West Courier), the Drummoyne public grammar school in Sydney, Australia, has […]

  59. I remember when I was a preschool kid I figured out on my own how to do a cartwheel. My mom freaked out thinking I’d hurt myself and forbid me to do any more cartwheels until I’d taken a gymnastics class (to learn how to do it properly). So I took the gymnastics class she signed me up for. They didn’t teach cartwheels, which they must have thought were too advanced for my age. But I didn’t talk to my mom about that detail and went back to doing my cartwheels!

  60. Yeah, in Kindergarten my daughter was told she couldn’t run on the playground. Run. On the playground. During recess. I can’t imagine why ADHD is on the rise. Anyway, she goes to a different school now. No playground. But they can run in a big old empty field. And do cartwheels. And wheelbarrow races. And whatever else they like.

  61. Country of clowns…..

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