Gym Class Humiliation Can Cause a Lifetime of Inactivity

Hi Readers! Bad gym teacher = bad life. I KNEW it. And now, that’s what this cool study by Billy Strean, a professor in the University of Alberta’s  Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, has just confirmed: “A lifelong negative attitude toward physical activity can be determined by either a good or bad experience, based on the personal characteristics of the coach or instructor. For example…a teacher who has low energy, is unfair and/or someone who embarrasses students.”

Maybe that’s why I was always so scared of my gym teachers! (Well, that and the fact I couldn’t get off the knot when we had to climb ropes. And the fact I couldn’t make a basket. And the fact I could never touch my toes. And — I’ll stop now.)

Anyway, as fascinating as the topic of gym and gym teachers is, what really jazzed me was the bottom paragraph of the study:

Strean also found study participants had better experiences from minimally organized games such as street hockey, compared to the more organized activities. He suggests adults try not to over-organize sports and allow the children to explore sporting activities on their own, with minimal rules and no scorekeeping.

Right on! Let the kids make up their own games! Give play time back to the players! My good ol’ book has a whole chapter on how important “free-play” turns out to be, vis a vis child development. Nice to see this backed by yet more evidence. And from a professor of recreation, no less! Hey kids — go outside and PLAY! The professor says you have to!   — Lenore

Parents Out to Get This Pre-K Teacher for “Endangering” Their Kid

Dear Readers — Take your chill pill FIRST. Then read on:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I’d like to tell you about a recent experience of mine and would love to get your feedback.
I am a mother of three children and a preschool teacher at a small, private preschool in my town.  About two weeks ago, my class of four-year-olds was marching in from the playground.  We routinely do this about five minutes before dismissal time.

The line leader on this particular day was a very bright, outgoing girl.  Unfortunately, I did not notice that, upon re-entering the building,  she did not turn into my classroom but marched right past it, rounded the corner and started walking down the main hallway of the school where parents were lined up to pick up their children.

Meanwhile, back in the classroom, my assistant and I  had just seated ourselves on the rug with our other students to sing our good-bye song, when my missing line leader and her mother appeared in our doorway.  I am certain that the entire event could not have lasted more than two minutes.

The mother was visibly outraged with me for not noticing that one of my students was missing.  I have tried talking with her twice about this, her husband has complained to the director of the school, and they have threatened to send a letter to the school board.  The idea of her daughter being unsupervised in our school hall is absolutely unacceptable to this mother.  Instead of using this as an opportunity for her daughter to learn, she has refused to speak to her daughter about it.

My parent teacher conferences are tomorrow and would love to know your thoughts on how I should deal with this situation. Thanks — S.

I don’t suppose you could put those parents in a time capsule back to an era (perhaps 15 years ago) when two minutes in the school hallway by oneself in a secure location was not considered the end of the world? Or remind the parents that on a planet where something like a quarter of the population subsists on $2 a day, their child is safe and warm and fed and even getting an education, despite the fact she’s a girl! And she is not in a war zone, and not in a famine, and not eating dirt for dinner or being sold to the local warlord for a sack of rice and a skinny goat.  So to treat her tiny, nay, microscopic non-adventure as an outrage shows, if nothing else, a lack of perspective and gratitude so GET A GRIP!

I’m not sure that’s precisely the tack to take, so, readers, if you have any better ideas, I’m sure this teacher is eager to hear them. — Lenore

Can You Please Come Talk to My Class…But Not Look at Anyone?

Hi Readers — Here’s a note from puzzlemeister Eric Berlin, author of The Puzzling World of Winston Breen. Read it and peep. Er…weep:

I’m an author of middle-grade novels, and as such I have a lot of interaction with elementary school kids. I’m glad to say I haven’t often come in contact with the kind of paranoia you document on your blog, but today that changed: 
I was setting up a phone call with a 4th-grade teacher and her class — they live a good thousand miles across the country from me. I let her know that I have Skype, so nobody needs incur any long-distance charges. Her response via e-mail just now: “Is there a way to Skype with us being able to see you, but you not being able to see us? Due to confidentiality and other school district guidelines, I am hoping this is a possibility.”

Truly, I am speechless. I’m just glad this won’t be an in-person school visit, because it would be really awkward wearing a blindfold all day, lest I actually lay eyes on these kids.

Hey Eric: Children are our most precious resource. If we don’t protect them from technology-assisted remote-site author visits, who will? — Lenore