The role P.E. plays growing up

THIS. “Research suggests the gap between the amount of exercise girls and boys do widens during their time at school.  A study for the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation says more than half of girls are put off by PE classes.”

I don’t know that I can speak for my more athletically-inclined female friends, but this was absolutely me growing up. Jaded by always being the last to finish running the mile (usually around 15 minutes), constantly picked last in team sports, and humiliated by The President’s Challenge week, I generally dreaded gym class. It didn’t get any better by the time middle school rolled around; in fact, I’d say I was even more scarred by the experience then. All of a sudden I’m thrown into a school where the other half of the grade is comprised of people I’ve never met before, gym class is split by gender so I no longer have an excuse for being athletically inept, AND we have to wear uniforms and you expect me to change in front of these strangers?! This shy, flat-chested, athletically challenged only child says no thank you, and I know I wasn’t the only one.

I absolutely agree that P.E. class makes many girls shy away from bringing fitness into their lives once they’re out of school. But I also agree, despite everything I’ve said, that it’s an integral part of the curriculum, perhaps even through college. Given our rising obesity rates and backwards notions about health and fitness in this country, it’s important to stress how important staying active is. But how to do that effectively is a tough call. Clearly, being forced into it doesn’t always help, but what other choice do teachers and administrators have? I could say bring Zumba to schools, but frankly, I probably would have thought it was dumb at a young age and would have never continued with it now.

The only gym class I think I truly enjoyed was the one I took my junior year of high school. Much to my chagrin, we were required to take two semesters of gym on top of Freshman P.E. to graduate, and my only saving grace was that my high school offered a nice range of options. Of course, my sophomore year I took the only non-physical class offered – CPR certification. I dreaded choosing a class that surely involved more humiliation my junior year, but one stood out – Shape Up. These electives were co-ed but it just so happens that the class was entirely girls and taught by a woman teacher – and it helped that I had a few like-minded friends in the class. We all set goals, be it to lose a certain amount of weight or simply firm up, and we spent the semester achieving that goal. Every day was something different. We spent time in the weight room, we ran, we did pilates and yoga and crunches and step aerobics and cycling. It was a nice variety, and our teacher really pushed us and motivated us because she knew we were all apathetic about fitness. But it worked, and I credit that class for my love of yoga, if for no other reason than when we walked in and found out it was yoga day, we were all relieved because it was so easy compared to everything else.

If we take what I enjoyed about that class and compare it to what I enjoy about Zumba, there’s a considerable amount of overlap. It’s in a group setting with friends. The teacher has a vested interest in helping each person in the room exercise while still having fun. Every day is a little different, and you still look forward to some routines more, yet push through the others anyway. Whether or not you’re working towards a goal, you’re still motivated to come to class and have fun because it’s ultimately your choice. You have a say in your fitness fate.

Perhaps instead of splitting gym classes by homerooms and then gender, middle schools should split gym by gender and then interest. My middle school’s fine arts elective model would be a perfect example of how to execute this. In 6th grade, we spent half a semester each in music, art, tech ed, and home ec. Then in 7th and 8th grade, we got to choose between taking a language for two years or alternating fine arts classes by semester. My point here is that we got a small taste of each option, even those we knew we wouldn’t like, and then got the power to choose our own fates. This is so powerful and important at that age, because even the smallest liberties are a huge step towards independence. Why not take this model and apply it to gym class? Perhaps split classes by gender the first year, and do a little bit of everything – team sports, fitness classes, what have you. Then in 7th and 8th grade, give kids the choice. If they enjoy high intensity and/or team sports, great! Have at it. But I think it would be so much more of a confidence booster to let girls (and guys) choose something that interests them more if they want.

I’m lucky that my disposition is such that I can look back on gym class and laugh at my many (MANY) failed athletic attempts, but I’m also lucky to have thicker skin. I’m lucky I found talents in other areas, like English and Spanish and music, so that it didn’t hurt as much failing at sports. And it did hurt, being compared to other students publicly, knowing you’re not as good as them and there’s nothing you can do about it. But it’s more than cushioning egos or babying students. It’s about mirroring the rest of the journey through high school and college and beyond: recognizing your strengths and interests and capitalizing on them, rather than being forced to endure humiliation and being fed the notion that this is all fitness will be for the rest of your life. It’s about knowing that while you still have to bide by guidelines and curriculum, you still have wiggle room, because someday you’ll have complete control over what college classes you take and what jobs you want to apply for and what role fitness plays in your life. Discourage students from exercising when they’re young and what do you get? A society with attitudes towards health and fitness much like ours, I’d imagine.

There’s always mandatory curriculum up until a certain point. There’s standards, there’s national averages, there’s so much more than the student’s interests at stake in elementary and middle school. But gym class goes beyond that; it’s not just ensuring that our children are competent and well-learned enough to someday contribute to society. Once you get out of school, the only one responsible for keeping you active and healthy is YOU, and I believe it’s so important to let kids know that they have a hand in that fate. Keep them active, give them choices, show them they’re more than run times and national averages. Fitness is so individual and independent that if we don’t get kids excited about it now, there’s a good chance they never will be.


‘Glee’ not all about vocal talent and drama

I’m just going to start out by throwing this out there: if there’s one thing that grinds my gears, it’s hypocrisy and/or double standards. I respect opinions different than mine, and obviously support those that I agree with, but I’ve always felt as though if you don’t practice what you preach, why bother? I’ve always valued personal experiences as a valid and necessary form of education; most of the time, you don’t learn/understand something until you’ve actually experienced it yourself. If you say one thing but act in the opposite way, how can anyone really believe what you’re saying? I may be the most idealistic person you’ll ever meet and perhaps seem to be caught up in my dreamy irrational world, but if there’s one thing I need, it’s consistency and logicality in things like arguments and conversations.

That being said, I’d like to take this opportunity to officially proclaim myself a ‘Gleek.’ That’s right, I am madly in love with that crazy hybrid comedy-musical-drama where the outcast teenagers sing and dance about their school like buffoons. Judge me as you will, but this show appeals to my idealism and band geek identity, kay?

Anyhow, the show is in its pilot season and, in case anyone reading this is currently living under a rock, doing quite well. I make no claims to be a T.V. critic and don’t watch much of it to be honest, but the story line thus far has kept me interested and remained relatively believable; after all, this is a show about kids that randomly break out into song and dance throughout their school day, right? Either way, the drama has been real and definitely hits home. Teenage pregnancy, faked pregnancy, sexual identity, domestic issues… and the list goes on.

Since the return of the show after its (unnecessarily extensive, in my humble opinion) hiatus, the glee club’s director, Will, has been trying to “find himself” as so many characters in T.V. and movies do. Currently in the process of a divorce with his high school sweetheart, he realizes he doesn’t know how to be single or independent, and has come to the conclusion that he needs to take time to work on the issues he has before he can commit to being with a new woman. And by ‘work on the issues he has,’ I mean that he does what any adorable, singing, lovable, near-perfect man would do in his situation: sleep around with the once-forbidden numerous women swooning over him.

Now, of course the writers of Glee haven’t presented the situation it quite as bluntly. They’ve made Will seem perfect from episode 1, and to emphasize it even more, they set him up with a neurotic wife who took advantage of his bubbly, loyal charm. And the viewers knew it, too – they knew his wife’s secret, but it took Will almost the entire first block of the season to figure it out. So when he returned, single and ready to mingle, of course everyone was on his side.

He was the good guy, betrayed but given a second chance. Loyal viewers such as myself knew he deserved better than his selfish, deceiving wife, so I’m sure it was no surprise that by the third episode of the second block, he had already fooled around with three different women. As I’ve said, the writers were sly about it, and to me – and many other viewers, I’m sure – there seemed to be very little wrong with it. He’s the good guy, he deserves to be with someone better than his wife, he’s in a trial exploratory period in his life. Any number of justifications would explain his actions well, but Tuesday’s episode changed my mind entirely.


Time and Birthdays

It’s so funny how views on birthdays change over the years. Remember when you were little, and you had a birthday and got SUPER excited? And then when your parents’ birthdays came around, you got really excited for them, but they never did? I never really understood that until these past few years. I mean, I did, but I’m reaching that point where it truly makes sense.

I am, of course, excited for my 21st birthday for obvious reasons (and, sidenote, this is relevant because ANOTHER one of my college friends turned 21 today, another one turns 21 on Monday and another, the Monday after that). Yes, I’m excited to be able to legally drink (and after being able to legally drink in Spain, I find the age limit here more absurd every day). I’m excited to go out with my friends to the bars if I want. To have a glass of wine with dinner at a restaurant. To be able to make myself a few drinks with liquor I purchased myself and not worry about paying someone back, or getting caught. Yes, that will be nice. But the other half of the reason I’m so excited is because from here on out, I’ll be the one who gets to gloat.

See, for the last, I don’t know, 20 years or so, I’ve been playing catch-up with my friends from my grade. I’m not turning 21 until my SENIOR year of college… I didn’t get my driver’s license until my junior year of high school and didn’t turn 18 until I got to college. So, yes, I am young for my grade. My birthday always falls at the beginning of the school year, and it’s a nice way to start off the year. New school year, new age…. but then it’s overshadowed by the fact that everyone else who had a birthday after me was a year older. I was FINALLY turning 16 when everyone else was turning 17. And when I FINALLY turned 17… well guess what, all my friends were about to turn 18. no big deal. And like, I never got teased about it. But I’m younger than all my friends in my grade, and yeah, I feel like I’ve been playing catch-up my whole life.

This year, the tables turn.

I’m starting to see that 21 is the last birthday everyone looks forward to. And it makes sense. Some of my friends complain, “ugh, 22? I’m so OLD!” After you turn 21, you’re an adult. And not only do you get the liquor, but everything else that comes along with turning said age: the responsibility, the job, the underlying expectation that you know what you’re going to do with your life. You actually have to face the *real* world. And yeah, it sucks. I’m not looking forward to it, and I’m not necessarily excited to turn older in subsequent years.

Except for the fact that instead of playing catch-up, and instead of being the envious one… for the rest of my life, *I’m* going to be the envied one. My friends might have beamed proudly when they got to turn 10, 13, 16, 18, before me. But guess what? That also means they get to turn 30, 40, and 50 before me. 21 years of watching my friends reap the benefits of growing up…. and from now on, I’ll be the one to lay back and calmly watch everyone panic as they turn a decade older, knowing that I have at least 9 months before I have to worry about it.

Yes, revenge is sweet my friends, and I firmly believe karma will always even everything out. 21 years of “haha, I’m 16 and you’re 15!” or, “haha, I’m 21 and you’re 20!” (even though it never went *exactly* like that :p) will soon turn into, “haha, I’m 29 and you’re 30!” or, “haha, I’m 39 and you’re 40!” yep, I am definitely looking forward to this. You never realize it until now, but being younger definitely has its benefits. :)