Length running, Online P.E., and more In this episode, Andy, Robin and Adam discuss the impact of fitness in schools. Who is the push-up champion? Do more health lessons need to be taught in school? Plus, the crew talk about the importance of accepting failure as part of life.
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Hi, I'm Andy Psarianos.
Hi, I'm Robin Potter.
Hi, I'm Adam Gifford.
This is the School of School podcast.
Welcome to the School of School podcast.
Welcome back to another episode of the School of School podcast. I am here with the pushup champion, Adam. How are you?
The pushup champion, what?
I've never had that title in my life. I'll take it though. I'm not even sure what it means, but I'm going to take it. Yeah, great. Cool. Please refer to me as that forever. You can carry on now.
And top rowing machine champ, Andy. How are you?
Yeah, I'll take that title too. I mean, I've been rowing for an entire week now.
Yeah. Well, hey. In your world, you're the champion.
That's champion for me, that's the best I've ever done. So yeah, I'm a champion.
So you're wondering, of course, why would I be introducing-
I feel a fitness theme coming on here.
Yes, yes. Wow, you two. I knew you sensed it and that is what we're talking about today. Not that you are the top of your categories in pushups in rowing, more so about fitness and exercise in school. I've been just thinking out loud to the two of you, should there be a requirement for there to be an exercise component at some level? I don't know exactly what that would look like, but exercise, fitness. I mean, we do have physical education in schools and kids are required to do that up until... I don't know. In Canada, I think it's about year 10, which is about 15. I think after that it isn't necessarily, I don't think you have to. Maybe I'm wrong. I know that now my daughter said you can actually take PE online, which seems a bit, I don't know, concerning, but should there be a mandatory component to always have some sort of exercise at school?
Yeah, great question. Great question. It's the same. There's tremendous pressure because there's so much stuff in the curriculum and so limited time. So what's important and what's not important is always a thing that educators have to struggle with. But on the flip side of that, the fitness and the health stuff, it just seems to me like that's so critical to teach people how to remain healthy because a lot of times it doesn't happen at home. It really just does not happen at home. So one would hope that children just learn how to be healthy through being surrounded by people who have healthy practises. Yeah, that doesn't happen enough. So what could possibly be more important than somebody's health? I don't know. So that's how I see it. I think that should be mandatory. But fitness/health, whatever that means. I think there's other things too. There's mental health too, which we don't talk about enough for children and stuff. That's part of fitness and health. To me, they're all the same thing.
I completely agree and I think it's any sort of physical activity, and just health, under that umbrella of health, is better today than probably it's ever been in terms of the offers that we have. The reason why I say that is I think it used to be just PE. PE, when I first started teaching, it was pretty lame and people kind of did sports not because of it, but just because they liked doing it. So I knew plenty of people who were active and physical and all that sort of stuff, and it was the same with me as a kid. Me and my mates, we were always physically active, but PE was horrific. The mandatory stuff that we used to do wouldn't inspire anyone. It was just drills and bits and pieces. You could argue, yeah, it was good for, it was better than sitting in a chair, but I look at some of the things that go on in schools now, there's a way bigger variety.
I also think another really big factor that's good is teachers can learn different health activities, whether it's mental health activities or physical health activities, so much more easily online. So if I was to do something on mindfulness or yoga or something that I know nothing about but the children might really enjoy, I can do it as a teacher now. Whereas when I first started teaching, there's no way I could. I wouldn't know where to start. I'd just be like, do what my old PE teacher did, "Right guys, out you go. Run some lengths. Come on. When I blow the whistle, you run a length, then you drop and give me 10 press-ups," and that was it.
That's why you're the press-up champion.
It was like being in the military. It was horrific. Surprisingly I was scarred for life and never done another press-up in my life. So I'd like to think that it's a more attractive offer now. Well, I don't know if that's the truth, but I'd like to think it is.
Well, the other thing you have to keep in mind is, and Andy, you touched on how important it is both physical and mentally, that we have some kind of a fitness element in schools because we're no experts. Everyone, we're no experts, but the research shows that for most things, exercise is at the top of the list in terms of keeping healthy, both physically and mentally, and as a preventative for many types of illnesses or anything later on in life as we get older. So we need to start that off early on and make that kind of a habit, rather than something where people are reacting to because they've had a diagnosis that isn't favourable and now they're having to try and figure out how they can incorporate exercise into their life.
Wouldn't it be nice that it's not something that we have to think too much about? It's just part of the school curriculum, and Adam, it's not done in a way where... Because I always have that recollection of kids who absolutely detested having to go to gym class because it wasn't fun for them. It's not something that they naturally gravitated to, and it was awful because, yeah, you were running laps around the track or around the school, and they were doing... You still do a beep test, which I don't think a lot of kids like. But making it just part of every day exercise and learning about, like you said, maybe meditation or yoga, incorporating those things, but there's something for everybody. It's not that it has to be gruelling at all. It just has to be part of an everyday activity that the kids do because if they're not learning it at home, it's not part of their home life situation, then they need to learn it at school.
Yeah. Well, I always think, what's the point in children coming to school? So as a teacher, what would I hope happens? For any subject, what I hope is that, A, I don't kill any curiosity in any given subject area, and if I do my job really well, and I try my hardest to, I actually make children a little bit more curious in different subject areas, in something that they're keen on doing or having a bit more of a look at or whatever. Surely that has to apply to physical activity as well. You don't want to turn children off from, "This is what it looks like." I think the other reason why I think it's really important that we keep it mandatory in schools, and there's a lot of opportunities for that, is because unfortunately, depending on where you live, a lot of the physical activities you do is expensive.
Clubs are expensive, sports clubs are expensive, those sorts of things, and so maybe you're not going to get a taste of it if you don't try it in schools or you don't have a sort of vehicle for it. So I think that it's really nice to be able to, or it's important to, have a go at something, that it may be something that brings enjoyment in your life. It's not to say we're trying to get pro athletes out of it, but just something in the same way that it warms my heart that if I go travelling with my son, he's really curious about history of places. I know why, he had one history teacher in particular who I'd shake the man's hand every year because he must've been a brilliant teacher for my son because of that curiosity, it was obvious. He's done a fantastic job in that department.
So what about some of the downsides of physical activity? Obviously there's a time factor, so you have to sacrifice time. So that's a decision that schools have to cope with. Some schools take a real anti-competitive sort of mindset, like, "We can't do anything competitive." What's the harm in competition? Because physical activity is a place where competition naturally happens. I mean, schools have competitive environments regardless of whether or not you want to have them. I mean, some kids do better at some topics than others. Physical activity could be one of them. What about the competition side? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
I struggle with this. I struggle because I've had colleagues that are very, very, very anti-competitive. I remember doing a training very early in the piece, and I remember I got the teachers to do something and a teacher took me aside and said, "We don't do that here. That's not something we do. We are not competitive." It kind of took me back. Now, I'm not saying that it's... Maybe I've got it wrong, maybe not, but I think that, exactly what you've said, Andy, I think that it's kind of like when you have two groups of children and you say, "We're not keeping score." That's fine, you can say that out loud, but I can guarantee you there'll be some children who keep score because...
Also, the other argument is that professional sports is a career.
Life is a career, yeah.
Totally. So I remember teaching a boy in New Zealand and he was dead set on, "I'm going to make it a career." He was sort of 13, 14, he was showing that that he had the potential to make it as a career. What, am I going to turn around to him and say you can't keep score when you're playing anymore and potentially... I don't think it reflects... I don't know, I struggle with it as an ethos, the totally non-competitive part of things.
Yeah. I would agree. I would think there's got to be a certain amount of competition. It is healthy, to a point. It doesn't mean we have to go extreme. I don't know. I am sure some children would find that discouraging or uncomfortable, but I mean, we grew up competing. Nowadays, there are types of activities where, like you said, they don't keep score, everyone gets a ribbon. I think that may not be helpful in the long run. I think people need to have some kind of competition.
It doesn't mean that it has to be all about the competition, and certainly, again, when we're talking about just incorporating fitness and exercise into the school programme, it doesn't mean we're going to have a group of kids the same age that all have to do something and the top three get a prize and the others don't, but maybe you sub-categorise those people and maybe there's a group doing one thing, a group doing another, dependent on their fitness levels or competitive levels. I don't know. But I don't think you can go all the way and say competition isn't a healthy thing. There's competition in all different aspects of our lives and it's not just about fitness. So I'm with you on this one, Adam. I would be in agreement.
So what's the counter to that? I mean, I guess people are worried that someone might be crushed because they lost, or because they can't perform at the same level as somebody else in a physical activity. Yeah, but what about those kids... Some of those kids that might do really well in that context might be the kids that do really poorly in the math lesson or whatever.
I was going to say the same, yeah.
Then this may be their only opportunity to be good at something, why take that away from them? We don't say to kids, "You can't be better at math than that other child," or whatever. We don't say that. We say, "We want you all to do the best that you can." But yeah, there is, "Some of you will do better than others and that's just part of life. You have to learn to accept that at some point." If you go through your entire schooling and never have to face this, you get out in the real world, oh my god, you're really not set up for the real world then, are you?
Well, I mean, of course. There's a range of emotions. I was listening to someone getting interviewed the other day and they were talking about the importance of failure to them. I can't remember who it was, but whatever it is, they'd reached the top of their academic field, or right up there, they're in the sort of in the rare aire of people that know stuff that very few people do. They were talking about it was failure that got them there. It was learning from the failures that they had the whole way through their careers that they learned such a huge amount from.
I think whether you say "failure" or "loss", so if I lose this, you've got to learn to lose as well. You've got to learn what happens when you lose. Well, you got a few options, but two, mainly, is if I lose and I don't like the feeling, I just never ever do it again. That's one option, or I go, "Well, that's part of playing and I enjoy playing. That's just what I do. That's just the game." But that comes back to that holding hands with failure and learning from things that don't go as we've planned. As you said, that's life.
That's just the way it works. I get anyone can be just an idiot about competition and deal with it really poorly, but that's not competition's fault. That's the person, I don't know, not managing it well.
Yeah, that's right.
Competition, per se, is not...
So when we're finished with this conversation, the three of us are going to do then a press-up challenge. Is that what you're suggesting?
Well, I'm going to listen back and decide that I was the best of the three of us during the discussion, of course. It goes without saying. I don't know what you guys do. You probably do exactly the same thing and listen and say I was brilliant today. Those other two, man, I can't even tell you.
No, I don't do that.
Neither do I.
I'd love to come back and talk about mental health specifically at some point. So Robin, for you, fitness, is that really mostly exercise-based things? When you talk about fitness, are you also considering the other aspects of it as well, like, let's say, diet and sort of everything else that one would put around fitness?
Yeah. Wellbeing, for sure, and that could incorporate how we eat, eating for health, moving, and then of course mental wellbeing as well. So all of those things, and I mean, they could all be incorporated into what you would consider your fitness curriculum at school. Maybe it's not called "fitness", and maybe it is called "wellbeing" or something else, but I really believe it's something that we should be seeing as a key part of the curriculum because it's going to do us good for a lot longer than just some running around the track and turning kids off of fitness. It's important.
I think that's the case. I think that the shift from just physical education to under that banner of wellbeing, and being allowed to talk about wellbeing holistically and what that entails and having a conversation about what wellbeing means for you, and you, and you, and you. It might look different. There might be aspects of different things and different quantities or whatever, but I think that's a big shift, I think, is being able to have a discussion around wellbeing where it's interlinked with various different things that we can talk about kind of more openly.
Although I still think that there's a lot of... There's still stigma attached to some areas unfortunately, or people feel like that because there's still areas where people are hesitant to talk about how they feel or about being strong or about, "Is it manly to say I'm feeling really low and I'm scared?", or I'm whatever else. I think there's still a way to go around that, but at least if the conversation around wellbeing in general encompasses these elements, "This is how we can feel well," then it's got to be a good thing. It's got to be a good thing than just, "Go out there and start sprinting and doing press-ups on my whistle. In the long run, it'll make you a better human." I'm not convinced.
Especially those of you at the back, right?
Yeah, totally. Totally.
This is going to make you better.
Oh, God bless.
Thank you for joining us on the School of School podcast.