Schreiber’s virtual physical education curriculum needs to be changed

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Olivia Platt, Staff Writer

One of the most challenging aspects of hybrid learning has been requiring students to stare at their computer screens for several uninterrupted hours a day.  Physical education classes could have been one way to break this cycle.  

For  most physical education classes at Schreiber, students are required to log onto a Google Meet and follow along with a teacher’s workout from inside their homes.  Most of these workouts consist exclusively of push-ups, crunches, and other body weight exercises so that the teacher can constantly monitor each student.  Between teachers’ oppressive surveillance and the stress of engaging in workouts from home, Schreiber’s current virtual physical ed  curriculum is doing more harm than good.  For the benefit of both students and teachers, the virtual curriculum needs to be changed.

In a normal school year, students participate in these required  classes within the Schreiber gymnasium, choir room (for dance classes), or outside on the athletic field.  Expecting students to participate at the same level from their home environments presents a host of issues.  

First and foremost, many students do not have the space in their at-home learning environments for  class workouts.  Many students are confined to their bedrooms, office spaces, or other small areas within their houses during remote school days.  They may have working family members or siblings in the larger areas in their houses.  This forces them to participate in  class workouts from cramped spaces, which can be uncomfortable and potentially unsafe.

“My dad works from home, so participating in virtual gym classes from my bedroom disturbs him while he is trying to work downstairs,” said junior Kiera Darnell.    

Participating in gym classes from home is also a stressful and exhausting experience due to  teachers’ surveillance of students on Google Meet.  Many  teachers tend to call out students when their cameras aren’t properly positioned, or they aren’t completing certain exercises correctly.  And, with cameras pointed at a wider angle, these classes expose more about a student’s home life than having cameras on in a regular class, which can be detrimental for any student. 

“Gym class is just not the same on remote days.  In person, the workouts feel invigorating and energizing, but at home, I just feel lethargic and unmotivated.  The way that at-home gym instruction is done sometimes feels overbearing—it’s like we’re being needlessly scrutinized even as we’re already struggling with remote learning in our other classes,” said junior Meiling Laurence.

Another aspect of Schreiber’s virtual physical education  curriculum has been the addition of  homework and projects assigned through Google Classroom.  More and more frequently, gym teachers are assigning written work for students to complete on their own time or after their activity.  This additional work would have never existed if gym classes were run as they were pre-pandemic.  This extra work is stressful, unnecessary, and arguably even more harmful than the Google Meet aspect of Schreiber’s virtual gym curriculum.    

“With the advent of virtual gym, I have noticed a rise in what is essentially gym homework.  These extra assignments, rather than inspiring me to engage in exercise outside of class, inevitably become yet another stressful task that sometimes I simply do not have the time or space to complete to the best of my ability,” said junior Natalie Parker.

With all of the issues that surround Schreiber’s current virtual gym curriculum, the need for change has become apparent.  Fortunately, there is one solution that would help alleviate nearly all of the problems.  Rather than having a boot camp-esqe Google Meet, students should be allowed to go outside and take a break during their gym class period when they are remote.  

Allowing students to go outside and take a break during the day would lessen the seven hours  of screen time that makes up their remote learning schedules.  Furthermore, students would not have to experience the stressful teacher surveillance that comes with logging onto a Google Meet.  Students could simply log their time outside and take a photo of themselves to demonstrate that they were participating during gym period.

Allowing students at home to go outside would also make gym teachers’ jobs less stressful.  Currently, gym teachers must run and monitor a Google Meet for remote students and simultaneously keep the in-person students engaged.  This can be extremely difficult, especially because gym teachers have never had to educate students  this way in the past.  Without having to focus on running a Google Meet, gym teachers would be able to focus more on the students who are actually at school.  

A simple cost benefit analysis demonstrates why we should eliminate physical education  Google Meets.  Under the current system, we have the following benefits: students do body weight workouts and the gym teacher can make sure they’re doing it.  This comes with the following costs: students disturb others in their households, have their privacy violated, must complete silly workouts with no mental health benefits, are required to complete meaningless written assignments, and the teacher’s attention is divided between in-person and at-home students. 

If we allow students to complete physical activity outside, at their own pace, there are a number of benefits: students can specialize their workouts to their own particular needs, they can take the time to enjoy nature and get a break, gym teachers can give in-person students their full attention, and stress is reduced for all parties involved.  The costs for all this?  Nothing.  The worst case scenario is that a few students might stay at their computers and catch up on school work.  In times like these, whether or not all students complete their assigned push-ups should be the least of our concerns. 

Gym class stresses the importance of mental health coupled with physical health.  The pandemic has presented unprecedented stress and mental health challenges for both students and teachers.  Altering Schreiber’s virtual gym curriculum is crucial to eliminating at least one source of stress for many students.