P.E. teachers adjust workouts, curriculum

August 26, 2020 — by Andy Chen

In most of his online classes, sophomore Shafin Haque remains almost motionless in front of his computer; only his eyes move as he follows along with his teachers’ screens. In P.E., however, this isn’t the case — more often than not, Haque will be engaged in one of many grueling workouts that P.E. teachers have developed  for online education.

Transitioning to online learning has been hard for P.E. teachers, as they have struggled to replicate the classroom environment.

“Physical education is relatively difficult to teach remotely,” P.E. teacher and athletics director Tim Lugo said. “It’s a lot easier to motivate kids to exercise when they’re in class and they have their friends with them since there’s this positive peer pressure involved.”

Lugo added that since students who typically rely on fall or winter sports to secure P.E. credits may not have that option, P.E. classes will end up being larger, making classes “more interesting but harder to manage.”

To address these problems, P.E. teachers have spent countless hours during the summer adjusting their curriculum to suit an online learning environment, Lugo said. In his class, Lugo plans to increase the students have in choosing their workouts and assignments.  

During the first two weeks of online education last semester, P.E. teachers assigned straightforward at-home workouts, which students completed using makeshift weights made out of jugs and broomsticks. On April 1, when the district announced that school would be held online for the rest of the year, they transitioned into a more flexible schedule, wherein students could choose the workouts they wanted to do — practicing yoga, running a mile, struggling through a high intensity workout or dancing, among other options. Immediately after this switch, Lugo noticed a significant increase in student work ethic and overall enjoyment of the class.

From this, Lugo realized that giving students some degree of control was necessary in maintaining an engaging online learning environment.

“The kids really enjoyed the choice last semester,” Lugo said. “Some people were afraid to go outside, and they said the yoga was great for that. Other kids ran the mile every day because they knew they could do that in eight minutes and be done with it.”

Lugo plans to continue giving students different options both between and within workouts. For example, workouts could include an activity where students choose between two random objects — like an apple or an orange — and engage in that object’s corresponding exercise only, which could be more fun and open-ended, he said.

Like various other departments, P.E. teachers will use a flipped model of teaching in order to teach exercises like air squats and kipping. Students will learn these movements by watching videos on their own before participating in workouts involving these movements during class. Since mastery of these exercises is necessary to properly finish workouts and score well on assessments, teachers will rotate through breakout rooms to monitor students’ technique — which Lugo acknowledged may be tricky through Zoom.

“Teaching movements to kids is a lot harder at home, compared to when we're sitting in a room teaching it and correcting mistakes all the time,” Lugo said. “Since assessments are all form-based, the reality is that if students don't learn at home, it's going to affect their grades.”

The P.E. curriculum will shift its focus from strength training to fitness since most students won’t have access to heavy gym equipment typically used in strength training.

Still, students will have opportunities to come to the school for P.E. classes and weight training in the future, so long as they remain six feet apart and maintain “stable cohorts,” meaning that students would only be able to enter and leave campus with their assigned group, said assistant principal Matthew Torrens.

In fact, in accordance with new guidelines regarding P.E. classes and high school sports teams, P.E. classes could have technically come back to campus ever since July 23, said Torrens. But this depends on how comfortable students and staff are with returning to campus.

“If P.E. classes were allowed back on campus, probably only half of my kids would show up,” Lugo said. “As a district, we’re going to wait a bit to see how conditions change.”

According to Lugo, the district is allowing sports teams to resume in-person workouts after Labor Day, and P.E. classes may soon follow suit.

“I’m looking forward to working with weights and doing fun activities with my friends,” Haque said. “I honestly can’t wait.”

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Due to the lightning complex that occurred in the week of Aug.17, Santa Clara County is currently surrounded by wildfires, covering the city of Saratoga in heavy smoke. The air quality was in the range of 100 to 200 for the past five days, forcing SHS to close down. Photo by Selina Chen.

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