By David West
Every day at South, students sit in classrooms forcing themselves to focus and perform. School is stressful, and opportunities for relaxing and blowing off steam during the school day are few and far between. In past years, gym was one of the only periods during the school day where students could let loose where teachers didn’t scrutinize them, and where there were no real day-to-day grades. Gym class should be kept as it was instead of making it another graded class that squashes students’ enthusiasm.
In the past, the Physical Education department used a simple grading system where students would pass the class unless they were repeatedly unprepared and/or absent. This created a stress-free environment for all students, which helped foster a genuine concern for physical activity that led into adulthood.
Throughout the school day, students work and stress over what teachers are thinking and doing and how that will affect their grades and their future. However, due to the easygoing environment of gym, many students joke around, appearing not to grasp the importance of physical health. It is only natural that our school, one that heavily stresses academics, would use grades to encourage effort and diligence in gym class. Even though the school administration and Physical Education department’s desire to encourage effort and participation in gym is understandable, their reform of the gym grading system is not a sensible course of action.
Overly focused on their GPAs, students will begin to preoccupy themselves with their grades and averages in gym. Failing to see purpose and practicality in gym, students will begin to have a more myopic outlook on the class. Many will develop the same lackadaisical attitudes that flourish in academic classes. Their interest in physical health will diminish, replaced by only a desire to earn a grade up to their standards. Students may have slight improvements in their gym performance, but they will not develop a genuine regard for gym and physical fitness. It’s important that students develop this genuine passion for physical fitness, so that they continue to stay fit after graduation.
Gym, with the addition of grades, will be reduced to another elective class. Grades alone can never improve student mentality – they will only present superficial progress. Developmentally, students are at a very malleable age, and when designing a grading system for a class, teachers and administrators should look beyond statistics and consider how students think and develop.