A Blast from the Past: Reliving Gym Class from the 1980s


For Halloween, my two fellow PE teachers and I wanted to dress up for our school’s annual costume contest.  We wanted to enter the “team” category but couldn’t nail down a theme.  That is, until I saw the video below for the Goldbergs TV show.  

This gem of a clip, inspired us to portray PE teachers from the early 1980’s.  We crafted our costumes based on our own memories of PE teachers we experienced growing up.  I personally searched the internet and was shocked that I could still find the original Bike brand polyester shorts that my high school teacher wore religiously.  The shorts even had the button strap on top, and their trademark tiny pockets that, today would be ideal for a fit bit zip, but I think our teachers may have just had an emergency quarter for a payphone.  Unfortunately the only available sizes were nowhere small enough for the classic 80s fit so I had to settle for the next best thing, Wilson. Pointless pockets were there but no button strap. I later found the 5-panel foam/mesh trucker’s cap fashioned by my aforementioned grade school teacher on days we had PE outdoors.  Didn’t every teacher don the 3-striped tube socks hiked up to the knees?  Of course.  So, along with my aviator glasses, a stop watch, a pair of very white sneakers, and a red playground ball, my costume was complete.  PE Teacher:  1982.  My colleagues and I immediately drew a lot of attention, as expected.  Unexpected was the array of reactions from parents, teachers, and students throughout the day.

Here are some of the comments:

  1. Wow!  I had a PE teacher just like that growing up.
  2. Can I tell you how much I hated PE growing up?
  3. Your shorts aren’t short enough for the 80’s.
  4. I am still haunted by the bruises I received playing dodge ball.
  5. Why DID they wear those shorts?
  6. I loved PE.  I miss those days.
  7. Are you kidding me with that outfit?
  8. Can we play dodge ball right now?
  9. What are you supposed to be?
  10. Or one of my favorites:  The sound of awkward, uneasy laughter.

Number 9 was the common response from our 1st-6th grade students, usually coupled by either a confusing or disgusted look. In fact, late in the day a first grade student asked, “Why are you still wearing that?”  Poor thing was frightened. Sorry guys!

To be honest, there were as many people who reminisced on their time in PE and shared stories of physical educators who were kind and caring while promoting healthy habits.

We truly enjoyed traveling back to the past and listening to the countless stories from our colleagues and parents regarding their experiences in “gym class” as it was often called.  It made me wonder how my present day and former students will remember me years down the road.  Hopefully, as fondly as I recall my elementary school gym teacher growing up.  He was funny, challenging, and very creative!  Thanks Mr. Meilinger.

As a side note, I now realize why PE teachers wore the polyester shorts.  They are SO comfortable!  If they make a come back, I’m in.  Let me know about your childhood Gym Class experiences…

The Goldbergs: Sneak Peek.YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2015.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

Keeping Fitness Fresh in PE Class

If you look at the culture of adult fitness in today’s society, it won’t take long to realize boot camps, high-intensity interval training, Zumba, Yoga, CrossFit, and body weight training along with countless other challenging fitness methods are the modern day trends.  The key to these fitness trends is variety, and this variety is exactly what I feel motivates today’s students.

The challenge for PE teachers is how to make fitness challenging, yet fun and fresh.  Long gone are the days of sending students on a 5-minute jog before circling up for a static stretching routine, followed by a few push-ups and sit-ups.   Because such a workout is redundant, students will become bored, and quickly lose motivation.   Our goal is to promote lifelong fitness in PE, especially during our present-day epidemic of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes. My colleagues and I are continuously searching for creative ways to motivate our students while making sure we’re focusing on fitness concepts, which include aerobic endurance, upper and lower body muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility.

AMRAP, or as many rounds as possible, is an exercise routine recently introduced to our students by Coach Jedd Austin. Using either our projector or a whiteboard we post the days workout. We list 5-7 different exercises, each with a certain number of repetitions. Students must do each of the exercises in order to complete 1 round. After each round is completed, they collect a red ticket to tally their rounds. At the end of the session, the students count their tickets, which tells them how many rounds they completed. We never celebrate the student with the most tickets. Instead, we encourage each student for his or her effort. This has become a favorite activity among our students due to the workout’s flexibility. We can focus on lower body exercises during one class, then upper body the next. Most times we vary the exercises to include all muscle groups. We can also adjust the number of repetitions and the duration of the exercise to fit the level of difficulty.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 10.44.30 PM Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 10.44.56 PM

Another addition to our fitness program is the Full Body Exercise Bank, essentially a grid of exercises, as you can see below. Each of the 8 rows has 4 exercises combining upper body, lower body, dynamic stretching, and aerobic endurance. Using a Tabata-Pro timer we’ll choose one of the 8 lanes and challenge the students to complete 3 cycles. We’ll usually vary the time of each exercise from 20-40 seconds depending on the grade level and degree of difficulty. Again due to the variety of exercises, we’ve seen increased motivation and effort from our students.

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It’s exciting to witness and be apart of the continuing evolution of physical education class.  By introducing our students to a variety of exercise routines like AMRAP, Fitness Banks, fitness-based tag games, and dances like Zumba we are helping motivate students today in order to promote fitness for a lifetime.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

Recess: Lessons From the Playground



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

On this beautiful fall day, I am one of three teachers on recess duty. A sense of calm fills the playground – ready for the children who love their time outside. Minutes later, 80-3rd Grade students explode onto the playground for 30 minutes of learning.

Recess – their daily, self-guided class, is officially underway.

As I stand on one end of our track, I’m in a centralized location where I witness the outdoor education in full swing:


In the middle of the field I observe the early stages of a football game developing. The students thoughtfully divided the teams, ensuring the balance of power is relatively equal. I can tell the players are satisfied based on how quickly the game begins. Throughout the game I witness several small confrontations, all of which were resolved through redo’s, rock, paper scissors, or simple problem solving.


Just off the track there was a game of 4-square taking place. Students were lined up, patiently waiting their turn to enter the game. Again, like the football game, there were several close calls challenging the students to resolve conflict. Despite the disputes, the game would consistently resume with no hard feelings and continued excitement.


I quickly noticed the football game abruptly stop. There was a small group of boys and girls who wanted a space to play soccer. I wanted to intervene and share my solution, however I resisted the temptation to help. Instead, I observed, and within no time the football game quickly moved to the far end of the field, creating ample space for the soccer game.


I then look beyond the track into Discovery Playground. Six students were gathering wood and branches, dragging them to a triangular structure constructed out of long sticks, resembling a tepee. To the left I witnessed two more students pretending to hunt. I soon realized they were preparing for the “long winter ahead.” Their game was based on, The Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was impressed by their connection to literature.


As I turn to my right, toward the playground equipment, I see a flurry of activity, which at first glance, seems to be chaos. There were boys and girls running in all directions. Some were fleeing while others were chasing. The game appeared to be a variation of Capture the Flag. To an outsider, the rules seemed complicated and without boundaries. To its creators, the game made perfect sense.


IMG_20151101_214113My attention is then drawn to excitement and laughter just beyond the soccer game.   A group of girls were working together to choreograph a dance. One of the girls was teaching her friends a cheer from her cheerleading team. In just a short time the girls were in sync, and had learned both the cheer and the routine.




IMG_20151101_213840I see a boy running alone on the track. His pace seems to quicken after each lap. I then noticed he was acquiring a fan club, which was standing next to another teacher on recess duty. As his peers began chanting his name, he began to sprint as if being chased by a dog. As he crossed in front of the teacher, he collapsed with exhaustion. The students exploded with excitement when the teacher called out, “7:21!” This was a new personal record for the runner. He apparently attempts to break his PR once a week. One of his buddies helped him up and escorted him to the water fountain. I appreciated his empathy and support.


Finally, the whistle blows and recess has come to an end. 3rd Grade students immediately race to their lines. Within seconds, there are 4 lines standing at the door, ready to go inside. Three students are packing up the recess equipment into their bag when they realize a basketball is missing. Another student sees the ball near the courts, hustles over to get it, and places it in the bag.

NOW, recess is complete.  Another day in the students’ outdoor classroom is a success.

From a teacher’s perspective, recess duty is an opportunity to watch students grow physically, emotionally, and socially, in an unstructured environment.  It’s a time when we put the plan book away and allow PLAY to provide the lesson.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

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