PE Class, Untied Shoes, and Superheroes


I’ve been teaching PE for more than 20 years. Throughout those years I’ve steadily grown as an educator building an extensive bank of knowledge in regard to learning styles, differentiation, aged-appropriate curriculum, and how I relate to each student. I’ve learned that each child is unique in his/her physical ability, personality, drive and fitness level, and background.

Also, over the last 20 years, I’ve experienced a few common situations that PE teachers and students face in PE class. Perhaps you can relate. Here are a few:

  • Untied shoelaces: There are two categories of students with chronically untied laces.
  1. The first is the slip-on student in 3rd grade or higher who simply does not seem to care (or notice) that his shoes are loose and his aglets are destroyed due to neglect. You can often hear this student clumsily clunking down the hallway, almost a little proud that they have dodged the two minutes needed to tie their shoes, essentially transforming the said shoes into slip-ons (Crocs with tread). Even as this student stumbles across the playground during recess, he/she (mostly he) refuses to tie his laces.
  2. The other, a more common student who falls into this “untied” category, is the Rookie, usually in 1st and 2nd grade. Rookies are always proud of their shoe tying ability and for a brief time after learning will refuse to allow anyone else to help them. Alas, due to inexperience, loose finger placement, and impatience, their laces will quickly become untied in a matter of minutes, thus graduating them to the slip-on category.

  • Respiratory Difficulties. As a former asthma sufferer, mostly caused by animals and seasonal allergies, I have a soft spot in my heart for students with this health challenge. I can relate to the struggle – especially during the winter months and allergy seasons. Many times these students will refuse to slow down in PE causing an attack to ensue.

  • Cold Season. Growing up in the colorful Northeastern United States, I thought I had seen pretty much every shade of green and yellow. That is until my first few winters as a PE teacher during the cold season. Yikes! “Coach, can I have a tissue? Nevermind.”, as a sleeve swipes across his face.


  • Boot Season – There’s a “holiday season”, “hunting season”, “cold season”, and now, in schools a “boot season.” Yes, “Boot Season”, and December 1st has been the official kickoff date. I realize they’re stylish, have a high ankle for support, are nice and fuzzy inside, and it’s winter and feet get cold. However, from my experience, I also know these hazardous fashion statements are just too clunky and unsafe. PLEASE STOP WEARING THEM ON PE DAYS!!!!!!
  • “My parents forgot…” – Students are constantly tattling on their parents, blaming them for the forgotten lunch, unfinished homework, and in my case, the boots that are on their own feet. It goes something like this: “My mom forgot I had PE today, so I wore my boots – plus it’s cold, and the boots are new, and…” Student Accountability is a MUST!

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a Legion of Superheroes on-call to help us battle such common occurrences? 

Ultimate Lacer With lightning-fast hands and feet, Ultimate Lacer enters and exits the gym in a flash, triple knotting every pair of sneakers, without a trace.
Nebuliza (Ne-bue-lie’-za) Nebuliza has the ability to spray a mist of Albuteral to prevent wheezing before, during, and after PE like a pixie spreads fairy dust to fly.


Mucusman By waving his white glove in front of a student ‘s face, mucus and snot are instantaneously wiped into oblivion, freeing sinus, lungs, and nose of congestion.
Captain Accountability Donned in a cape, holding his accountability shield, Captain Accountability deflects all misdirected blame and transforms the negative energy into a heavy dose of accountability.
2E (Excuse Extinguisher) As students approach the track for a timed-run, 2E places both his index fingers in each of his ears while humming loudly, drowning out the rapid fire of excuses. This, combined with his hyperfocus, filters out all “made up” excuses while protecting the legitimate ones.

I would enjoy hearing about such common encounters that you experience as a teacher or parent. Is there a Superhero who can remedy the situation? Let me know!

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Every Lap Counts: A Simple Supplement to P.E. and Recess


“What it means is that you have the power to change your brain. All you have to do is lace up your running shoes.”
― John J. RateySpark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain



Every Lap Counts. This is the name of the program a colleague and I spearheaded two years ago to give our students an opportunity to walk, jog, and/or run on our track before school. Inspired by the book Spark, by John Ratey, which describes how the brain is nourished by exercise, we wanted to provide an outlet for our students to exercise before school.

Prior to Every Lap Counts, the only options for students who arrived early to school were to go the media center and read, or sit quietly and socialize with their peers. Based on the research regarding physical activity and its ability to enhance students’ academics, we decided to provide a program where elevating heart rates could assist the brain in reaching its peak performance.

Every Lap Counts – Influential Factors:

  • Research indicates that exercise makes us mentally sharper, and also shows that students score higher on math and reading comprehension tests after exercising for 20 minutes.
  • Studies have found that kids who exercise are more confident.
  • Many studies have found that kids who exercise feel happier, are better at managing their moods, and have fewer mood swings.
Students run, walk, and/or jog on the track

Every Lap Counts 

The program is simple. Any student in 1st–6th Grades who arrives between 7:30 and 7:40 are allowed to drop off their backpacks in their classroom and head directly to the track. Students in pre-k and kindergarten are allowed to join us as long as a parent accompanies them. We encourage parents of all students to participate, encouraging lifelong, family fitness. From 7:30-7:50 students can walk, jog and/or run on the track. On some days students have the option to do baton relays and sprints.

Each laminated strip of paper represents 1 lap

***As an added challenge, I recently implemented the optional 1-mile challenge. Students can come out and run a mile each morning. I promised that each week I’d post every student’s name that completed at least one mile in the hallway outside our gymnasium. Honestly, I only expected a handful of takers for the challenge. On Monday, out of the 46 students on the track, 14 of them ran the mile. I was blown away. Amazingly, the number of milers more than doubled on Tuesday and again on Wednesday. By the end of the week 68 different runners ran 133 total miles. More impressive to me was the breakdown.

  • 1st Grade – 20 students
  • 2nd Grade – 10 students
  • 3rd Grade – 18 students
  • 4th Grade – 13 students
  • 5th Grade – 8 students

Students of all ages were motivated to take the 1-mile challenge. Some were inclined to run 2 miles. At the same time students who came out to the track who didn’t take the challenge were still celebrated for starting their day with exercise.

Students receive a toe token for every 5 miles they run.  I’ll also hand out toe tokens once a month for all students who participates in the program.


Every Lap Counts is about movement, a simple opportunity for students to stimulate their bodies and brains through exercise, and a chance to socialize with friends prior to the rigor of the normal school routine.

Every Lap Counts has become a favorite part of my day. I am in awe and overcome with pride each morning as an average of 60 students join me on the track for this supplement to recess and physical education.

 Perhaps some of you already have successful morning movement programs, and can relate to the pride I exude for students at my school. If so, please let me know! Maybe together, we can inspire other schools to do the same.

***Update:  It has now been 6 months since I implemented the 1-mile challenge.  Our students have logged almost 1,500 miles.  Some runners have posted over 50 miles on their own.  Each Friday, I post the student and class mileage totals outside our gymnasium.  Often, there will be a crowd gathered with students proudly searching for their names.


Griffin, R. Morgan. “Exercise: Good for Your Kid’s Brain.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.

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Leading by Example: Guiding our Kids to Lifelong Fitness


Children are remarkably perceptive. Today, the old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do” is being pushed to the proverbial back-burner with parents and educators striving to lead children by example on a journey to lifelong fitness.

Our PE team recently witnessed this as we led an assembly at our school called Fitness Time Together. The entire school community including students, faculty, and staff were invited to the gym to participate in a group fitness routine and take part in a discussion about leading a healthy lifestyle.

Here’s the overview:

  • Coach Brian opened the assembly by talking about the importance of being active and eating healthily.
  • Coach Austin followed with a 4-minute high intensity interval-training workout designed for our students. Picture this: over 700 adults and students all working out together in our gym. An incredible sight!


  • After the workout, it was my turn to close the assembly.

I first asked all the adults to raise their hands if they planned to exercise sometime during the day (excluding what we just did). To my delight, practically every adult in the room proudly raised their hand. I then asked the students to raise their hands if their parents exercised. I had just hit the fitness jackpot. A sea of hands immediately reached for the sky. I instructed the students to look around and notice all the hands, emphasizing how many adults in their lives are taking care of themselves by exercising. I especially wanted the students to notice that if all their teachers and their parents are exercising, then it must be important, and that they were most likely exercising to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Then it dawned on me during the assembly at my school, that as much as we need to discuss healthy living with kids, it is equally, if not more important, to lead by example. If our children see us exercising regularly and making healthy food choices then they are living in a healthy environment. Within this culture, healthy living will more likely become habit. I recalled my own childhood when my mom refused to buy “sugar cereals” or pop-tarts with frosting. She was constantly reading the labels on everything she bought to ensure we would keep our teeth and grow up to be healthy adults. Now that I have my own children, you’ll never find “sugar cereals” or pop-tarts with frosting in our pantry. Lesson learned mom!

At a time when technology has the potential to dominate our day, it is our obligation to encourage children to go outside in the fresh air, and take care of themselves.

As PE teachers, my team and I preach fitness and try to keep our program chock full of fresh ideas to help maintain a positive level of motivation. Along with parents, we encourage our students to seize opportunities to simply play. Play outside during recess, join school-wide running programs or teams, and enjoy unstructured play at home.

Last week before leaving work, I received a call from my 10-year old. He wanted to know if I would go for a run with him when I got home. Proud Papa Alert! Of course I’ll run with you. Later my older son and daughter wanted to play tennis. So far, mission accomplished. My wife and I lead healthy, active lives, and realize that how our children craft their character and lifestyle is firmly determined by the example we provide.

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