The high school physical education (PE) locker room has gained almost legendary status as the site where plans are hatched, stories are told and students become adults. But PE isn't just a chance to goof off and play games; it is an important part of the high school curriculum, and most students don't get enough PE. Those who do take PE classes are challenged on physical, emotional and intellectual levels.
Benefits of PE
Good PE classes aren't just tests of strength or sources of embarrassment for those not athletically inclined. Physical education helps you master control over your bodies, improve coordination and balance, and boost your body image. Those who learn basic fitness skills in high school PE are more likely to become athletic, fit and healthy adults. PE can also help you understand options for healthy fun by teaching you the rules and standards of play for a variety of group and individual sports.
In your PE classes, you may take physical fitness tests that require you to run, jump and engage in other feats of strength and endurance. In addition to these standardized tests, you'll often face the challenge of competing with larger, stronger and more physically fit students in games such as basketball, soccer and tennis. You may also be required to steadily improve your performance -- either in a particular sport or on a physical fitness test -- by the end of the semester.
Many students dread PE classes because of the vulnerability they face. You often have to change clothes in front of your peers, which can be difficult even for the most confident students. Some students face ridicule for their bodies or physical performance. Boys in particular may be expected to excel at a sport, and if you don't, your confidence and popularity may suffer.
Most PE programs aren't just about sports and games. You also learn about health and fitness and may be tested on your knowledge. You might have to memorize the caloric content of fat and protein, demonstrate your ability to describe several exercises, develop diet and exercise plans, or make recommendations for developing a healthier lifestyle. This knowledge requires you to not only learn facts, but also synthesize data and apply it to your own life.
- The California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance: Appropriate Instructional Practice Guidelines for High School Physical Education
- CNN Health: Most Kids Don't Get Enough PE, Says Study
- Education Week: Fixing the Problems of High School P.E.
- Curriculum Online: Physical Education
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.