Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mixed Signals

Mixed messages. Say one thing, do another. Its gets confusing.

As elementary physical education teachers, my teaching partner and I also mix in a lot of teachings about good healthy habits and proper nutrition. My teaching partner, who does a great job researching information on what really goes into our foods, is a staunch advocate of teaching kids how to make healthy decisions even when most of the time that flies in the face of popular opinion.

At school mixed messages are given quite often which sometimes when I hear them I wonder how the kids keep up with it all. Even more challenging is when a message in school is directly in conflict with social norms outside of school.

A few examples that we have noticed in our school:

1. When it comes to healthy choices, the government dictates what types of foods  fit the food pyramid or the most recent initative, My Plate, yet then does not provide school cafeterias with food that falls under the nutritional values that it touts. When the government claims that pizza is a vegetable I want to do a hand smack to the face.

2. Candy for prizes or rewards. Yet again, goes against the nutritional info spouted by just about anybody.

3. Kids need to exercise/play for at least an hour a day. Every adult in the world will agree with this yet in school recess is being reduced and the older the child gets the more structured their day becomes with less emphasis on exercise and more on academics.

4. Outside corporate ploys to get parents to buy unhealthy foods so the school can reap less than 5% of the total revenue which usually adds up to nothing more than enough money to buy new toner for a printer!
Box Top for Kids comes to mind for this. Not only that but then the parent who is head of this fundraiser committee at the school bribes kids to make unhealthy food choices with an ice cream party to the class who can raise the most money.

5. What about the idea of competition? In school we want to reduce the amount of competition. As a P.E. teacher I have found that providing a program that allows all to succeed and work at their own speed has become a successful teaching plan. Sometimes, however I wonder if we are setting them up for failure. Not too many places outside of school operate on the "get it when you get it" model. Its very competitive outside of school. I don't advocate for win at all costs nor ranking students but can we at least let kids know that school is the only place where people have to consider other's self esteem. The job I worked before I became a teacher demonstrated this very point. Also I have a friend in finance who told me stories about how early in his career his boss was always yelling and demeaning workers when they screwed up.

Along with the mixed messages in school kids also receive many contradictions between what they are taught in school and what their parents tell them. Homework comes to mind as the leading issue.

There is no utopia and nothing ever is perfect but the transition from the school world to the working world might be a bit smoother with more consistency.

My views are from the lens of a Health and P.E. teacher. If you have any mixed message experiences from another area please leave a comment.

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