The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Stretching their strengths

Kathlyn Hotynski

Physical education majors: Spending four-plus years in college to learn how to divide the strong from the weak and tell kids to play with a ball, right?

It’s not as easy as people might think.

As a PE major, junior Jeremy Clements has heard all the stereotypes.

“A lot of people think (PE majors) are just a bunch of dumb jocks,” Clements said. “They assume that we dominated in Phy. Ed. in high school and want to return and pick on the weaker kids in the class.”

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Senior Nick Isaksson, also a PE major, said he’s heard the common jabs at his major of choice.

“A lot of people make fun of me for being a PE major and going to school to end up making a low income every year,” Isaksson said. “But I love what I’m doing and I’ll love going to work every day, so it doesn’t bother me.”

Clements said a lot of the criticisms he hears involve the supposed simplicity of his profession.

“It’s just little things like we don’t need to know any content knowledge to do what we want to do . people think we just roll out a ball and tell the kids to go play,” he said. “I think a lot of people may have had that experience in school and didn’t get much out of it, but that’s what we’re trying to change.”

Organizational head of the Wisconsin Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (WAHPERD) and Physical Education program director Jeff Lindauer said another stereotype of PE majors is that they are looking to coach in high school, but that is not the case anymore.

“We’re getting fewer and fewer teachers entering the program that want to focus solely on coaching,” Lindauer said.

Even when Clements stepped foot into a kinesiology classroom for the first time knowing he wanted to teach Phy. Ed., he admitted he did not expect the program to be as rigorous and tough as it is.

Isaksson said he also did not think the path to becoming a PE teacher would be very difficult.

“It turned out to be quite a bit more work than I expected,” Isaksson said. “I knew going into college that I wanted to teach Phy. Ed., but I never knew I would get this much practice.

“There’s a lot more to the actual teaching field of Phy. Ed. than most people think.”

Clements said PE majors are exposed to direct classroom interaction early on in college.

“Before we get to the school of education, we typically travel to schools around the area freshman and sophomore year to observe classrooms,” Clements said. “That’s one really great thing about the program – it gives us a head start on in-class experience.”

Freshman year is also a time when PE majors learn about the history of physical education, different types of games and what the program is really all about, he added.

By the time a PE major gets into the School of Education, Clements estimated they put in about 150 to 200 hours of hands-on training in the classroom.

Lindauer said there are two 200-level classes that require a total of 60 hours in a classroom and a practicum in adapted Phy. Ed. that totals 96 in-class hours.

In addition, 60 more hours of interaction are tallied in a 300-level course and to top it off, students spend a standard grade school semester student-teaching in the area, Lindauer said.

“We do everything involved with becoming a teacher and sometimes people forget all that time-consuming hard work applies to us, too,” Isaksson said.

Once late sophomore and junior year rolls around, Clements said the program focuses the in-class observations on assessments, management skills and lesson planning with the teachers.

“Typically, a student is assigned to a class and it’s up to that student to work with the teacher to coordinate the required hours throughout the semester,” he said.

While many students’ weekly schedules vary, Clements said he spends 8 to 11 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays working at DeLong Middle School. He added that some students volunteer more than others.

Lindauer said many students are constantly busy once they enter into the program.

Both Clements and Isaksson do volunteer work at Longfellow Elementary after school on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays. Isaksson also coaches track and cross country at Eau Claire North High School and Clements runs the UW-Eau Claire men’s lacrosse team.

On top of all that, Clements said one of his classes splits into two groups and alternates going to Putnam Heights Elementary school and Luther Hospital every Tuesday and Thursday.

This is part of the program’s goal of building a stronger outreach to the community by offering more clinical hands-on opportunities, Lindauer said.

“Everything we do or volunteer for helps define us as teachers,” Clements said.

One primary after-school volunteering activity is the home-school classes in the McPhee Center.

Clements said the classes started three years ago after parents of home-schooled children wanted a program for recreation and exercise.

The university thought it was a good way to help PE majors get experience with children, Clements said.

“(The after-school program) gives kids the opportunity to get to know their peers and stay active,” he said, adding the small fee paid by the parents goes towards scholarships for PE majors.

With all the negative labels surrounding PE majors, Lindauer said the program is hoping to cast some positive light on its development.

“We have organizations and leadership group meetings where we identify and talk about stereotypes about our profession,” Lindauer said. “The quality of students in the program has risen each year I’ve been (at Eau Claire) and it’s because they are more passionate about what they want to do.

“We’ve made strides in the students’ understanding of what it takes to be an educator and a lot of it has to do with the seriousness that the students take towards the program.”

Instead of concentrating on the usual sports, Lindauer said the program has revised itself to become more up to date by adding health teaching to the table.

Clements said the program has changed as well, with a lot of integrated work and alternative programs added to the curriculum.

“We’re working on something called adventure education, which includes a ropes challenge,” he said. “We are geared more towards physical fitness and leading healthy lifestyles, and that has become a primary goal of the department.”

Isaksson said that since he declared his major, he has become a lot more involved in the major’s organizations.

“There are always opportunities to gain experience around the area schools and national and statewide PE organizations,” he said, adding the involvement helps to solidify his enjoyment of the profession.

While stereotypes towards PE majors will always be prevalent, Isaksson and Clements said they aren’t fazed by them anymore.

“It gets (me) down right away sometimes, but then I realize that they are ignorant to all the work we put into our major,” Clements said. “The fact that I chose this major gets me to think that it doesn’t matter to me what people say because I know I’m going to enjoy this job every day of my life.

“Some people may also have jobs they believe are more respectable, but they may hate what they’re doing.”

Isaksson echoed Clements’ sentiments, saying he considers the work he puts into his major just as respectable as that of other majors.

“Everyone has their own different majors and I think what we do is just as hard,” Isaksson said. “We’re just as involved in our major as everyone else.”

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