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My Experiences From Teaching 8th Grader Gym Class In Poynette

By January 19, 2011 27 Comments

Last week I was asked to teach some bootcamp style classes to 8th graders in a small town called Poynette, WI.  I haven’t taught too many kids in the 13-15 age group.  I didn’t really know what to expect or how they would react to things.

I know that this video and post will be sent to all the students, staff, and parents of the Poynette school.  I think people like my honesty and take on things as I see them.  In this article, I will not try to sugar coat things but share what I observed, the good and the bad.

Like I said I had no idea what to expect, I have only been in schools a handful of times since I graduated 8 years ago.  I didn’t know if I was going to see half the school overweight or obese, or what the attitude and effort level would be of the groups.

Buns Guns DVDs

I want to first thank the teachers and other staff that warmly welcomed me and what I had to bring.  Since I didn’t have much equipment to work with, I decided to just use my resistance bands, medicine balls, and good ol bodyweight and partner exercises, similar to the ones found in the Ultimate Buddy Bootcamp DVDs.

I taught 3 classes with about 25 students in each one.  Although each class was a little different the overall experience was similar.  Here is what I learned…

-There weren’t as many overweight and obese kids as I was expecting.  Each class had a couple that were close to the morbidly obese categorie, followed by maybe 3-5 others who could reach a healthier weight.  Otherwise most of the kids were very thin.

-The lack of effort of the group wasn’t very good in many cases.  I spoke for about 5 minutes before class started and said I had two rules.  The first is that you try to listen when I talk so we can get through the workout smoothly, and the second was to push yourself and not give up when it became uncomfortable.  I would say the only time I had 100% participation was the first lap down the basketball court of the warmup, after that there would be kids who just would give up and sit on the side lines or lay down.  At some points there were up to 10-12 of the students not participating.

The girls wanted a group pic

-Those who were in athletics, especially the guy type jocks tried quite hard to impress everyone and gave quite a bit of effort.  Similar with the female athletes.

-I saw a big disparity in the class when it came to the confidence level of the group.  I know for some kids, gym class is the worst class of the day and they feel very inferior, while others excel and live for it.  Those who weren’t as athletic seemed to give up sooner or not try at all.

-At the end we talked about nutrition and I was horrified with what the kids said they ate and drank.  Nearly everyone I polled drank soda on a regular basis.  This included the skinny and the overweight, the fit and the unfit.

-The kids liked to have fun and laugh a lot

-The cardiovascular fitness on average was very poor.  After just a short amount of time many of the students were sitting out because they were tired.

-Many kids had trouble doing pushups or side planks or hip raises.

-I learned not to do hip raises to 8th graders, they aren’t mature enough to handle it 🙂  Use your imagination on this one.

So overall I had a great time and met some awesome kids, a good number of them who tried hard and gave good effort and support, but there was more kids than I would have liked, for whatever reason weren’t willing to give it there all and take it very seriously.  Although the bodyweight of the students was much better than I expected, the overall fitness level wasn’t.

I want to challenge the parents and teachers to be the example for your students and sons and daughters.  You have so much influence and if you aren’t teaching them what it means to eat healthy, and exercise, you are setting them up for failure and 15-30 years from now I see them as parents themselves struggling to eat healthy and exercise.  The unfortunate truth is that many of those 8th graders will become overweight and obese in the upcoming decade.  But the great news is that it is one of the easiest things to prevent.  It starts in the homes with a foundation of eating healthy whole foods with the family, being active, whether through sports or as a family, and open communication.

Lastly, I want to challenge the students who are reading this who were in the classes I taught.  Even though I don’t know you I care for you a lot. 7th and 8th grade was maybe my toughest two years in school.  Kids make fun and pick on others and everyone is going through so many physical and emotional changes.  If you are someone who is getting picked on or struggling with low self esteem, I want to let you know that you are worth it, and even if it doesn’t seem like others like you, you are so special.  Those who are negative are they themselves struggling in life and with their image and confidence.  Keep your head up and believe in yourself, because I believe in you.

There are some of you reading this who HATE gym and it brings out so many insecurities.  I want to challenge you to not compare yourself to everyone else’s skills, but strive to do your best.  It doesn’t matter if you are last, as long as you are trying your best.

We are all given different gifts and talents, all I ask is that you use them to your best abilities and give 100% in everything you do.  When I taught your classes I was actually feeling pretty sick and run down, but I hope you saw the intensity, energy, and passion I brought, I didn’t want to bring less than my best..  Right when I got home I collapsed and slept for 2 hours.  The harder you work in life, the better you will feel, the more proud you will be of your accomplishments and the higher you will sore in your life. Click here to read my Rudy story, I think you will enjoy it and might be able to relate to it.  Keep working hard and surrounding yourself with the right kids and you will be great.