I was trying to write something thoughtful and serious about the relentless campaign messages intended to humiliate and demean the character of another person or group of people.
I kept getting interrupted by kids playing. It wasn’t that I didn’t seek out these opportunities. I volunteered to provide a break to those staffing the Healthy Community Coalition booth at the Kids Fair part of the Irrigation Festival.
My job was to count the number of times a kid or adult jumped roped. The jumper would earn a free jump rope if he or she jumped rope 100 times.
Other than being nearly decapitated by an especially eager jumper, it was great fun. I had forgotten how many different levels of jump roping there are mostly because I jumped my last rope decades ago.
Next, Doug Hastings, health and fitness educator at Greywolf Elementary School, allowed me to observe two of his classes. Since I was volunteering in the development of Sequim School District’s Wellness program and my own experience as an elementary student didn’t include PE, I wanted to see what kids today do in the classes.
Mr. Hastings was a member of the task force I chaired that developed recommendations for the District’s Wellness Program so he knew it wasn’t a wacko request.
No child’s play
By the way, the school board approved the wellness program recommendations, although not so anyone would know. The whole process was a lesson in how to turn a dynamic effort into a policy statement that in effect dampened any buzz that might have sent the program forth with a small flame, let alone in a blaze of glory and expectation.
Both board meetings I attended were marked by a sense of seriousness, almost on the edge of darkness. Expressions were stoic during our presentation as if a smile might indicate the overall school situation was not as bad as it is.
I thought it a missed opportunity.
We have to hope that the board’s own enthusiasm hasn’t been eroded to the bone by the striking defeats of recent bond measures. Good and positive leadership of an elected board is essential for good and relevant public schools.
I don’t doubt for a moment any school board member’s commitment to the future of children, nor do I doubt the struggle to engage the community sufficiently to support modernizing our schools.
It’s not child’s play to sustain a public school system in a polarized political environment, especially when one side engages in the aforementioned tactic of declaring incompetency and poor character at all levels of the school district.
In one example, a public statement was made alleging that the administrator was not experienced in construction; the writer did not mention whether this requirement came before or after the credentials that make a prepared educator and administrator.
My favorite example were the public statements that alleged the maintenance department didn’t maintain the buildings which was the reason one elementary school doesn’t have enough bathrooms and the other doesn’t have enough room for a gym, a cafeteria and all-day kindergarten.
A number of public statements alleged that the Director of Business Operations didn’t provide accurate statistics or reasonable projections for enrollment. Since I couldn’t determine the fact of the allegations, I don’t know what it was meant to explain.
I will take a wild guess that the intention was to erode confidence in the administration of the schools.
Both the dispirited school board and the school detractor bullies should be required to take Mr. Hastings’ health education and fitness class.
Although just watching it is enough to bring smiles to the most discouraged supporter or the most jaded detractor about public education.
Real child’s play
I observed Mr. Hastings’s fifth- and third-grade classes one morning. Using a clear calm strong voice, Mr. Hastings had complete command of his classes. He set the tone and his expectations earlier in the year and these kids got it.
They start class by filing in and sitting on a line on the gym floor. He asked for volunteers for something I had asked to see called a Pacer test. Most volunteered before they knew what it was and several grimaced when they learned but didn’t back out. I learned why later.
Pacer is an endurance test. The child runs the length of the gym as many times as he or she can but must reach the other end of the gym before the bell rings. The thing is less time is allowed for each added lap.
The number of laps made is an indicator of the child’s level of physical fitness. These kids put their heart and feet into it but the field gradually thinned.
No judgment was made about what the child did or did not achieve as long as the child made an effort.
Mr. Hasting’s goals for his teaching and his classes are simple as he says. Have fun, have active minds and bodies, learn something about health and/or fitness and introduce many wonderful life time activities. He does that and so much more.
Make an effort
“It’s not about winning, it’s making an effort,” whether it’s running the Pacer, being a team player or listening to others,” Mr. Hastings tells his class. He folds in a way of life, almost a civics lesson into each activity.
Mr. Hastings tells each child he expects them to be a good listener, a good cooperator and a team player. He tells them to show good effort and good sportsmanship and above all be safe.
And, they have fun. At least the kids I saw did. Sure, it was harder for some than others but most laughed at some point, sighed when they missed the ball toss or jumped up and down when they made it.
In all, I was reminded that it isn’t all play to be a child. There is a lot to learn and, if the child is lucky, they are in a class, a school and a community that has no higher goal than nurturing the learning and love of each child.
The least we should do is cheer up, have fun, make an effort, cooperate and show them sportsmanship.
Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.