It is often difficult for teachers to find ways to increase instructional time without cutting into other classes or holding students beyond school hours. In physical education, the challenges are even greater. Students on average take five to seven minutes to dress into uniforms, with additional time to get to their respective instruction areas – which at times may be far from the main buildings.
Generally, middle schools have between 54 to 65 minutes per period. Marshall Academy of the Arts Middle School in Long Beach has found success with only 48 minutes of classroom time.
For the past seven years, Marshall has implemented a department-wide procedure that maximizes its instruction time and contributes to a noticeable shift in school culture. Due to an added elective, passing periods have decreased from 5 to 4 minutes. In PE, students have a mere 1 minute and 40 seconds to dress and 2 minutes to get seated for roll call.
“That saves us a good 50 to 70 hours a year on instructional time that we gain,” said physical education teacher Dennis Rubin.
Another time saving technique used at Marshall involves setting “squad leaders” – students who are responsible for recording roll, tardiness and students out of uniform. Additionally, each quarter two students are designated as “commanders” to lead the daily warm-up. These practices provide instructors extra time to monitor and prepare for class.
“Frontloading the accountability of having students run warm-ups in the beginning part of the year saves us another 15 minutes a week,” Rubin said. “It’s been trial and error over several years, but in year seven, it really runs itself.”
In addition to these timesaving techniques, short dress times serve as a barrier against bullying.
“It wasn’t uncommon to have 10 to 15 referrals a month from locker room bad behavior,” said Rubin. “I haven’t dealt with major discipline issues in the locker room in the past five years.”
The less time students focus on things other than their immediate task, the less time for bullying and misbehavior.
Coach Rubin says it takes about two months for incoming sixth graders to get the hang of the fast transition, but after October, students, parents and administrators are pleased with the results.
“It’s been a real positive change,” said Rubin.
Marshall Academy of the Arts has a unique school atmosphere that teaches students social responsibility, leadership and the importance of goal setting.
In physical education, students at Marshall are expected to exhibit verbal and nonverbal cues of encouragement, as student squad leaders are in charge of keeping an eye out for this behavior.
“We have students come up with their own criteria of what it means to be a good leader,” said Rubin. “They come up with a whole rubric of being trustworthy, reliable, honest, and fair.”
For Coach Rubin, a measure of a successful PE program is more than just good grades. “I want to instill in my students the appropriate social and life skills, like working with others and improving yourself,” he said. “The real measure is what they’re doing health-wise, socially and emotionally.”
Photo: Marshall Academy of the Arts PE students work out on their new Sound Body Sound Mind fitness equipment.