A Healthier Active Classroom


Last spring I was asked to do a long term substitution for a very good friend of mine. She was going into the hospital for surgery. I went in early to meet her class. They were all the 7th graders in an all boy’s school. She was a Science teacher and I would be there for six weeks. What an outstanding teacher she is. She had laid out the chapters, assignments, and tests for me on the side counter. Any time I had a question I could call her.


The academic part went really well. I even had the chance to bring in my daughter, who was a senior in high school, a straight a student, and a science whiz, to teach a couple of classes. She was brilliant! Way better than me. She has the touch teaching kids. She was so professional. I was beaming with pride.


Ironically, some of the parents called and complained, and the head of the science department came down to my class to talk about what I had done. He was very good about it though. But geez, Molly knew more little details than I did about what we are studying. The kids loved her and they learned a lot. (And so did I) I used what she taught these two classes with the other three.


What an opportunity to be with an age group that was right at the cusp of puberty or just getting to it. There were plenty of athletes in the five classes I taught and there were about 100 children total. At least half of the total played sports, and they played many different sports. What a laboratory for me!


First things first though. I had to gain their trust. I started out by having them print their names with their opposite normal writing hand on their first “packet.”


I wanted them to understand balance, and teach them a little humility while having fun. I then explained to them life was about the journey and that they would become better at writing with the opposite hand the more they practiced using it. Continuing to do the same thing the same way over and over would lead to the law of diminishing retunes.


As the time passed I started to notice a disturbing trend. Kids were missing classes on Friday and some were coming in Monday obviously tired. The teacher had given me the grading book to record grades. It became quite obvious that most if not all of the children who missed class on Fridays were athletes. The children coming in tired on Mondays were part of that same group. I then started to chart their homework assignments, reading comprehension form the assigned readings, and their test scores.


 The data gained was very revealing. The more absences, the more tired they were. The more tired they were the poorer there work was, and ultimately, their test grades suffered.


This did not apply to all, but I have done enough research on this topic that the data was compelling, and I was able to predict, before a test was taken, for the most part on how the tired students would fair.


Here was my solution. Since this school had incorporated the block scheduling into their curriculum, where the children have an hour and fifteen minute classes two days a week, I decided to try an experiment.  I could not match this teacher’s knowledge of science. (I have degrees in history, psychology, and philosophy, with a Masters in education) I had to come up with a different approach to help these children feel better and fresher, so they could do better I theorized.


“Simon Sez.” Yep. It just hit me one night when I couldn’t sleep. I was worried about the job I was doing. It seemed to be going well and the feedback was good, but I thought I could do better for these kids. They needed to be more active. I called my friend and she agreed that I could try it. What a hit it was. I started it. Then I let the kids lead. Some were good, some weren’t. We encouraged the kids to be positive and everyone got a chance. The enthusiasm was infectious. They began to ask when we were going to play “Simon Sez.”


I would tell them if we got this amount of work done and everyone participated, and helped each other we would play. The results were outstanding.


When the teacher called me after she had recorded the final grades form the last test an amazing fact emerged. The children’s grades, for the most part went up! She even told me she was considering adding it to her curriculum.

I love kids.