Nearly a year ago I wrote about our school district’s (the Independence School District) decision to add a Strength and Conditioning class to the middle school curriculum (Efficacy and Safety-Middle School Strength Training)
When this decision was made, there were some skeptics… in the community, in the district, even among peers in our department.
Here are the concerns “They” voiced about the class…
- “They” said that the class wouldn’t “make”… that there would not be enough interest.
- “They” said that middle school students would get bored with this (a full year) class
- “They” said that middle school students did not have the attention span needed for this class on a daily basis
- “They” said that the class would not be safe at the middle school level
- “They” said that middle school students are not physically ready for a strength and conditioning class
- “They” said that middle school students are not mentally ready for a strength and conditioning class.
Well, after nearly a year into teaching this class, all I can say is that apparently “They” do not know these 156 students that I have had in class this year.
In my 30+ years of teaching, this has been one of the best, most rewarding years I have had, and it is a credit to the administrators, students and colleagues in our district and our building. These students have been nothing short of AMAZING… pretty much daily.
Regarding the above mentioned concerns… I spoke to most of these in my original post, Efficacy and Safety – Middle School Strength Training. Regarding the interest level, attention span, or mental readiness questions, here is what I have found.
This, the first year of the class, we offered six sections… two for 7th grade and four for 8th grade… and in order to keep class sizes manageable due to space and equipment limitations, capped each class at 24 students.
We had over 200 7th graders initially sign up for the class, and 180 8th graders, which meant that we had to trim about 2/3 off the 7th grade list and 1/3 off the 8th grade list. There was more than enough interest.
I ended up allowing a few more students than the capped number in case any student wanted to drop out after seeing what the class was all about… and ended up with 156 students enrolled in my classes.
Out of the 156 students originally enrolled in the class, only 2 dropped out and opted for a different PE course. I also added several students at semester that wanted to get into the course after seeing what it was all about…. The students did not get bored, they have the attention span, and there is an interest.
The nuts and bolts of the class organization can be found in my various posts on the workout program, but in a nutshell, here is some general information:
- Typically we are in the weight room training Monday and Wednesday and every other Friday.
- Tuesday we are in the classroom doing the Health part of our curriculum,
- Thursday we do speed, agility, or functional strength work either outside (weather permitting) or in an area of the gym
- Every other Friday is “Choice” day where they get to choose an activity along with all the other PE classes.
- We have 4 “Core” lifts that we have taught and comprise the majority of our workout: Bench, Squat, Hang Clean, and Push Press
- Each week we include 3 of the 4 lifts in the cycle and eliminate one lift, rotating the omitted lift each week, thereby having 4 different weekly combinations.
- Each week we normally do a “change up” lift one day… clean from the floor, front squat, hang snatch, clean to push press, etc.
- Every student has a workout card that is individualized and proscribed to them based on their current strength level… a perfect example of differentiated instruction.
I don’t want to get too long winded with this post and stray from the intent… to write about the merits of this class. If you want more information, details of the program can be found on my various posts regarding the workout program.
I also tweet daily with activities and video from the class (@youcandomore1)
My closing thoughts:
- Some will use the “readiness” argument… that student are not physically or mentally ready to take a Strength and Conditioning class in middle school… I argue that it probably is the perfect time to introduce elements of this class
- This class and these students have been nothing short of amazing (and I am usually not prone to hyperbole) … pretty much daily… they have handled everything that has been thrown at them, and are learning how to compete.
- While the majority of the students in the class are athletes, there are some that are not… and they have responded equally well.
- I do believe this class will have positive ramifications in our athletic teams at the high school level. Our students will go to high school with a good understanding of strength training concepts, techniques, and a better understanding of what it means to compete.
- If your district does not offer this class at the middle school level, I would get on the bandwagon and lead the charge… if not it is a missed opportunity.
If you have specific questions about the program or how to implement, please feel free to contact me… I will respond!
You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you…. Don’t Believe It!
Jeff Floyd – firstname.lastname@example.org