Gym class causes pressure instead of enjoyment


Photo by Cassidy Gutman ’25

Students record each other climbing the rock wall and using certain skills in order to receive full credit.

I was standing in my physical education class for the quarter, Lifetime Activities, worrying about an upcoming test I would soon have for the class. In a week, my class would be individually assessed on our rock climbing abilities. But why should I have any stressful thoughts related to high school gym? 

The administrators and teachers involved in the Staples physical education department need to rethink the way they execute the curriculum to make it a 100% stress-free environment rather than a place where students feel pressure to meet certain athletic abilities. 

Gym should be a class about participation and participation only, which is demonstrated when students put effort into class. This is what makes gym fun and keeps students engaged. However, now that students are heavily assessed on their performances, the appealing aspect of gym class has been destroyed. 

Critics may counter and point out that other academic classes are graded on performance so gym should, too. But unlike other academic classes, gym is not a subject where extra help is provided or tutoring is an option, so it should be treated differently. 

In a class like math or English, students can find time to meet with their teachers outside of class in order to find success. Another thing students can do to better themselves in a subject is to find resources outside of school or online. 

Gym should be a class about participation and participation only, which is demonstrated when students put effort into class.

— Cassidy Gutman ’25

In comparison, I am sure that not many people have skateboards lying around or a rock climbing wall at home to practice for their upcoming gym assessment.

For the rock climbing assessment, it is not enough to just stay on the wall the entire time without falling to earn a 100%. Instead, one must remember to utilize a number of rock climbing techniques throughout the climb in order to receive a reasonable grade. However, it can be very difficult for a student to remember to use techniques while they are fighting the urge to drop down from the wall and give their hands a break. 

For example, I know people who participate in the sport of rowing outside of school. Many rowers have torn up hands, sores and calluses making it hard for them to grip the tiny rocks on the wall. 

In a school system that already breeds a highly competitive atmosphere and puts immense stress on students who are already suffering from their core classes, gym should serve as an outlet and a stress reliever. This is why it may come as a surprise when seeing a B level grade in a gym course. 

Additionally, all students are required to participate in a number of state tests which includes the completion of one mile, push up tests and curl up tests. Outside of these requirements, Staples physical education administrators should work towards student engagement and teamwork during each class. This is something that is encouraged throughout the Sophomore Wellness class curriculum which benefits students’ development. 

During Wellness, students complete a large number of assignments regarding how to improve their mental health and build valuable relationships which can be done in a gym class rather than competing to be better at certain activities. 

Because everything is now digital, assignments and assessments are posted on a class’ Schoology page, meaning that a chunk of time is spent online for a physical education. So, instead of unplugging and focusing on physical activities, students are to complete work on their devices. 

This does not benefit anyone as students are constantly staring at screens all day whether it be their MacBook or iPhone. In 2020, the National Education Association found that kids ages 13-17 spend around seven hours and 20 minutes a day on screens. Physical education should be a 40-50 minute break from screen time.

Considering the class is called Lifetime Activities, why not focus on bettering yourself? That seems like a very valuable lifetime skill to me. If each student has different capabilities from another, shouldn’t they each have their own goals to meet? 

In order for kids to be continuously engaged in participating in gym class, the way physical education administrators and teachers should focus on the goal of each student and help to improve their abilities. 

What ever happened to A for effort?