I sat down with the LAUSD equipment procurer and the district's equipment vendor yesterday. It was certainly an eye opener. I was previously given a copy of the equipment supplier's idea of the "weight room" and I didn't care for it. It was based on the lowest common denominator, not for cost but for fitness. It had loads of selectorized machines that are designed to fit everyone but never really fit anyone. The idea was to make it “easy” to have a PE class in there. To say that is insulting would be an understatement. I work very hard to create a rigorous and challenging physical education class that will benefit my students for years to come. I don’t need to have high school kids sitting on an abductor or adductor machine. Instead they can first learn to squat without weight. Learning how to send their hips back, drive their knees out keep their chests up and maintain their weight in their heels. Guess what? You will develop those adductors and adductors better by squatting correctly than trying to those machines. Machines go against everything I believe in as far as strength and conditioning go. You need to be able to move your body through space and develop a kinesthetic awareness. That doesn’t happen sitting in a chair/ “fitness equipment.”
It was also suggested that if I was out of school for an extended period of time or I left the school a substitute or a regular PE teachers there wouldn’t know how to teach using the free weights. A backhanded compliment for sure but a pitiful comment on the state of physical education. I wouldn’t allow a general substitute to cover a PE in a globo style weight room either, talk about a liability! If a certificated PE teacher is unwilling to educate themselves on the safe and effective use of free-weights then they shouldn’t be teaching it. I wouldn’t teach the uneven bars to a PE class but I would never discourage a teacher from acquiring the apparatus if they knew how to safely teach it. That being said, with my setup there is still plenty that an educator could do in the space with only bodyweight/gymnastic movements while the other didn’t offer any of that space.
It was certainly a tough conversation for me, as I had to defend my teaching philosophy against arguments by the vendor about safety and liability. I find it difficult to stay calm when I get resistance to my vision but I managed to keep my cool.
I believe most of the vendor’s resistance was simply because his company doesn’t supply functional fitness equipment. What a shame. Now I'm not beholden to a specific company but the one I got a quote from has everything we need, not a hodgepodge of some Globogym equipment and it was probably $20,000 below what was budgeted. In these economic times why would we not want to get more for less?
The District’s rep seemed receptive to the school's/my desires but it is going to be a long process, I can already tell. I was fooling myself thinking that I was actually going to get to design the weight room myself without a lot of pushback despite the green light from the school’s administration. I’ll keep fighting the good fight.