“Your Gym…Is it an original?


Guest Blog -PFA Master Teacher-Steve Cox-Des Moines, IA

There are many marvelous perks one receives as a Project Fit America In Field Trainer flying around our great nation: Seeing new cities and their citizens at a very grassroots level. Listening to various dialects of American English. Oh my, s w a e – t a e, swee-tee, (sweet tea), foo-baw (foot ball), drivin’ a caw (car), chewt a gataw (shoot a gator). Local dishes: meat scrapple on toast, fried green tomatoes and oh Petrale Sole. Observing the different scenery, plants, flowers and even weeds: Kudzu, hanging Moss on Big Oaks, Fall leaf show in Penn. The wonderful History of our country: New York City, Blue Springs Battle Field Re-enactment, Navy Pier Chicago, Arlington Cemetery, Hoover Dam, Golden Gate, Little Big Horn Battle Field, Mt. Rainier, Three Rivers Stadium, Birth Place of Davy Crocket, Vegas, Delectus Winery-Napa, LSU Tiger Stadium, Elvis’s childhood home Tupelo, Princeton Stadium, The Grand Ole Opry, Beauvoir Plantation Biloxi, Roaring River MO., The Lighted Cross in El Paso, and so many more.
A big consistent I see, as I visit all these areas, is the kids. Especially elementary kids; their nature is to truly want to move, play, learn and have fun. School buildings, playgrounds and gymnasiums however can vary greatly. There are old buildings with very interesting histories. (school of ‘Remember the Titans’ movie). New buildings with every modern feature (after Katrina), all Round Dome buildings (Pattonsburg MO.) and everything in between. Then there are the gyms and multi purpose rooms. My goodness what a plethora of structures you see here! I would like to focus this blog on the gyms and more specifically what I see on the walls of the gyms. It would be good to give you a little back ground on ‘where I come from and have evolved to in this area’.

As I go into restaurants, I am drawn to beautiful chalk colored creative ‘Menu Special Dishes’ of the day more than their regular menu. When the day’s pile of new mail comes in, as I thumb through it, my eyes and heart lighten when a standard envelope with my name handwritten in manuscript appears. The colorful graffiti on old train cars draws my attention much more than the printed signs on the cars. I read and study personalized license plates and give no time or thought to regular ones. Christmas and birthday cards that were drawn/written by hand by former students and grandkids I keep and cherish.

Teacher’s lounges in schools are plastered with machine printed signs …… I look at and read only the very interesting ones posted personally, sometimes with drawings, by the teachers or principals. Handwritten signs on telephone poles about a missing dog or a lemonade stand really catch my interest.

Waking into a strange elementary school for the first time I am IMMEDIATELY drawn and focused, down whatever hallway I am in, on the displays, posts and sheets hanging on the walls. The ones that are obviously done by the hands of a teacher or students are uplifting and prime to me. I know much about a school in the first 90 seconds I’m there by noting the school cleanliness and then the personalized, warm kid centered nature of the walls. The more displays on the walls come from a machine the less educational warmth I feel.

Ok, now lets get to the gyms. A favorite song of mine, from my teenage youth, was written by a humble carpenter’s wife (she did have a Masters in English from Cal Berkeley and later a Doctorate) named Malvira Reynolds. She was a very creative, loving-of-mankind, talented composer. “Turn Around”, “What Have They Done to the Rain” were two of her bigger hits but I am referring to her song “Little Boxes.” I know, I date my old self with this story but humor me. Here are some lines from the song: ‘Little Boxes on the hillside, Little Boxes made of Ticky Tacky, Little Boxes, Little Boxes and they all look just the same! There’s a Green One and a Blue One and Red One and Yellow One and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same’.

Well I have this wonderful opportunity to spend hours in different gyms, watching, playing and teaching with students and their teachers. I find that the look of the gym walls usually falls into one of four categories :


  • Standard Gym Look

A few Machine Made purchased PE oriented posters, maybe a large Milk Mustached Sport Figure poster, Class Rules ( run off out of a machine), where to go for a Fire Drill, perhaps some Rope Jump for Heart Banners, perhaps the School Field Day records. Nothing wrong with this look. It serves several purposes well. But it is what I consider a ‘Little Boxes on the Hillside’ look for a gym.

  • Clean & Lean Look

Clean refers to just that, the shiny, rather spotless, neat, open look of walls with little to nothing on them (The Lean). …. Class Rules, a few Posters , Fire Drill, a School Announcement sheet. Safe, Tidy, Clean Gym.

  • School Storage and Gymnasium Look

These poor gyms are caught in lack-of-storage-space schools, where the administrative solution has been to store other school equipment in the corners and ends of the gym. This is of course limiting for floor space, distracting, dust collecting, ugly and obviously dangerous.


  • My Home Gym Look

These gyms have all/most of the ‘Standard Gym’ items but in addition they have: Key Terms, Quotes, Student Made Posters, Definitions, Sayings pertinent to the teacher’s philosophy and core Phys Ed beliefs. These things are plastered all over the walls. Much is in the handwriting of the teacher or an adult and not from a machine. Murals/Paintings may be on these walls. Social interactive expectations are clearly defined. Building Blocks of Fitness are boldly visible. Word Walls are posted. The entrance above the gym door has a, relevant to the Teacher, Phys Ed statement. In short, this gym truly reflects the fire & fiber of this professional, Physical Education Teacher.

Note ….. I have been in a few ‘Storage Type Gyms’ that have also still been ‘My Home Gyms’. I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for those dedicated teachers that still strive to the highest levels of educating the total child with an albatross like that hanging on their programming. We have marvelous teachers hidden in all sectors of the United States doing just fabulous Phys Ed instruction. I salute you!

Physical Education Teachers who read this blog. I want to encourage and challenge you to step back and critique the walls of your gym. Do they reflect who you are as a Phys Ed teacher? Do they reflect your values and goals? Remember, your kids can read as well as move. What are they constantly reading in YOUR gym? Grow it folks and make it close to the person you are. It is noble and good to make them fit but please realize you can do so much more.

To PFA Physical Education Teachers. I encourage and challenge you to go back into your core manual and read or re-read the ‘Hear It, Read It, Do It, See It” sheet. If you have never followed up on it, I ask you to please give it some serious thought and action. Those of you who have and acted upon it, take a deeper look. You may have evolved and/or changed a little. If there is some new passion in PE/ Fitness you want to champion, be sure your walls reflect it. We also have updated our ‘Key Terms’ sheet that you may find more enlightening. You can contact Home Office for it.

The ‘Heading’ above that gym door and the posters and such on your gym wall are a boost, testimonial and indicator of your program. Take them to new heights.

……….“Hitch your wagon to a Higher Fitness Star!”…………Your outer walls??? Let’s go into that later! 🙂





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3 Responses to “Your Gym…Is it an original?

  1. Scott Bauer says:

    Steve, what a well written and thoughtout blog. I really enjoyed reading it and I am reflecting on your words and how they have helped me over the years establish my program here in Homer Center. The word wall is a very helpful tool to help curtail any un wanted behavior or a source of motivation for students. If you haven’t started the word wall yet, take Mr. Cox’s advice and start adding it to your gym walls…the results will be instantaneous.

  2. Thanks for the epic article! 🙂

  3. Steve carve says:

    It’s a nice article. It’s good to see that children are taking active part in gym. Thanks for sharing.

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