If you are at the beach, fences keep people off the dunes to prevent erosion of sand in the event of hurricanes or tropical storms. Farmers use them to control livestock and to show property lines. In neighborhoods, they keep dogs in their yards and neighbors leaves on their side of the fence. These simple barriers typically made of wood and metal last for years and control access to different types of properties and areas.
I spent a good amount of time this summer thinking about fences. I have a rental property in a small townhouse community about 5 miles from my current house in Maryland. I never wanted to be a landlord but thanks to the 2008 market collapse, the choices were simple, rent the property to tenants or try to stuff my growing family into a 990 sq ft townhome. While the tenants have changed over the years, the fence in the backyard is the original fence from 2000. Each summer I perform maintenance on the property and the fence is always on my list of repairs as it’s always in a constant state of repair. I believe that deck screws, mending braces and Sherman Williams textured paint can keep a fence up many years past its replacement date. Each year, I try to justify keeping the old fence because of the profit to loss on the property but I know replacement is imminent. While I don’t live on the property anymore I still have responsibility to take care of the property and advocate for improvement projects that will keep my community safe and functional.
The state of our organizations are similar to my old fence. Should we continue to maintain old outdated programs like a money pit? Or replace them with modern programs with realistic expectations?
Let’s start with our oldest property fence; SHAPE America. SHAPE America has been the leader in the field of physical education for 100 years. It has contributed to many advancements in our field but can it rebuild its membership after the rebranding of the organization? While some programs like journal distribution, podcasts and advocacy are mending an old fence, will it be enough to keep the fence from falling into the past? The old fence has many loose boards at the moment and the repair costs are starting to grow. The transparency of monetary funds and questionable purchasing of online management systems are starting to see a tilt. Will the partnership between AHA push the fence to square or knock the fence over? Only time will show what happens to our oldest fence.
The next fence that needs to be mended is the state AHPERD association's financial budgets. With the new calculation and formula for JRFH funds, will our local associations be able to fund current programs and conventions? Every September, state associations sign a partnership agreement with SHAPE America/ American Heart Association. This agreement funds many state organizations’ budgets and advocacy programs. While this partnership has been successful over the years, the calculation for distributing funds has changed in favor of SHAPE America and AHA. This affects local advocacy and professional development plans for educators by decreasing the amount of funding allocated towards membership programs. What would happen if JRFH partnership was not renewed in the future? Would our state organizations survive like a dune fence after a hurricane? We need to make sure all state organizations can survive the hurricane by building up reserves and make sound financial decisions.
The last fence that needs to be replaced is the inappropriate practices shared on social media and at conventions. With another school year starting for many of us this week, we want more best practices and creative ideas shared on social media. Also, we want six months without the PE Central Facebook page having a discussion about dodgeball. We don’t want videos of students playing questionable activities and videos of just games. We want ideas that spark quality teaching and lesson planning. The same should be true for state conventions this fall. We need exhibitors at the conventions that know what standards are taught and can develop connections to our physical education classrooms. We don’t want to waste an hour of our time. We might need to replace some fence posts before they damage the next generation of physical educators.
The field of Physical Education and Health has many invisible barriers that need to be addressed. We all need to address these invisible barriers in our schools and within our profession. If we choose to live within the fenced in areas designed by social norms then we will never break any boundaries. If we continue to challenge these barriers, we can affect change for the most important stakeholders for our students.