Guiding Students to Care for the Bodies They’ve Been Given
God-designed rhythms for healthy living
“God created a world in rhythm,” says Scott Mitchell, Providence’s Middle School physical education teacher. “There’s night, there’s day. You’re hungry; you are fed. You sleep; you wake. If you get out of the rhythm he designed for us then you’re walking against the grain. Eventually your body will break down … If you are constantly sick and dealing with pain, that’s an obstacle between you and the rest of the world.”
Teaching students to move in prayerful rhythm forms Mitchell’s physical education philosophy: “I teach them to steward this body. Whatever stage you are at, whatever your abilities or challenges, this is how you take care of the body you’ve been given, so you can serve the way you are called.”
Tools for pain-free living
The program leads students through parkour obstacle courses and beyond-the-classroom experiences, but Mitchell begins each year by handing students their own bag of “tools”—a lacrosse ball, foam rollers, and a jump rope. Then, they learn to use these tools to prevent injuries and to address pain in their bodies.
Mitchell’s technique comes from years of experience: prior to Middle School PE, he trained professional and collegiate athletes for two decades. He’s traveled with draft-eligible football players to the NFL Scouting Combine and he’s trained Major League Baseball athletes in their offseason. He knows firsthand that “a professional athlete and a middle schooler move toward the same basic goal: to live physically pain-free.”
Yet it’s not just about movement, exercise, and pain mitigation—the physical education program at Providence includes a focus on rest. Mitchell integrates a sleep day— where students bring their pillows and take a nap during their PE period—“to change pace and show them it’s not all about moving. It’s about recovery, too. If all you do is move and never rest, you are going to break down. If all you do is rest and watch shows and eat and never move, your body is also going to break down.” He turns on quiet music, students settle in, and, though there’s always a bit of giggling at the start, almost everyone, every year, gives in and dozes off.
Developing habits for confident living
Whether it’s calming the mind for rest or mastering an obstacle course, students learn that it’s okay to be uncomfortable in the process. When facing a particularly difficult challenge, “it’s not uncommon for there to sometimes be some tears in class,” he admits. “But they are able to step into this discomfort knowing we’ve provided a safe place for them to get back up again and keep going.
“The goal, through all these different forms of training, is to get every kid to a place where they are able to say, ‘I can do this.’”
In this safe space, Mitchell’s program provides students with the foundation they need to handle difficult situations, to re-center in times of chaos, and to practice rhythm and healthy habits when there are so many demands on their time and schedule.
“God told me a long time ago: ‘I will place you,’” concludes Mitchell. “He changed the course of my life. I’m working in an atmosphere where I get to speak life into, mentor, and disciple kids.”
Under his guidance, students develop healthy rhythms that enable them to be ready for when God says to them, “I will place you, too.”
- Providence Middle School
- Beyond-the-Classroom Adventures
- Portrait of Our Ideal Graduate
- A Blueprint for a Distinctly Christian Education