artieface23(Durham, NC)

I recently received this e-mail from a PE teacher:


I was wondering what your opinion is on traditional versus non-traditional field days.

We used to do non-traditional, but when our school merged with another school district the “Powers to Be” said we have to switch back to a more traditional format with events where winning students receive place ribbons.

So, the debate this year is “what grade level do you switch from an student participation certificate to place ribbons?”  Right now we start awarding places in the first grade.  I feel that this isn’t age appropriate and would rather wait until at least second, but would prefer third.  

Just wondering your opinion on the subject.


Troubled PE Teacher in the Great State of Nebraska

Artie’s Reply:  

Dear Troubled:

First of all, I prefer a non-traditional Field Day!  When I was a beginning teacher (over 30 years ago), I persuaded the teachers at all three of my elementary schools to move from the traditional format to a “Super Kids” Field Day where all of the students were able to participate.   It did away with “winners and losers,” had everyone physically active, and enhanced the idea that “PE is for all kids, not just the athletes.”  

Every student only received a participation certificate. It was a simple hand-drawn certificate with the words –

Field Day Participation Certificate

Let is be know that the bearer of this certificate did his or her best at the

1978 Fuller Elementary School Field Day.

Job well done!


The classroom teachers would write the name of each student on the certificate and hand them out at the end of the school day.  

True Story – In 1983, was offered a job to work at the State’s Department of Education.  Eight years later, I was able to go back to Fuller Elementary on the occasion of a Retirement Party for Ms. Flo Turner who had been the principal there for many years.  

While at the reception, I was approached by a big (very big – 6′-3″ – 225 pounds!) high school student. He went on to say that when he was younger he attended Fuller and I was his second grade PE teacher.  

For some reason I actually remembered him.  When he was in second grade he was smaller than most kids, but “full of fire” with a special twinkle in his eyes. And for some strange reason, I actually remembered him!  He had that same twinkle in his eye as he did when he was younger.

 “You were in Barbara Marsh’s second grade class!” I said.  He smiled, nodded and said “Yes, sir.” (It’s a Southern thing…)  He had transferred mid-year as a second grader. “I do remember you. You’ve really grown!”

I would have never imagined the small, timid boy in second grade would end up being this huge guy who most likely could play middle linebacker on his football team.  He was now in 11th grade at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh.  He was doing well, looking forward to college, etc.  We talked for a good while.

Just before he left, he said  -“Mr. Kamiya, I just want you to know that I still have my Field Day certificate taped to the wall above my bed.  It’s old and worn, but I still remember how much fun Field Day was and how proud I felt when I got it.”

I’d vote against place ribbons!!!



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