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What Does P.E. Class Look Like In A Pandemic? Learning The Link Between Physical And Mental Health

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Spencer Tritt
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DeKalb High School

Before the pandemic, Shelly Tranchita would walk around her packed, sweaty P.E. class shouting affirmations and helping students with their yoga poses. Now, for the first time during COVID-19, Sycamore High School is back in-person on a hybrid schedule. Her class looks a lot different now.

“The temperature today was 6 [degrees] and I have fans on in the indoor gyms that I'm in that don't have outside circulation. I wear two masks. I wear a microphone all day long so I can project my voice without yelling and spreading more aerosols, more germs,” she said.

None of her classes have more than 15 students. Two weeks into the hybrid format, it’s still awkward -- especially while simultaneously assisting a computer-full of students who chose to keep learning remotely.

Tranchita has always tried to focus on how physical wellness is a vehicle for mental and emotional wellness. That’s especially been the case as her students grapple with the trauma of the pandemic.

“We've included a full day, every week in my mind-body fitness classes of meditation -- learning how to meditate, learning how to focus on your breath to ease some of the high emotions and to make it through the day, to shift your mindset,” she said.

When everyone was learning remotely, she was making health and wellness YouTube videos for them.

The pandemic has also emphasized her intention of teaching students about exercise more holistically -- and how it can look different for different people. Tranchita says, stuck at home, they learned moving your body -- even if it’s just to go for a quick walk -- can strengthen your mental, as well as your physical, health. And that’s a realization, she says, that’ll be helpful for students long after COVID-19 subsides.