When students hear the word “kinesiology,” images of high school gym class and kickball games often come to mind. The stigma that kinesiology majors get to slack off while enjoying four years of sports and fun could not be further from the truth.
Tim Bech gets angry when his friends make jokes about him going to school to be a “gym teacher.”
“It’s really frustrating to hear people say it’s the easy way out, and if they knew the program, they’d be impressed,” the sophomore kinesiology major said.
The kinesiology department includes a physical education and health teaching certification degree program, known as PHETE. It also offers degree programs in athletic training, exercise and sports science and a pre-professional program, which serves as the precursor for students who plan to attend medical or dental schools after graduation. Athletic training and exercise and sports science majors often pursue careers in personal training and physical therapy.
The department was previously called physical education, but since only 12 percent to 13 percent of its students at the time were PHETE majors, the new title, kinesiology, made more sense.
Students who choose to enter the PHETE program are encouraged to be mentally prepared for the workload and expectations required of them. The program teaches students physical education as well as health.
Although there are some gym-like courses like Basic Movement, Introduction to Aquatics and Basic Games included in the curriculum, students are also required to take several demanding math and science courses.
Associate professor of kinesiology Dr. Rick Swalm said many of the science classes have intensive labs and can be very difficult for unprepared students. Kinesiology majors must take two courses in anatomy and physiology, which involve memorizing every bone and muscle in the human body in addition to learning the inner workings of all of bodily systems.
“Kinesiology is as rigorous as any major, but it’s the only subject at Temple that involves the total person,” Swalm said.
Justin Fithian, an adviser in the School of Communications and Theater, remembers his experience as an undergraduate in the biological anthropology program, which required him to take two kinesiology courses.
“I loved it when I took them, but next to organic chemistry, they were probably the two most difficult classes that I have ever taken – including my graduate classes,” Fithian said. “The lab portion was great. You get to play with all sorts of plastic models of the human body and all of its parts.”
PHETE majors must also pass an annual Praxis test before moving on to the next grade level. The Praxis is a series of general knowledge tests in subjects like science, math, reading and writing, which are required of teaching majors nationwide. Students who fail to get the required B- can retake the test as many times as necessary, as long as they pay the testing fee.
Jennifer Hastings, a senior kinesiology major who plans to teach physical education in middle school, said many students do not make it through the PHETE program because of the strenuous curriculum, Praxis tests and the required minimum GPA of 3.0 for those entering their junior year.
The current senior kinesiology class consisted of 43 students, but is now down to only 10 or 12 students.
PHETE majors must also participate in the Practicum, a program in which sophomores begin student teaching under the supervision of teachers.
Even if a student can keep up with the demands of the program, many are uncomfortable with the teaching requirement, said Hastings, who was fortunate enough to “love teaching physical education.”
“We deal with the social, spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical aspects of a person,” Swalm said. “Most people do not understand the magnitude of what we do.”
Jennifer Klimowicz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.