Like other #PhysEd teachers connected on twitter, I have also pondered @jessicaolien‘s article “Dodgeball Should Not Be Part of Any Curriculum, Ever” and read about the first 100 comments associated with her article and have been left scratching my head.
I have read @PENathan‘s blog post “Being a #PhysEd role Model” and also watched/read and listened to most of the articles, podcasts and videos that he mentions (small World sometimes!) and I am left feeling there is a serious disconnect between what I see going on in many PE classrooms and what I read about what other’s experiences were in their PE classrooms.
@JoeyFaith has since written a blog post about ‘Challenge your work First‘ which is a great read for
PE faculties who are looking at whether they get enough time in the school schedule. I encourage you to read this well-thought out email from Joey to his school district.
Interestingly, like so many others, I had several terrible teachers in PE. Teachers who didn’t really appear to care about Education or about what it felt to be a MS or HS student and perform in-front of others. But I was lucky enough to have had one particular teacher who drove me to expect more from myself, who encouraged me to try again and who lay praise on me as I worked to get better (note that I didn’t get better, just worked on this). She gave up her time to answer my questions outside of class, and rang my parents to tell them how I was doing. She was upset when I changed schools after failing PE (under a different teacher who was so nasty resulting in my refusing to take part in lessons) but supported my move while she herself went on to represent Australia at the Olympics! She inspired me to run, which I still do most days, and I think that she was the first teacher to really get me thinking about being a teacher too and to consider what that could look like.
So where am I going with this blog post? I am looking forwards and as I change schools in August I am trying to prioritise what is important for me as a #PhysEd teacher in 2013. What will I take to my next school and new students and faculty? How is PE changing from when I was a student?
- PE is a performance subject, we see kids ‘do’ in our classes and their inhibitions are on display which can be quite different to other subjects. I agree that in PE we struggle with some isolation in terms of where we teach and what we teach and often this can be strengthened with weak teaching and the perception that we don’t teach much but end up with great tans along with wearing shorts to school most days…. but we must remember that students work is constantly being seen by others and how we model with them and work through this inhibition is crucial to their growth – especially during adolescent years.
- As a faculty of #PhysEd teachers I agree that we need to read and connect with others and find out more about what #PhysEd teachers are doing and how this is changing, and WHY this SHOULD change. The Gymnasium, Field, Tennis court or pool should not reflect for our students, what it has for their parents. We must not only involve our students but we have to share and connect to our school communities. We have to educate parents too so that they see that their children are not having the same PE experience that they may have had at school.
- #PhysEd is not Sports Coaching. Coaching sport is something entirely different to Physical Education. We are responsible for assisting our children to understand the concepts that will enable them to be successful in all sports. This is not to say that students also need to learn some depth and skills for success but we must not measure their growth solely on the ability to complete a lay-up or pitch a softball but this should be a part of the process of Education around the idea of movement, coordination, timing etc Our units need to reflect this as well as our assessments. It is important that we also explain this to parents and the community so that the report card/subject information/conference time for PE is understood.
- Peer Coaching or Peer Mentoring is vital to see growth in your class. Students must be prompted and be active coaches form an early age so that they are an important component in your planning of activities – students must coach and be guided on how to be a great coach. In Badminton, my students work in pairs – one to complete the activity set and one to peer coach their progress. When the students come for formative assessment (almost every lesson) the peer coach has to stand next to me and give the analysis as an open discussion with me while the player demonstrates their work. This dialogue allows me to work with them as a coach and to hone their vision so they are actively learning about the strengths and weaknesses and are not offering “unlucky” or other as a coaching comment. [I would like to also add that we as teachers should be in a constant cycle of mentoring and being coached by other teachers too – we should not be Royalty untouched in our Gyms – we should be co-teaching; mentored by others and assisting new PE teachers into this cycle for continual feedback too.]
- I truly believe Formative assessment is the way forward. Small, almost daily assessments must be conducted with students so that you can record their growth. Summative assessment is important but with mini-formative assessment you can decrease your end-of-unit load easily and have a much bigger/clearer picture of your students abilities. Differentiated work is also important to make this more visible and to challenge students. If you are playing a 3v3 invasion court game (like modified basketball) maybe you stronger student can only hold the ball for 3 seconds, but your weaker one has no time-limit. In our field invasion games of 4v4 I usually have a 2 or 3-touch rule on stronger players so they must pass and coach their team, or only allow them to score twice before someone else must score. This allows my students to work at their own level within a game where mixed ability is at work.
- Students as the teachers. Where-ever possible, make your students be the role models and teachers. Allow them to ‘teach’ others. The rule I try and work by is to have 5 minutes of games (3v3) in my invasion games units with about 2 minutes between games for peer coaching and feedback of strategies and ideas for moving forward. I research drills for games (like TouchRugby) and then set up groups and ask students to watch videos prior to the lessons and then allocate 2 groups a drill each per lesson that they have to share/coach/run. I assist but this allows them to work with the group, to have to think about the space, how to communicate, how to coach, problem solve and work with the class. This keeps kids active, interested and removes me from the ‘knowledge’ position in my lessons.
- Have high expectations of all your students and be consistent – if you expect work in on time or at a certain level of detail or at a performance level, then students will work to meet you. If you set your standards low, they will too, and this is hard to turn around later in the year. Keep to high standards yourself – answer emails/blog posts etc when you say you will and always be on time to class to meet them, let them know you respect them and their time and that PE is important.
- Allow your students to fail. Failure is the best way to make them work out what they need to do to be successful. I set up a level unit where students needed to make their way through one level at a time, they had to be assessed on each level before being able to move. Some of the students failed a lot, especially at the beginning. This was a very tough lesson, but the reflections on the unit I received were overwhelmingly positive, they learnt from their errors, tried harder and fought new battles and were very appreciative when they did pass from their own perseverance.
- I also notice that when recruiting, PE is not always important, as long as there is a PE teacher found, the discussions about that person’s experience or philosophy on PE as a subject aren’t generally questioned, more typically I am asked about my coaching experience and if I know how to teach swimming. So, I am would challenge Administrators and colleagues to step up to this and submit your application with your teaching ideas in mind – you are more than a PE Jock or Sports Coach, what we teach is one of the most important subjects in life – how to stay fit and healthy!
I challenge you to consider what is important to you and your teaching – how do you spend your time? Do you think about your students needs and how to challenge them? Are you moving PE forward or are you perpetuating some of the standards/practices that really do taint our profession?