I don’t always see the good in a situation. Being optimistic, for me, takes mental reminders and daily practice. It takes consistent dedication. Life can suddenly turn around in ways you didn’t imagine and to remain optimistic can certainly test you. I am a very fortunate person, I have had and continue to have many amazing opportunities and a support network that inspires me every day. I am very grateful. I am alive in an age of amazing change and growth. I get to travel and live all over the World. I am able to experience seasonal changes, to drink clean water, I have healthy children and I can afford to buy new trainers to continue my love of running. But some days I don’t see this. I see sadness, anxiety and feel that I am not good enough and I am not at all optimistic and sneer jealously at those who are consistently optimistic in my circles.
At the SHAPE America national conference in Boston, there were some underlying themes that set the tone and weaved and snaked themselves into almost every session I attended and were prevalent in each of our keynote speakers. Now, maybe as the affective domain is an area of interest and passion for me, I saw it everywhere and have made it the hero rather than the support topic. Nonetheless the big take away for me from this week has been the need to be a bigger advocate of building relationships and explicitly teaching children about being people and how to effectively connect and work effectively with others. I cannot think of a life situation (work, family, other) that doesn’t involve identifying challenges and working to solve them through different solutions. This also applies to working to support others and to actively be supported by others; to celebrate the best and to be grateful for each opportunity.
To be in a job that is all about building relationships requires that I have a disposition that allows me to be able to build relationships! (Steve Gross from Life is Good put this to a packed PE teacher keynote) How approachable are you? What is going to make a student come up and talk to you about their day or their moment? How are you going to be an advocate for your students (so that they know it?). And I also wondered about Aaron Beighle’s comment which was about whether or not I know my students? He asked if we could run our finger down our class list and know at least two things about each student – so can you? Or can you watch a video of yourself teaching a class and determine what traits you have that are killing your opportunities to connect with students (Smile more! Stop crossing your arms/ Take hands out of pockets!) – maybe some simple changes will see growth in your capacity of relationship builder in your PE class.
Dr Dean Kreillaars was a very impressive keynote speaker. He has a lot of YouTube clips and his research and discussion of what it all means is shared online. If you don’t know him, I recommend that you find out about him (Margaret Whitehead and Dean Dudley would be others to read up on if Physical Literacy is something to get your head around). Kreillaars shared research showing how young people think about Numeracy, Literacy and Movement in relation to their perception of how important the school thinks these three domains are; how important they think their family sees them and how important they are to their friends/social circle. Results indicated that students believe that both their families and their schools rate Numeracy and Literacy as Very Important and Movement as Less Important. But Movement was far more valuable to their friends and social circles than Numeracy and Literacy. It was so interesting to see that children value Movement with their friends, much more so than Numeracy and Literacy. If social growth and connection is related to Movement, what happens if I am not optimistic or confident about my feelings towards movement skills or ability?
Kriellaars argues that being ‘literate in movement’ is made up of different parts. Firstly you need to actually learn the movement competency skills, this means learning and practicing new skills and applying them in a variety of contexts to build proficiency. If you have holes in your movement competencies then you will not be able to work across multiple domains and may have big deficits in your ability to play (ex. if you don’t learn to throw/catch using different balls and pass types, you will likely find it challenging to play games that involve hand-eye coordination). As you build up your bank of movement competencies then you need to try them out in differing environments and use different equipment to be truly literate.
In society, in general, boys are offered far more opportunities to become physically literate than girls. Gender should not be a barrier for opportunity but yet we see more boys in movement and encouraged to pursue movement than we do girls. Children up to the age of eight have the same biological body except for their sexual organs. Research tells us that boys and girls equate movement with happiness until about the age of 10. Boys continue to correlate happiness and movement together at the same level through their teens. The movement building blocks they have added to and worked on continue to grow and expand with more practice and more time through Middle school. However girls make a downward decline in their perceptions of movement and happiness from age 10. By the time they are 12-14 many girls correlate movement to unhappiness. In general, we see a drop in the numbers of confident able MS girls in Movement activities than boys. Girls report feeling unhappy, unconfident and feeling that they have a lack of talent. The following slides are from Kriellaars Keynote slides from his California Shape conference. These girls (note that this is not all girls) are being repeatedly let down by a gender bias society. How can we encourage our community to value movement for boys and girls? How do physical education teachers (as well as general education teachers, coaches, community sports programs and parents) focus on building self confidence and other personal skills like resiliency? How do we make failure a part of success rather than the opposite of success?
How do you deal with anxiety and stress? We all do things differently when faced with a stressful situation. For me, I am a nail biter, a binge eater and I tend to hide away from social opportunities. But for others, stress and fear can lead to other forms of abuse and/or self harm. How are we teaching students about learning to read themselves and to be aware of their go-to coping strategies? How do we help our students to grow and acknowledge their demons and to find ways to deal with stress or anxiety – such as exercise and movement; eating well and getting consistent sleep? And if we are pushing our children by not giving them time to play and discover, then how will they be truly confident to be movement literate and to know how they might relieve themselves of stress through movement and activity?
Slide is from Kriellaar’s Keynote
And so we come back full circle. A person who is Physically or Movement Literate needs to have the opportunity to grow in their ability to build and use their skill set over time. But we need to create confident and motivated Movers who connect happiness, social connections, see that their school, family and community value Movement Literacy and be prepared to invest in the long journey (skill competencies + variety of contexts + confidence + motivation+ sense of talent and achievement), not arrive at a set destination and be ‘done’.
Overall the SHAPE national conference was a great space for connecting with others and to learn from some of the best and most effective educators we have amongst us. But the biggest take away for me was to consider how to create confidence in my students, particularly those who have huge gaps in their movement literacy that can cause barriers for further movement successes and fail to nourish growth in their self perception. And how can I as a play-maker in the business of relationships-builder play a bigger role in advocating and supporting my students?