Professional Development,  Teacher Reflection,  Uncategorized,  Voxer

Professional Growth 2018-19

Question Finger 1 by Josh Tasman

This year I have found it very challenging to find a focus area for goal setting – a collection of data – conversations for growth and/or reflection and to make a meaningful change based on this focus point.  I feel I have not been unproductive, but as the deadline to ‘show’ something looms, I am still not sure what singular thing I will talk about in my end-of-year discussion with my Principal.

As I ponder why this may be the case, I think back conversations I have had with others about purposeful professional growth.  This blog post from @imsporticus (Kicking over the Ladder) resonated very heavily with me about how conversations tend to be framed for those of us who have been teaching for a while – to shoot for a leadership role rather than become a more effective Physical Education teacher.   My administrators here are super supportive and encourage big thinking and understand that different teachers will focus on different pathways to be stronger and more effective but in the end they are looking for a ‘something’ to share as progress over the year.

I have been reading 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson and in this book the fourth rule is called “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today”.  I think that the important lesson here has been to stop being so hard on myself and to embrace the work that I do every day that attempts to make more meaningful learning for my students.  As I analyse myself, I know that my best teaching revolves around both being highly organised (planning lessons and activities, equipment, space, reading up on kids, talking with colleagues, having assessments mapped out, asking questions of my colleagues near and far about better games or lessons to see specific skills or tactical play etc) but this goes hand-in-hand with the chaos of spontaneity of changing games or equipment based on the formative ongoing assessment in gameplay that I see or the need to add another lead-up game because of the students relationship to the game or activity we have done.  As an example, I recently began a striking&fielding unit with my G8 students.  We focused on cricket which none of our students had ever played before.  I started with some throwing and catching games to assess what we could and couldn’t do as a group.  I then decided instead of going into a mini-game of cricket to play spike-ball (modified with hoops over the spike-ball net) to really move around as a Fielding team – to support throwing to a partner, to have a target to aim for, to try and use space well and to communicate with your partner.  I had not planned to do this, but based on the first game we played I realised we needed another step in our progress.  Another example is the start of Invasion Games in G6.  I use a 2v1 game to see whether the students can pass and move with a defender in the mix.  I give them a choice of large or small play space and a ball of their choice.  If we are struggling with a soft ball and big space, we will have to progress slowly and linearly but if this is easy (we all move well with a basketball in small spaces) then we quickly ramp up our challenge – the decision is based on what I see the students need, not on me choosing activities we must play that day.  This alternate of Order and Chaos treats each of us very differently and as I read Peterson’s book I am really learning more about how I operate as an experienced teacher, parent and person and how there are roadblocks to our success both within and out of our control.  But I digress (as usual)…

But still, I wonder what am I going to discuss and show to my boss?  As a (sometimes cripplingly) high achiever, I find myself asking: How will you know when it’s good enough? 

I have not been unproductive this year, but it is always hard to know whether these are stories  that merit Professional Growth and show an impact on student learning.  But I can say confidently that I if I compare myself to who I was in August 2017 to now, there has been a steady stream of growth – here are a few things I would like to share.

Google Innovator Training

I was fortunate enough to be selected to go to Sweden for Google Innovator Training.  If you want, you could read about this here and the project I am working on here.   There are still conversations going on with teachers, administrators and students about what a prototype could look like, and I hope to continue to engage in this work for another 4-6 months as I do some more research, trial and error and then perhaps a prototype and test with our Grade 7 program next year.  More to come here.

Finding Pleasure in PE

Dr Shane Pill shared an article with me by Richard Pringle (2010) about Finding Pleasure in Physical Education: A Critical Examination of the Educative Value of Positive Movement Affects.  Others in this PE space have written about this article and their take-aways from it.   Although I am still digesting this article and will need a few re-reads… I loved recalling that PE is not just about movement or knowledge but that it comes with enjoyment, pleasure, fun and that we all experience these things in different ways.  With a mix of Eastern and Western cultural influences in my Chinese International school student body, it has been very eye-opening to consider what each student may consider to be fun and that has been a very rich conversation with my students.  I have had some great Vox chats with Evan Godsiff about the idea of the F-word (Fun) and what this might look like in PE.  PE teachers are likely to be bias in what Fun is in PE as we grew up loving physical education for a myriad of reasons – and we are looking to inspire our students with this message of Fun.  I have been trying to capture more Joy in my lessons with students based on the thinking promoted in this article – to consider what Fun looks like and does not look like and how each of us will experience/find/take risks to have Fun based on our experiences (cultural, personal, family, values, sense of risk etc) and that it is okay that we do these things differently.  I have had to think about how Joy for some students means high intensity play with keeping score, using proper rules and equipment and physical game play but for others it means more community style play with less physicality (usually), a modified game play space and time for discussion about the rules or how to play within the game.  This differentiation can be skill based but sometimes it isn’t – and the level of Joy has been a great conversation and a chance for greater awareness of ourselves and of our peers.

Student as a Learner

This year I have been trialling a Student as a Learner rubric that I wrote and edited with others including Aaron Beighle to try and re-write a Middle school rubric into something quite PE specific.  I wanted to engage in conversations that were more PE meaningful with our students about being more Responsible, having a learning Attitude to PE and Collaborating successfully with others in the class.    This is a passion that was greatly fueled by my time at Yokohama International School – that PE is an amazing space for learning to work through challenges with others which is really what life is about.    My core teaching this year for my G6 and G7 students has been:

  • Be Respectful (of others, space, equipment, time)
  • Be Grateful (for every opportunity to play and learn)
  • Celebrate. Often. (with every opponent, team mate, every point, great play, attempt of play, idea …)
  • Reduce Conflict (agree on rules, lines, score.  Consider tone of voice, when and what you say and to who)
  • Have Fun (see above point about this)
  • Ask Questions.  Suggest solutions.
  • Be Self-Directed.  Take self responsibility.
  • Invite someone else to play.  Invite yourself into another team.  Smile.

I have tried very hard to model this, to assist those who have difficulty by setting up ways for them to be successful.  In our recent Mini-volley unit, I worked to scaffold what self-directed learning looked like, and praised students who did this well in front of the group.    We then came up with a working definition and check list of what a Responsible learner looks like (self directed, on task, helping others, asking questions, respect etc) and then at the end of our lesson we had a Shout-out circle where we shouted-out about those we had worked with (opponents, team mates) who had really been stand out Responsible learners and celebrated them together.  This saw a huge shift in confidence and risk-taking as well as a change in our social structure as some very shy or doubtful students saw themselves being celebrated in our class.  This lead to our Dance class being more adventurous and supportive (which was one of my goals as Dance can be seriously anxiety ridden for those trying Dance for the first time).

Next year I would like to try and set up a hierarchy of use of this rubric as it is very hard to use (too wordy) currently and focus very specifically the strands that link to the time of year and type of unit we are focused on.  For example, Invasion in Trimester 1 could focus on Attitude to the game and taking risks as well as Collaboration (how do I support a team?) and then in Trimester 2 Invasion could move to Collaboration (how do we reduce conflict and work in a self-directed way?) – there is more thinking to do here and I would like to try and test this out with our faculty and then talk to students about their experiences.  I wonder if we could use the same rubric and focus over a trimester regardless of the unit or if we must tailor the focus to the unit at hand or find a middle point here.

Student Leadership

At Yokohama, there was a school-wide focus on student leadership.  We in PE took to this with vigor, the more quickly we could engage in student led work and learn about how to lead within our environment we were hopeful there would be a lot of crossover to ASA, Varsity and Middle school sport and of course our student body.

I would love to find more ways to promote Student leadership at ISB.  The culture here is a very nanny and helicopter parent approach – every afternoon there are many parents who sit outside sporting or activity rooms waiting for their child to emerge (and then they feed them and take them off to the next class or activity).  Students treat PE like a recess space, they are used to someone else setting up the equipment, that it doesn’t matter if the ball is left out (someone else will do it) and there is no sense of ownership in this space.  This drives me crazy!  I would like to think about more Student Leadership in PE that could include:

  • Sport Ed unit/ Sport Leadership unit with the focus on students leading through different roles and running an end-of-unit tournament and celebratory moment.  Here is a blog of a previous group of Grade 9 students that I had the pleasure to work with at YIS.  This is what 4 years of running this program can lead to!
  • MS students working as student leaders at the Upper ES Track and Field days and look for opportunities for MS students to work as student coaches with Elementary sport groups.
  • More Cooperative Learning opportunities for my students to have a role and to learn how to use that role for more self-directed learning – I have blogged about that here.

Roadblocks to being a more effective PE teacher at ISB

Every school has its quirkiness.  Every PE person that you talk to will ask you about your facilities.  The Facilities at ISB are outstanding.  We are blessed with lots of different spaces and a deep budget for equipment to give our students amazing experiences.  I am lucky.  However, as I dive further down the rabbit hole, the Order of having abundant space becomes chaotic in several ways.  Firstly the schedule between ES, MS and HS means that there are times where we have 4-5 classes on at the same time (no problem) to situations where we have 8 classes on at the same time and even at the maximum where we have 9 classes plus Enrichments which are optional classes that use PE spaces.  If you then add in a bad weather day or if these blocks take place during a bad air day AND an Elementary school recess block in which all of the Lower and then Upper ES (400+ students each time) now also need to play inside there instant Chaos.

Earlier I talked about the need for both Order in planning and having knowledge of your learning differentiation and students and a map for how you will fit in the learning required in time for meaningful assessment and also the need for Chaos to make changes where required based on the needs of the learners in your care.  However, if further chaos is included (schedule, over-use of facilities, bad air days) this is beginning to cancel out the planning that I am doing.  Each time I plan lessons and set up for assessment I buffer in loss of at least a lesson (things happen) or a change in plan (oops, can’t play outside today, need to now play in a limited gym space so need to change up the plans).    However, I have found that I am feeling my time is wasted by being organised – what is the purpose of planning and creating assessment opportunities that are repeatedly thwarted by roadblocks outside of my control?  If we have a Chaotic day we then need ways to create Order for our students so that they know what to do and how to find about the new arrangements.  I really feel for my students who struggle with anxiety or social anxiety or who rely on schedule and routine who are thrown out by this change and chaos.

Equally, our current MS schedule sees four classes of PE come at the same time.  In a timetable of 8 blocks, we have 6 blocks of 4x classes at once, and two that have no classes.  The administrators wanted to create common planning and collaboration time for departments as research indicates this is important.  But this creates challenges for the 100 students coming to PE to change and meet their teacher in a single gym.  The start of every lesson turns into a chaotic recess free-for-all as it can take up to 10 minutes for all students to arrive and frequently students are lost as classes leave for other locations and cannot be found.  I have been working to try and involve administrators across our school in these conversations.  We need to try and find ways to chaos and use our impressive facilities to best effect across the whole school – PE, recess, Activities, Enrichments, places to burn off energy etc. – and how to best do that for our students and teachers.

With the loss of a lot of my pre-lesson and unit planning has seen a reduction in the trialling of new things in my classes.  It is hard to set up new learning trials and associated equipment and support and then arrive at the lesson and find you cannot do it.  This has been a huge loss for me as a creative teacher.  As I reflect on this, it is with sadness to know that I am feeling this loss and that I could do things very differently if I could set up my learning experiences differently.   I have found it hard to continue on my Inquiry pathway with a loss of space and challenging learning environments like a cavernous dome that sucks noise so it is impossible to give verbal instructions.  It is hard to ask meaningful questions without a whiteboard to write on or the need to carry around lots of equipment to many different locations.  It is 350m from my office to the dome and to carry whiteboards, badminton racquets, shuttles, spots, markers and iPads is hard work.

I love my job and want to be a more effective teacher with creative ideas for meaningful experiences.  I am still trying to work out how to do that here.  Lastly as I continue with my reading of Peterson’s 12 rules, I would like to consider: “Pay Attention.  Focus on your surrounding, physical and psychological.  Notice something that bothers you, that will not let you be, which you could fix, that you would fix. You can find such somethings by asking yourself three questions: What is it that is bothering me?  Is that something I could fix?  and Would I actually be willing to fix it?  If you find that the answer is ‘no’ to any or all of the questions, then look elsewhere.  Aim lower.  Search until you find something that bothers you, that you could fix, that you would fix and then fix it.  That might be enough for the day.” (p106)   There are always things that we can fix but I would like to pay attention and take time to really think about whether this is something to apply my time to – that it is okay to aim lower and to decline.  There is a lot to learn and our attention can be pulled in so many ways – I would like to Pay Attention to finding the right balance between Order and Chaos in my PE life (as my work focus!) and then work to fix the parts that truly bother me – that is where my energies should be spent.

If I compare myself to who I was yesterday, not to who someone else is today I find that I am richer for the year of experiences.  I am still learning, growing and moving upwards.  I am very grateful for these many opportunities.  I am also thankful to those who continue to support me – another rule of Peterson’s “Make friends with people who want the best for you” – thank you to all those who inspire and make my life so interesting.  I have a lot to talk to my Principal about – I hope he thinks so too.

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