Large Class Sizes? 4 Strategies to Keep Students Moving & Learning
One of the biggest concerns any teacher has is class size. We know class size impacts many aspects of teaching from management and safety within a crowded space to having sufficient supplies/equipment, to individual feedback opportunities.1 Regardless of our situation, we must remain positive among our students and provide them with the best learning environment possible while also continuing to advocate for improved class sizes with our administration.
There is no magic formula for teaching large class sizes, but there are resources you can access on best practices for teaching large class sizes in physical education.1 Here are four of my ‘go-to’ strategies for keeping large class sizes moving and learning:
1. The On-Off Rotation Rhyme:
Here is my rhyme: “If you win, you stay IN. When it’s two-in-a-row, you GO.” Two teams are on the court or field playing and a third is off. After a short amount of time (e.g., a 3-4 minute round) the winning team stays in to play the waiting team. However, a team can win and stay two in a row only. This keeps things moving and reduces student wait time. Once a team wins two in a row, it rotates off giving the other two teams a fresh start. I enjoy the rhyme because it’s something students remember and allows them to rotate quickly on their own. The waiting teams complete a strategy session or a task.
2. The Sidelines:
When it comes to playing games indoors with limited space, especially certain invasion-style games such as basketball, ultimate Frisbee®, soccer, and modified handball where you may only want a specified amount of players on the field to reinforce certain concepts, you will have teams waiting to play. Here are two types of sidelines you can use:
- The "Live" Sidelines: : Inactive team(s) along the sideline. They must actively move or side-shuffle along the sidelines with the game being played. They can receive and/or pass the ball down the court, but they may not score directly. They can only assist from the sideline.
- Fitness or Health Center Sidelines: Sideline teams work on personal fitness at stations. Have the sideline teams complete a mini-circuit for a set amount of time. You can also use this time for academic knowledge tasks using things such as Skillastics® Nutrition quiz cards, reflection journaling, or Plickers card questions.
3. The Strategy Session:
Any team waiting to play should be working together to strategize for its next game. For example, during Omnikin® where there are three teams of four players on the court at once, I create three teams of eight and divide them in two shifts for an on/off rotation. The waiting team records its “ON” team’s play (on our school iPads® and/or with a video delay app). When it is time, all teams switch from “on” to “off” and those teams who were playing now get to watch the video feedback. They identify something the teams did well and something to improve upon when they go back in. The team also records more live game-play footage for the next switch. If you are just using the camera app video function on a device and not a specific video delay app, I recommend a four-minute game where teams can watch themselves for two minutes and then record for two minutes.
4. Small-Sided Games:
Small-sided game play is a key best practice that allows all students to be active and participate in game play. Teachers must learn how to break down larger games into smaller contexts or mini-challenges with smaller teams in smaller playing areas. Check out my Gopher blog: 5 Ways Small-Sided Games Make a Big Impact and my free Gopher webinar Enhance PE Participation with Small-Sided Games for more information. It is a real game-changer if you are not already utilizing this best practice.
1 National Association for Sport and Physical Education. (2006).Teaching large class sizes in physical education: guidelines and strategies [Guidance document]. Reston, VA: Author.
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Back-to-School Tips to Make a Difference this Year
With summer coming to a close and the fall quickly upon us, I felt it would be appropriate to share a few words of wisdom with all of us that work with children.
I’ve been in education for 25+ years as a PE/Health/Science Teacher, Coach, K-12 Wellness Director, Principal, and collegiate and high school Athletic Director. I’ve been fortunate and blessed to have worked with many, many professional educators, tons of family & community supporters, and literally thousands of amazing students and athletes. I have learned so much from this multitude of people and, even 25 years since my first day of teaching and coaching, I still wake up every morning excited to go to work knowing and hoping I can make a difference in the lives of children – the way the educational community did for me so many years ago.
In 2006, I was fortunate to be awarded the Sarasota County (Florida) Teacher of the Year Award which afforded me the opportunity to work with all sorts of teachers in my district and across Florida sharing my thoughts and perspectives on great teaching. I was invited to speak to the many groups that year and the crowds grew larger and larger. To conclude my awarded year, I was invited to address every teacher in Sarasota County (51 schools at the time) the following fall to kick off the 2007 school year. I worked hard to craft a message that was brief but to the point. I spent a lot of time reflecting, and making sure my message was clear. Here are my updated thoughts, please enjoy and let me know what you think…
Hello both veteran and new teachers! Congratulations on being chosen to undertake the daunting task of molding the future of our society and maybe even the world. You are entering the hallowed halls of teaching my friends! You have been given a gift by the parents and administrators in your community. Yes, a GIFT! Your gift is the mere opportunity to instill enthusiasm, education, encouragement, and empowerment. If you cherish your gift and wield it wisely, you could potentially and positively impact a young person forever. You could open doors to other worlds for some lucky kid; doors he/she thought impossible to open and walk through before meeting you. You will have the power to make the wrong seem right, turn dark into light, and possibly transform the meek into might. Please use this gift honorably, it is an awesome responsibility.
But the quest will not be easy. Education is the toughest profession in the world if you tackle it appropriately and it should not be entered into lightly. Good things and favorable results do not happen “magically” or by chance. Learning will occur when a compassionate, dedicated, enthusiastic, empathetic, organized, flexible, creative, intelligent and caring individual willingly desires to share his/her time, energy, emotions, soul, and character in order to ATTEMPT to make a difference in the lives of young people. And there is no guarantee that success will take place. However, if you “stay the cause” the odds will be in your favor.
I have given a ton of thought and reflection to what new and veteran teachers would both want or need to know before they embark (or continue to embark) on the journey to mold and shape the future of their community and possibly a portion of this great Nation. I will simply mention what I wish someone had shared with me early in my teaching/coaching career as I navigated my path of trying to make a difference by making a connection. I will let and encourage you to decide if these tips can help you on your trip. Here it is, plain and simple, from a guy who learned through education, experience, and “trial-by-fire”:
- Set high expectations
- Work hard
- Be creative
- Seek advice often
- Over plan EVERYDAY
- Be friendly, kind, and respectful
- Set up and follow routines
- Be flexible
- Encourage and reward kids
- Use appropriate nicknames
- Follow your heart and your deepest instincts
- FIND YOUR OWN STYLE and use it
- Have FUN!
- Find a BALANCE between work and home
- Never, ever give up on a kid!
Above all, please remember one simple rule > YOU are ALWAYS ON STAGE! Every time you look at or speak to a child/student/athlete you have the incredible power to hurt them or help them, break them down or build them up, insult them or inspire them, enable them or empower them. EVERY interaction is an opportunity to Make a Difference in their lives! Each interaction is an important opportunity to connect with and support children. Good luck and please use your gift wisely and respectfully. The future is in your heart, hands, words, and actions. Best of luck and above all else, do everything you can to Make a Difference!
Thanks for reading, please share your thoughts…I’d love to hear your tips for being an excellent teacher who expects excellence and looks to Make a Difference EVERYDAY. Have a great year and make a difference!
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15 Instant Activity Songs for Elementary PE
One of my favorite parts of developing a quality Physical Education lesson is creating and researching quality ASAPs (aka Instant Activities) to begin my classes.
Over the years, I have found many types of awesome ASAPs. I feel one of the most neglected kinds are Movement Songs. Yes! I said MOVEMENT SONGS!!! They are great for early childhood grades. I personally have used movement songs all the way up to 2nd grade. They’re amazing for teaching listening skills, movement concepts, benefits of fitness, locomotor skills, etc.
If you have been reading my past blogs, you’ll see that I love sharing professional development ideas. I love giving back because so many fellow professionals have helped me throughout my Physical Education teaching career. I remember early in my teaching career when I felt lost and helpless and there was always someone willing to help. Below I have shared a sample of Movement Songs I found throughout my 19 years of teaching K4 thru 8th grade Physical Education.
The top two movement song companies that I would recommend are The Learning Station and Greg & Steve. What makes them so great is that you can buy their CD’s and/or subscribe to their YouTube channels. Then you can either download the music on your phone or tablet and Bluetooth® it through an Ion® Block Rocker™ or you can use a tablet with a projector and use their videos on a white screen or on a white wall.
Top 10 Instant Activity Songs by The Learning Station:
- Swimming Song – This song is great to use for teaching about movement concepts. Self & General Space, Tempos (slow, medium, and fast), and Levels (high, medium, low).
- Give me Ten – This song is great for teaching the importance of our muscles. I usually tell my students that our muscles help move our bodies, protect our bones, and help us push, pull, and move things. The song has the students do 10 reps of push-ups, sit-ups, and legs lifts.
- Jumping Jacks – This song is great for teaching the importance of heart health. The song has you do 4 rounds of jumping jacks.
- Singing in the Rain – Great song for teaching a basic dance to children. It allows children to learn a dance in self space while learning the concept of mirroring.
- Can You Keep Your Balance? – Great song for teaching the concept and importance of balance. It has the children hold different balance poses for a given time period.
- Physical Education – This song is great at teaching and reinforcing your student’s locomotor skills.
- Gallop – This song is great for teaching the locomotor skill of galloping. It provides several opportunities to practice. I like to add different tempos during the song.
- Monkey in the Middle – This song is great for teaching the different exercises you would like your students to know for the year. It also gives the students a chance to be leaders in the class. Use it for assessing your students on the 5 components of fitness.
- Move & Freeze – This song works well at the beginning of the year for teaching your classroom management expectations along with the concept of self-space, especially your stop and go commands. When the song says freeze, they freeze.
- Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes – Great for teaching levels (low, medium, high) and body parts.
Top 5 Instant Activity Songs by Greg & Steve:
- Animal Action #1 and #2 – Great song for teaching creative movement, tempos (slow, medium, and fast), and speeds (slow, medium, fast). Version 2 uses different animals.
- The Balancing Act – Another song that helps with teaching the concept of balancing and why we need it, when we need it, and why it’s important.
- Beanbag Boogie #1 and #2 – Great song for teaching body parts, along with the concepts of levels (low, medium, and high).
- Can't Sit Still – Great song to teach the importance of physical activity and why we should try to move every day for 60 minutes.
- The Freeze – Helps to teach listening skills, along with stopping and freezing for classroom management.
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Parkour in Physical Education
Parkour is a great way to get students active with their surroundings inside or outside, and to get them excited about taking safe risks and enjoying movement.
This can be a lesson, a unit, or if you need a day devoted to purely fitness, using your gyms wrestling room or outside area, this can be a fun way for students to get their CREATIVE on!
What is Parkour?
- Parkour is an art of movement in which you train the body and mind to overcome obstacles.
- It emphasizes strength, flexibility, balance, body control, creativity, fluidiyt, discipline, and precision.
- Parkour movements include running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, balancing, and crawling.
- Parkour training focuses on safety, responsibility, overcoming fear, and self-improvement.
Source: Apex Movement
Student Learning Targets:
I use four learning targets with my students throughout our Parkour unit and use a rubric to assess them on each.
- I can show body control by the way I use agility on the course. Agility is the ability to change directions quickly.
- I can show body control on the course by the way I maintain my balance.
- I can show power by the way I jump vertically.
- I can show coordination and use various parts of my body by the way I run, vault, climb and roll.
Once we've established and reviewed the learning targets, we move into the activity (sample below).
When teaching Parkour to my students, I first introduce various movements and have them practice each in 2-minute circuits. Next, I combine the circuits into a workout. Finally, I ask students to work in small groups to develop a parkour course or workout.
- 2-Minute Circuits for Practice
- Drop and Roll
- Vertical Wall Runs
- Hand Stands and Wall Stands
- Combine the circuits to create a workout
- Students move through on their own
- Students move through on their own
- Design A Course
- Have students work with a small group to develop a parkour course
- Use the equipment provided without moving
Upon completion of the lesson, I use the below rubric to assess students on the learning targets as defined above.
Parkour Standards-Based Rubric/Assessment:
The student recalls and applies a range of skill and techniques, recalls and applies a range of strategy, and recalls and applies information to perform at a high level.
The student recalls and applies skill and techniques, recalls and applies strategy, and applies information to perform effectively.
The student recalls skill and techniques, recalls strategy, and applies information to perform.
The student rarely/never shows skill or techniques, does not show strategy, and rarely/never works for achieve success.
Need additional resources? The Lets Parkour PRO app (available on iTunes® for $1.99) is a great resource for teaching Parkour in PE. The app features 112 elements or movements with a detailed lesson and video of each.
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Back to School PE Teacher Checklist
The start of the school year brings excitement for the year ahead and the opportunity to help students build healthy minds and bodies, but then there’s that familiar feeling of, oh boy, I’m not organized yet! It can be so overwhelming. Where should I begin? How did I get ready last year? Where’s my checklist?
I’ve yet to meet a teacher who didn’t fret over getting organized for the upcoming school year. Teachers love being ready when the students arrive, and we want to provide the best year and experience possible. My organization practices are ever evolving, and I absolutely love hearing about other teachers’ organization tips, tricks, and hacks.
Here is my “Beginning of the Year Checklist” that helps my department organize our start of year process. Our checklist helps guide our efforts and delegate responsibilities so we are ready for our students on day one. This checklist came about because of the many post-it notes and notepad lists I repeatedly found myself making each year. I eventually began typing up the basic, recurring tasks we did each year and developed a comprehensive checklist to guide our beginning of the year workdays. It’s nice to have a starting point versus starting over from scratch each year. I simply print off a copy, add or remove to-do items, and assign tasks. Here’s access to an electronic copy of the template you see below: Checklist Template.
Here are some general recommendations for your Start-of-the-Year Organizational Process:
- Start an electronic “to-do” list in addition to the written ones so you have a starting point each year.
- Be flexible. You may not get to it all but identify the MUST DO items and get to those first.
- Have organizational support materials on hand: file folders, highlighters, note pads, file trays, etc. so you are ready and able to quickly organize your material.
- Scan documents into PDFs and file electronically. Thankfully, our office printer has this option. I scan and save work orders, purchase orders, equipment wish lists, inventory lists, and syllabi to a department-wide shared folder. Being able to search for things electronically versus losing them in the many piles of papers that build up in the office helps maintain some sanity.
- Delegate. Don’t do it all yourself if you work in a department. We’re all in this together.
- Make a “Start of the Year” folder where you save the beginning of the year checklist and templates for your class syllabi and policies. Share this folder with your colleagues if you work in a department.
- Ask others how they organize their start-of-the-year process. This is a great topic to search for on Twitter or ask others about on Voxer. See my previous blog (Web Based Toolbox for Professional Development) on how to get connected via these social media options.
My Sample Checklist for Start of the Year:
Rosters, Forms, Signs & Copies
Locker Room, Office & Presentations
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Curriculum & Department Planning
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Should Varsity Athletics Count as PE?
I am not sure how many schools around the country offer students credit for physical education if they play a varsity sport, but I know there are many and this trend has me frightened. At my school district, this is not an option even though many students think it should be and some of their coaches do too. I honestly never gave this much consideration until I found out that my three nieces who live in central Ohio have this option and love it. Let’s just say Uncle Jason was not liked after I shared my opinion. Maybe after you read my concerns and opinions you won’t like me much either, but I am hopeful that responses will be shared that bring a level-headed discussion on the matter.
My biggest worry/concern with students using a varsity sport for PE credit is that there is no teaching taking place about the lifetime fitness aspect that students need to understand. I loved high school athletics and was blessed with the opportunity to play a sport every season of the year, but I can honestly say thinking back that none of my coaches taught me about lifelong fitness. I was taught what I needed at that moment for that particular sport. So, if students are given the opportunity to forgo PE, who teaches them about proper exercise and the fitness principles that coincide? Especially since after high school the number of students continuing their athletic careers is extremely small and only gets smaller after college.
Another concern I have revolves around who monitors how active students are on their respective teams? My oldest niece tells me that as long as she is on the softball team for one season, she does not have to take PE at all for the rest of her high school career. This absolutely blew my mind! One season on a team and that is all you need. I see two problems with this situation: 1) Students need a knowledge base on fitness and health for a lifetime and they can’t and won’t get that in one season of a sport, and 2) If schools are using sports for PE credit, doesn’t this make it very easy for schools to eliminate PE positions? Again, I loved my high school coaches, but they did not teach me anything in regards to a healthy, active lifestyle after high school. Something else that scares me is what do we do with those students who join a sports team just to avoid PE?
As a coach in addition to a PE teacher, I do see the other side of the coin in this discussion. I understand that students in a PE class in the middle of a circuit training unit who are also in the peak portion of their sport season could be overexerting themselves and even impacting their performance. As a track coach, I have had this issue on my own team and my athletes have maybe not been at their best. I will say that in most instances as a staff, we are all very understanding of game days and expectations for those students playing that day. My biggest concern is again those students that are just on a team to avoid PE. What happens when I am lenient with a student who goes to the game and never plays a minute?
My suggestion (which I may bring up with my own administration) is to have a PE course designed for athletes, which meets not only their current fitness needs based on their athletic season, but also the lifelong fitness needs they will have down the road. This course could be an option for athletes to take as opposed to the traditional PE course. This idea has its drawbacks, the main one being that students that are not athletes may feel left out.
Again, I am not dealing with this situation currently at my school district, so maybe I am living in a dream world, so those of you in this situation, please share your thoughts and opinions. I want to know more about how schools handle this matter in an effort to prepare myself if the conversation is ever started by my administration! I am counting all of you to educate me!
Super-Size Your Target Games with SturTee!
Let’s face it; students like to be challenged, yet also need to be set up for success.
Students enjoy when teachers change things up, they live for the experience of “the next great challenge” in their learning and relish it when we can provide a mixture of activities that give them this feeling of challenge and self-accomplishment. The SturTee™ Game Set helps me accomplish all of these things.
I really enjoy target games and invasion games and value the importance of throwing and catching development in an appropriate manner. My middle school students love invasion games and I try to offer a wide array of options when it comes to the student learning outcomes invasion games deliver with the goal that all students will feel challenged and enjoy the creative variety of activities I can provide.
Thankfully, the SturTee™ Game Set helped me to change up the height and size of the target/goal during specific target and invasion-based games so students had a new challenge to face for both scoring and defensive sides of the game. I enjoyed watching students discuss their strategies when using the SturTee™ and we were able to compare and contrast these strategies in our lesson closure so we could all learn from one another.
One of my favorite uses is during 3 vs. 3 “cone ball” where the target in the invasion game is a simple cone. If you hit the cone your team gets a point. If you knock it over your team gets two points. No goalie needed, just create your playing space and use Ultimate Frisbee-style rules to make it happen. It is a simple game that involves teamwork, strategy, invasion skills, catching, throwing and many other concepts such as ‘finding an open space’ to receive the pass. It can also be modified in a zillion different ways to accommodate for all levels of learners. This seemingly very non-traditional game reinforces many skills and anyone can be successful at playing it. Once students have used the cone as the target for scoring on, we progress to using the SturTee™ as the target. The students love the big, colorful target and how the beach ball pops off the stand.
The even better news, from my viewpoint, was the framework of the game can be used in a multitude of ways, year round, whether it be practicing your throws to a target or playing grid-style defender games. I really get my ‘bang for my buck’ out of this game set because it comes with 24 foam balls that are the perfect size for any throwing, catching, or hitting activity and everyone in the class can have their own or at least share with a partner. Stretching my budget as far as possible is an important factor in my purchases of game sets and SturTee™ meets those requirements.
Refresh the fun in your throwing target games today with the super-sized power of SturTee™! Get a SturTee™ Game Set for your classroom today!
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Promoting Physical Activity and Well-Being
It is never too late to experience the benefits of physical activity and social interaction and their connection to well-being.
I am blessed to have a group of girlfriends who commit to one another three times a week to meet and work out together in our neighborhood, despite the cold temperatures or early hours of the morning. We each come from different experiences, exposures, and opportunities of various physical activity throughout our lives. A common thread that weaves through us in our adult lives as we strive to keep physically active, is not only to reap the health benefits of increased cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility, but to experience the emotional and cognitive benefits as well. Developing a strong mind and body to cope with life’s challenges and stresses leaves us feeling good about ourselves and ready to take on each day after every workout.
Being the Health and Physical Educator among the group, I share my knowledge of proper execution of fundamental movement patterns - push, pull, squat, carry, and lunge with several exercises that target multi-joint and large muscle group movements using our own body weight, resistive tubing, kettle bells, and free weights. In turn we provide each other with motivation, comradery, and friendship in these early morning training sessions that enhance our mental and physical health, as well as our well-being.
Connecting Physical Education and Well-Being
Ontario has a renewed vision for education that places student well-being as one of the four core goals to ensure students learn and thrive now and in to their future. “All children and students will develop enhanced mental and physical health, a positive sense of self and belonging, and the skills to make positive choices” (Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Teaching Education in Ontario. 2014, pg. 3) Recognizing that teaching the whole child through physical, cognitive, social and emotional domains, is a responsibility for educators to support through student centered, inclusive, respectful learning environments in Physical Education.
We have seen a cultural shift of Physical Education from a traditional, sport specific focused program to a comprehensive holistic approach to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to be healthy and active across their lifespan and to be resilient in an ever changing world. With physical literacy and health literacy as an outcome of the Ontario’s Health and Physical Education program, students can engage and take part in a program that shifts from disease prevention to more health promotion.
Here are some simple strategies to promote physical activity and student well-being in Physical Education:
- Purposeful Instruction – Make explicit connections between physical, cognitive and affective domains for students through simple questioning throughout the class or as a consolidation activity at the end of the class. This allows students to develop “self awareness and self monitoring skills to help them understand their strengths and needs, take responsibility for their actions, recognize sources of stress, and monitor their own progress, as they participate in physical activities, develop movement competence and acquire knowledge and skills related to active living” (Ontario Health and Physical Education grades 1-8. 2015, pg. 98) These personal skills, part of living skills, in the Ontario HPE curriculum are integrated with the other curriculum components: Active Living, Movement Competence, and Healthy Living and can help students develop a positive sense of self and overall healthy development.
- Promote Physical Activity as a Positive Experience – Consider how you present the notion of physical activity in your PE class. Too often in the past, physical activity has been used as punishment in PE class as opposed to a positive healthy experience as seen here in the film, Mr. Woodcock, that perpetuates societal negative views of “gym class”.
One effective strategy I like to use to promote physical activity is a “Victory Lap” around the gym or field as a positive way to have students celebrate a completed task.
- Maximize Participation – think outside the box for program planning and use of facilities to maximize active participation. Move more sit less. Get rid of elimination games. Implement small sided games such as 3 vs 3 or 4 vs 4 to maximize opportunities for increased movement competence, confidence, and enjoyment.
Here is a story of how Katie Ansell, an elementary PE teacher in Ontario, changed her practice after watching the Thompson Educational Publishing Huddle Connect Webinar on Self-Regulation and Learning that focuses on physical activity and mental health and well-being.
- Moving Entries - “Instead of sitting and waiting for instructions, as soon as kids enter the gym, they choose to skip, gallop, etc. around the gym, or do a fitness activity in the middle)”, remarked Katie.
- Moving Timeouts and Reset Activities - When students misbehaved or were unable to adhere to class rules or expectations in Katie’s PE class, instead of the typical “timeout” sitting on the bench – students participate in a “moving time out” by completing a number of repetitions of their favorite activity in any safe space in the gym (e.g., jumping jacks, squats, dance moves). “If the behavior continues, they then do a reset activity where I give them a choice of independent fitness activities they can do until they're ready to re-join the group. So far it's working well!” shared Katie.
- Relaxing Wrap-Ups – Katie helps kids learn strategies that reduce stress and anxiety that helps them to relax while being still, with a variety of deep breathing exercises at the end of most classes. “...this week I've been telling all the primary kids there's happiness all around them; they have to squat down, scoop up as much happiness as they can, then inhale deeply as they stand up to breathe in all the happiness. We do it several times and then after the deep breath, they exhale hard as they throw their arms out to share all the happiness with the rest of the world…They love it”, comments Katie.
Finally, think about taking your PE classes outside more and allow students to interact with one another in various environments. A breath of fresh air can do wonders for our mind, body and soul!
My girlfriends and I are looking forward to the warmer months ahead when we can start to take up tennis as our next part of our physical literacy journey and continue to move more in 2016!
Feel free to share teaching strategies you use to get students more physically active and to promote student well-being!
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Changing the Way You Keep Score
“Why do you even keep score?” This is the most common question my mom asked every time my brothers and I would get in an argument over a game. In fact, other than, “straighten up and fly right,” it’s probably her most famous quote to us. Typically our arguments centered on scoring and were grounded in my middle brother changing the rules. I am the youngest of three boys, Dana, Trent, and me. To say my middle brother, Trent, was competitive would be a major understatement. He was so competitive that, “cheating,” was his thing. He would change the rules in the middle of the game and always to take advantage of the poor innocent baby of the family. If you ever played a game with Trent and he wasn’t cheating…well you were naïve, he was cheating. This drive and competitive spirit followed him to adulthood and some could argue it served him well. He worked full-time, went to school full-time, and raised a family. From there he built an engineering firm from the ground to a juggernaut in the industry with offices across the country. Words like tenacious, focused, and driven were perfect descriptors.
In August of 2004 during a meeting at work Trent had a seizure. After extensive testing it was determined that he had a brain tumor and a decision was made to remove it via surgery. After the surgery the surgeon revealed that he couldn’t get all the tumor, and radiation was prescribed. During this time, because of the seizure, Trent couldn’t drive and he couldn’t work. Up to this point in life two things defined Trent: work and family. And in his words, his priorities were “a little out of whack”. No work meant more time with his family, specifically his wife, Valerie, who served as chauffer. After months of radiation, great news, the tumor was not growing. Everyone was ecstatic, but for Valerie reality set in quickly. As they were driving home she told Trent she was worried things would get back to normal. Trent took the hint and “got it”. He was faced with the notion that all his life he kept score because he was competitive and now he needed to change how he kept score. No longer could Ws, bottom lines, profit margins, and getting the deal be his focus. He started to understand mom’s question, and now asked, “How do I keep score?”
And oh how he changed how he kept score. He started keeping score by the lives he touched. He didn’t lose his tenaciousness; he just turned it to mission work in Swaziland, construction work in New Orleans, playgrounds in Jamaica, and anywhere he found people at risk. I will never forget where I was on I-75 in Vandalia, OH, (we were coming back from getting BBQ for dinner) and he said, “I just changed how I keep score.” And he continued with something to the effect of that small change can change how you impact the world. Impact the world? I am not a big impact-type of thinker, but that was obviously in Trent’s wheelhouse.
As Trent was changing the world, in August of 2014, he had another setback, a stroke. As usual with a stroke he lost use of one side of his body and as you might expect, he started rehab immediately. And to no one’s surprise, he made huge progress in a short amount of time. He was driven. Until September 26th, 2014. Valerie called and said they were taking him to the hospital. A few hours later I get a text from my dad, “He’s gone.” Until that moment I’ve never understood when people say their knees buckled or they felt like they had been punched in the gut. Now I do.
I know this is a lengthy lead in but I share that because Trent’s message for the last years of his life was, “Do something, before IT happens”. His IT was a, “Tuma,” (his word not mine). It resulted in a complete change in perspective. His small changes in perspective changed the world for countless people. So what does this mean to physical educators? If you believe in the butterfly effect or the domino effect, what small tweaks can you make that will make a difference in the lives of youth?
To get your mind rolling, here are some adjustments I have considered, tried, and pondered in the last two years:
- How do I view students (or athletes)? As pawns in a little game of testing or a little game of (insert your sport here)? Or do you look at students (of all ages) as our future? Are behavior problems a disruption, or a chance to impact students? In most cases the root of misbehavior will break your heart. It’s the behavior you don’t like, not the child. As educators, students are our future. We get to impact students and the future. We must remember that the foundation of everything we do is relationships. Carl Buechner once said, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel…” Think about your favorite teachers. Chances are, they weren’t your favorite teacher because they taught you to conjugate a verb or divide a fraction or throw a ball. They were your favorite teacher because they made you feel good…or accomplished…or worthy…or that you mattered. Every student needs a teacher that makes them feel this way. Be that teacher. We have to believe the students we impact are far more important than the content we teach. Reaching students is our way to positively “impact the world.”
- How do I see education? Is it a job or a passion? Are you leading students to water? Making them thirsty? I recently read that the best part about education is that it matters and the worst part about education is it matters. That’s pressure. But a great pressure. Do your students know you love education? Physical education? Do you need to tell your face that you love physical education? SMILE more. Be respectful of the entire education experience students receive. Attend math nights, literacy events, plays, and concerts. For me this part requires a balance between family and career and I have to consciously balance it all. But it’s worth it. Education is our vehicle to positively “impact the world”.
- How do I look at physical education? “It’s a job for me,” or, “it’s the best career in the world”? If you are like me, you go back and forth on this one. My challenge is to get myself to keep looking back to “it’s the best career in the world”. The only thing constant in physical education is change. We have a history of changing foci (in theory) every 10 years. From gymnastics, to fitness, to perceptual motor programs, to movement education, back to fitness, academic integration…and now, “physical literacy”. And if I am honest, it’s a bit frustrating. As a field we must keep doing things better and we need to do better things. We need to really look at who we are, where we have been, and how that impacts the foothold we have in education. Do we really want to argue over dodgeball, whether students call us coach, and whether other teachers allow students to call it, “gym”? Or do we want to step back and say, “Why”, why do we do what we do? Because we care about the health of youth. Right? As you can see it’s hard for me to tease apart students, education, and physical education. Especially when I think of my “why”. Physical education is the path most of us have chosen to positively “impact the world.”
- How do I approach life? Am I just existing or am I thriving? Do I live with vigor? For me it depends on the day. While in the hospital Trent’s favorite song to listen to was “Thrive,” by Casting Crowns. The song speaks to the notion that we have to do more than survive in this life. At times we will need help thriving and at times we will provide the help to others. I remember when I was teaching there were days I just didn’t have it. But as soon as the 2nd graders came bounding down the steps into the gym with their endless energy (and it was endless), they helped me. I was fortunate to have two incredible educators and even better people as co-teachers who would also give me a kick in the pants at times as well. My point is that as a field and as educators we have to have each other’s backs to help everyone thrive. I am running out of space so I will expand more on thriving in my next blog.
In sum, we often make slight tweaks or modifications in how we keep score during our physical education lessons. What if we made small changes in how we keep score on our impact? Just what if….We can impact the world! Thanks Trent. THRIVE!
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As Physical Educators Sow, so Shall They Reap
People don't value what they don't understand. And people don't understand physical education!
Doug Hallberg, Matt Bristol, and Brian Godfrey are all talented and passionate physical education teachers. A few of you might know them, but I somehow doubt it. In fact, the three of them live fairly close to one another, and I'm not even sure they all know each other! Which is a shame, because they all have similar success stories to tell.
Back in Minneapolis as the SHAPE America President, I had the privilege of opening the 2016 National Convention Wednesday General Session. In a beautiful new auditorium before an estimated crowd of 2,000-plus physical education and health education professionals, I described the progress we've made on our commitment to succeeding with, "50 Million Strong by 2029."
I shared that SHAPE America was planning to create and publicize a series of case studies: Success stories showcasing physical and health education. As you and I know, far too many people – especially decision-makers – don’t see much reason to support physical and health education. They don't value what we do. Ever wondered why this is the case? Maybe it’s because too many adults had lousy PE experiences as kids? It’s too bad if that’s true, but even so, that’s not something we can go back and fix. But I think it's something else. Something relatively easy to fix. I’m convinced that today’s school officials and decision-makers are simply unaware of the positive impact the nation’s physical educators are having on kids’ lives.
The case studies I shared in Minneapolis highlighted four success stories of good things happening in physical education and health education today. There was a learn-how-to-ride-a-bike program in Washington DC. A high school “Outdoor Academy” in Maple Valley, Washington that integrated physical education with science and language arts. A study in Texas that showed academic performance and behavior improved with more recess. And a health education program in Milwaukee that was succeeding in reducing teen pregnancies. You can read about each of these on the SHAPE America website. All are impressive.
The thinking behind creating these case studies and inviting teachers to contribute more was the urgency for physical and health educators to do a much better job of marketing ourselves. It's time for all of us to realize that people don't value what they don't understand. And people don't understand physical education! The vast majority of PE teachers are multi-talented and passionate about what they do, but horrendous at informing others about the benefits of what they do. Not only are we marketing duds, but we’re abysmally ignorant of its critical importance. Of course why should we be good at marketing or self-promotion? In all likelihood, it was never part of our college professional preparation.
Contrast this with the charismatic Phil Lawler. Many of you will remember Phil who sadly passed away from cancer in 2010. Phil was not only an amazingly innovative physical educator but also a marketing genius. Single-handedly, Phil probably generated more public interest and national understanding about the value and importance of physical education than the rest of us combined. Together with his teaching colleague Paul Zientarski, Phil created his vision of a world-class physical education program in the Naperville, Illinois School District. And he wasn’t shy about sharing his success with the world!
Naperville Middle School quickly became a mecca for physical education pilgrims from around the world in search of a new 21st-century vision for PE teaching. For years Naperville was a media magnet. The national press routinely highlighted the district’s physical education program. It was featured on the popular Supersize Me DVD as a solution for the obesity crisis. Phil and Paul were quoted everywhere and the Naperville program cast a light on the potential for quality public school physical education. With Phil at the helm it would have been unimaginable, almost sacrilegious for anyone to propose program or position cuts in Naperville.
Not so with the rest of us. Most of us live in a world where bad things do happen to good people. Who among us hasn’t had the budget axe trim away teaching colleagues and decimate programs? Worthy and productive programs. Talented people who were doing good things for students. It should never have happened but it did. Want to know why? It’s pretty simple. For years we have been the architects of our own demise. Around the country thousands of great physical education success stories are being written daily that no one knows about. Which brings me back to Doug, Matt, and Brian.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend SHAPE America’s Eastern District Conference in Atlantic City. Several hundred teachers from 11 states were there. Doug, Matt, and Brian were among dozens of outstanding presenters. Doug demonstrated new ways to connect elementary and middle school students with the latest heart rate technology. Matt, together with his school principal, Herve Pelletier, described an amazing school-wide bike program that not only teaches riding skills, but also connects biking with student behavior. Brian explained how he successfully fund raised, got Burton® to donate equipment, and then created a program to give all of his elementary-aged students the chance to learn snowboarding skills both in class and out on the hills.
What all three of these teachers shared in common were that programs and teaching greatly deserving recognition within and beyond their local communities. But few of you know anything about Doug, Matt, Brian. And of course they in turn know little to nothing about what you’re doing. In honesty, we all know dozens of teaching colleagues who are doing great things that are largely unknown and unrecognized. It’s as if we’re members of an immense secret society whose accomplishments we’ve sworn not to reveal. Is there really any wonder why outsiders don’t respect us?
While I can understand teachers being reluctant to brag or be boastful – no one likes braggarts - it makes absolutely no sense for physical educators to conceal their successes. This self-deprecating behavior is the very reason we’re not respected and in honesty it’s not something to be proud about. In fact it’s downright selfish. Why would we not want to share and help others learn from us, or for us to be able to pick up innovative ideas from teaching colleagues? Isn’t that how all of us can improve? Even worse, neglecting to share and publicize good news stories is responsible for our poor public image. If we want school boards, superintendents, principals, legislators, parents, and all others to support us they have to know our successes! We must give them a reason to respect us if we ever hope to change public support for what we do.
So here’s my challenge to you. What is your success story? It can be something that you are doing, or, you can identify a colleague whose work deserves showcasing. Whichever you choose, it’s time for YOU to step up, take responsibility, and share the good news.
SHAPE America is waiting to hear from you and embrace your success. Simply go to the SHAPE America 50 Million Strong website, complete and submit the case study form. It’s not hard and will put the program and teachers you showcase on the national stage. That’s pretty nice publicity to share with your school administrators, school board, community, and parents. Not worthy? Let others be the judge.
And, in case you have any doubts, ask yourself this question, “If you won’t do it, who will?”
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