How to Create a Positive Culture in Your PE Program [Interactive]

How to Create a Positive Culture in Your PE Program blog

On this episode of the PE Express podcast, Randy Spring shares how to build a banner worthy physical education program through the use of an actual banner.

Hi, I’m Randy Spring. I’m a K-5 physical education teacher at Liberty Ridge Elementary School in Woodbury, Minnesota. I’m currently in my 11th year of teaching and I am super psyched to be here today to talk to you about how the choice we made to put a banner in our gym created a culture filled with positive learning, positive relationships, and efficient teaching in our physical education program. Before I go into detail about why we have that banner, what’s on the banner and how we use it to create a positive culture within our program, I want to talk about how that idea came to life. So as a young second, third year teacher crossing over to multiple buildings throughout my teaching day, I noticed a common practice I was taking place that I wasn’t totally a fan of. But as a young crossover teacher, you’re afraid to suggest any ideas to change things because you’re the new person and you don’t want to lose any sort of positive rapport you might have with your team.

Well, this common practice I’m talking about is the whole idea of asking students to get into groups without really a specific number or any sort of detail about why you’re getting in groups, who you should be looking for, et cetera, et cetera. So at one of my schools, early on in the school year, I noticed this same student in fourth grade. Every time we asked that class to get into groups of two or whatever the groups were, he would come up to me, let’s just call him Johnny with the same tear filled eyes and say, “Mr. Spring, I don’t have a partner.” And early on in that school year, I didn’t really think too much of it because I was like, “Hey Johnny, why don’t you just jump in this group right here”, and though those students reluctantly would add him to their group. I could tell that it wasn’t a genuine, “Hey, please join our group Johnny.”

And that left him feeling empty even though he was still in a group. Well, I pushed it to the side, but what I noticed is every single time throughout that school year we asked our students to get into groups. Johnny would always come up to me after the dust settled and say, “Mr spring, I don’t have a partner”, and halfway through the year those words started to crush my soul and I started to ask myself, what is going on? What am I doing as his teacher? What are our students not doing or doing that is stopping them from noticing Johnny and adding him to their groups? Well, with long conversations with my wife, who was also a teacher, she kind of explained to me, well, Randy, you need to teach Johnny to be brave. But then you also need to teach the other students how to notice people like Johnny.

And when she told me that an alarm went off in my head, it’s like you’re 100% correct. It is on us to teach our students how to notice each other, how to show each other that we care about each other and honestly how to help each other succeed. And that’s kinda how the banner was created. Four or five years later. Fast forward, I built myself a reputation within my building and roots within my program and my school to get the guts to ask our PTA, to support us in our venture to buy a banner that said in quotations, I notice you, I care about you. I want you to succeed. Love your PE teacher. I’m going to say it again on this banner it simply states, I notice you. I care about you. I want you to succeed. Love your PE teacher. And when we first put that banner up, it was all about the PE teacher and the students, right?

We wanted those students to know every single thing that we do. We notice you, we care about you, we want you to succeed. And at first it was really striking a chord with our students, right? But as time went on, I started to think, okay, remember the goal is we want our students to notice each other, care about each other and help them to succeed. So as about a half a school year went by our students really started to grasp the understanding that hey, mr spring and his teammates, they notice me because of the things that they say to me every single day I walk into their classroom. They care about me because they ask me questions about their day, their night, their weekend. Or they stop and say, Hey, you need to move this foot this way. Or Hey, how, how are you involving other students in your classroom?

And then they also know I want them to succeed because everything that we set up, all the things that we create with our lessons and our digital lessons and the setting up that we do with our equipment and the fun activities we do, it helps them to succeed and learning the things that we want them to learn. But as things moved on, we flipped the script and we said, okay, students. Now what are you doing to show each other or your peers that you notice them? What are you doing in a PE class or even outside of a PE class that tells your classmates and your peers and other friends that you care about them. And lastly, what are you doing every single day to show your classmates and your peers and each other that you want each other to succeed? So what’s great about this banner, you’re going two ways with it.

You’re telling their students that, hey, my PE teacher, they notice me. They care about me. They want me to succeed because of all these things they do and say, right? But now the fun part is you flip it and say, okay, friends, students, let’s look at this banner a different way. I notice you. I care about you. I want you to succeed. Love your classmate, or even love your brother. Love your sister, love your son. How can you do these things in PE class, but then also outside of PE class to help other people notice each other, help other people know that you care about them, help other people. No, I want you to succeed. So as you can see, there’s all kinds of different talking points to this specific banner and as we talk about creating a positive culture, this banner allows us to do that by teaching our students to notice each other.

When we have a Johnny within a classroom or a Jenny within a classroom who doesn’t have a partner, we train and we teach our students how to notice those students. And we also flip it and we teach our students that might not have a partner or might be nervous about getting a partner or receiving or putting up your hand. We teach them how to be brave and courageous and put their hand up because it goes two ways. If you’re going to put your hand up and tell everybody, Hey, I don’t have a partner. You’re being brave, courageous, and vulnerable, right? But then you’re also telling your other students who already have groups, hey, if somebody has their hand up, you can add them to your group. It doesn’t matter if we say get in groups of two, three, four. If you see a hand up, you need to be powerful and intentional and invite those students in your group because you need to show them, hey, I noticed you need a partner. I notice you don’t have a group. I notice you need somebody to play with.

So on the second part, how do we show our peers that we care about them? Okay, well let’s just talk about how you end a class period. When our students are done with an activity or a learning strategy or whatever it is in class, we stop the music and we have the students look up at that banner that says, I noticed you. I care about you. I want you to succeed. And we say, hey, here’s an opportunity for you to show the next class that’s coming into this gym. You care about them. How? By setting this gym up this classroom the exact same way it was set up before you came in and you can also go and tell, hey, you can show Mr. Spring and and his teammates that you care about him by respecting the equipment, by respecting him when he’s teaching and not talking, and you can see how this banner has the power to do all these different things to help your students learn how to take care of each other and create an awesome positive learning environment within your physical education program.

And the last part again, I want you to succeed. Okay? As me as a PE teacher, if I’m giving instruction and students are talking over me or they’re playing with the equipment when they’re not supposed to be, I can stop and say, “Hey, Johnny, Jenny, you talking right now. Is that helping me help you succeed? Johnny, when you’re kicking that equipment around right now, are you helping everybody succeed when they go back to to use that equipment to learn?” And again, it’s a, it’s a revolving door. You look and you use this banner in a very powerful way, in an intentional way. You’re going to teach these young people how to notice others, care for others and help them to succeed. And in the process you are showing them as your teacher, Hey, I noticed you. I care about you. I want you to succeed and gosh, dang it, I love you.

And they feel it and they feel it within each other. So as you listen today, I hope you take away how simple this banner can be and, and think about, Hey, you don’t have to use Mr. Spring’s words. You can use your own statements, but put something up on that wall that you’re going to speak to. You’re going to teach too and has the power to change the culture of your physical education program in a very positive way. Because if you do your instruction, your connection and your impact is going to make you so, so proud as a PE teacher. Thank you so much for allowing me to speak to you today and as always, be proud of your PE.

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