What does it take to be a change maker in education? Although the teacher base on Twitter is growing exponentially and we come across hundreds of passionate educators tweeting away on a daily basis, we can never forget the true change makers who led the way before us. Those courageous teachers who stood up for what they believed in and advocated for quality education.
Physical education has always been on the fringes and quite marginalized, almost to the point of near extinction in some school districts. Currently we see a rise in passionate physed teachers on Twitter advocating for physical education’s rightful place in a school’s curriculum. I am one of those teachers advocating but I am certainly not the only one. There are hundreds just like me. In this day and age of social media playing such a powerful role in getting important messages out there, educators have it easy compared to the trail blazers from year’s past.
Teachers in the past did not have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest or any other countless forms of social media to help spread their message. These teachers had to work extremely hard to stand up for what they believed in. Pioneering new movements in education required not only guts and grit, but also endless amounts of time and energy.
Seeing the demise of physical education and the disintegration of a subject area he loved, Paul Zientarski stepped up, took initiative and with the support of a very small network of PE teachers, pioneered a new approach to teaching physical education nearly three decades ago.
In a 1998 article written by the Chicago Tribune, Paul admits that early on in his teaching career that he was one of those teachers who gave PE a bad name. As he says, the athletes ruled his class and everyone else fell by the wayside. To Paul’s credit though, his eyes opened to the level of disengagement happening in PE. He noticed the masses not engaged and began to question whether or not there was a better way to do things. This is when a massive shift happened within his teaching practice.
Paul is one of the founders of Learning Readiness PE. In Paul’s words, the program prepares students for learning and has had an amazing impact on the students who have taken part in this unique approach in the Naperville school district. Getting students active, moving, and understanding the power that exercise has on the brain and on learning has made a huge difference. Test scores in reading and math have shot up as a result of students being involved in the Learning Readiness PE program. Obesity levels have also dropped.
Paul’s work was a main focus in John Ratey’s most recent book called SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. An inspiring read about the role of exercise on learning and the brain science behind the positive effects of daily physical activity in our lives.
Adam Howell, the founder of the Physedagogy.com, interviewed Paul last school year and gained some valuable insight into just how special this man is and what he has done for the field of physical education. Click on the You Tube video below to see Adam’s interview with Paul.
I am happy to feature Paul Zientarski in my Good Teaching is L.I.F.E series and am grateful that he took the time to do a reflection for me. I highly recommend you follow Paul's work. He can be found on twitter at @paulzientarski. Thanks so much Paul for all you've done for the field of physical education.
Paul's Good Teaching is L.I.F.E Reflection