Are you opening the door of the kingdom to your students?
I recently had well known researcher, Scott Kretchmar, on my podcast to speak about his journey in education and the major lessons he has learned through the research and work he has done in the field of physical education and health over the last 4 decades. Scott has been based at Penn State University for the last 30+ years and although currently retired, he still goes to work every single day to learn more about what quality physical education means and how PE teachers can inspire young learners to embrace being physically active for life.
I want to share some very special words from the podcast with Scott that sums up the firm belief he holds in regards to how important it is to create relevant and meaningful experiences for our students in physical education that inspire them to take action on being physically active outside the walls of our schools. Scott holds a stance that although ‘fun’ is important in PE, joy and delight are much more personal. In the podcast, he uses the metaphor that finding joy and delight in PE is all about opening the doors to the kingdom. All that we can do as physical educators is to take our students by the hand and lead them there.
‘Fun’ to me is more of a shallow distraction…..I think that much of what has been done in physical education is oriented too close too the shallow end of things. Any physical educator can produce fun, you can distract kids and throw a ball out to invent a game and for 20-30 minutes the kids can have fun. What is really hard for physical educators is to get to those higher levels of subjective experience which are called ‘joy’ and ‘delight’. Joy and delight are personal in ways that fun is not personal.
Physical Education at The KAUST School in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
Although I am no longer teaching PE, I am still actively involved in the physical education program here at The KAUST School in Saudi Arabia. We have a very dedicated team of physical educators (William Kelly, Steve Roberson and Murray Ikihele) who strive day in and day out to create meaningful physical activity opportunities for our students in the elementary program.
Their work is all about providing every opportunity possible for students to take action on being physically active when not in PE.
A great example of this is a skateboarding unit that they taught earlier in the school year. It was amazing to see so many students, who had never skateboarded before, so captivated by the experience. Once the skateboarding unit concluded, a number of students started coming to school every morning and returning home by skateboard. How great is that???!!
In order to encourage a continued interest in skateboarding, the PE team at The KAUST School allows students to sign out skateboards on the weekend. Each student is required to return the skateboard first thing in the morning at the start of each week. On the whiteboard in the PE office, the students can sign out the skateboard then sign it back in at the start of the week.
As I was walking down to the PE office today, I saw a group of grade 2 girls returning their skateboards, so started chatting with them. They were so proud to share how they had gone to the skate park this past weekend to practice their skills. One girl said that she fell and hurt her knee a bit, but knew that that was the risk involved in skateboarding, so was OK with it. They all talked about how they had to overcome their initial fear of falling and getting hurt, but have made a lot of progress in this area. They also talked about the specific types of things that they were working on at the skate park in order to get better.
As the girls spoke to me this morning, I couldn't help but think about my recent chat with Scott Kretchmar and how happy he would be hearing these girls speak so proudly about their new found love of skateboarding and that their PE program is set up in a way that allows students to take action on being physically active when not in PE.
After all, this is what quality physical education is all about according to Scott . In opening the doors of the kingdom to students, we create the conditions for them to thrive and to find intrinsic value and motivation in being physically active for life.
So, to begin this week, I'd like to ask you to reflect on how you are opening the doors of the kingdom for your students? How are you leading them there? How are you structuring your lessons and units to ensure that you are providing relevant and meaningful experiences in PE that allow your students to fall in love with movement? Let me know your thoughts. Have a great week of teaching folks.