Words of wisdom from a Canadian legend
Life as an educator is forever changing and it should be, as no day in which we teach is ever the same. There are no certainties in our profession. Teachers constantly deal with an onslaught of demands, wants, and needs on a continual basis but that is what makes our jobs such a unique craft within itself. Being at our best demands that we pay close attention to everything happening within our teaching space. It's no easy task. However, I would argue that it is the greatest job in the world because as we navigate through time and teaching, we are impacting those who matter most; the difference makers of the future.
Such an extraordinary responsibility to be in charge of a young person's future, but as educators, that is exactly what is happening. We have the ability and capacity to make an amazing difference and to direct the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of those under our care. When we sign up to be teachers, we often times fail to realize the enormity of the impact that we potentially possess. Never is there a day that is the same in teaching. The beauty of our profession is that every day is unique, yet at the same time, challenging us to be our best, to be fully competent at what we do.
As I plough through one of the best books I've read, written by Chris Hadfield, a famous Canadian astronaut, I want to share a quote that is extremely applicable to all we do as educators and it has to do with competence.
Competence means keeping your head in a crisis, sticking with a task even when it seems hopeless, and improvising good solutions to tough problems when every second counts. It encompasses ingenuity, determination, and being prepared for anything.
Does our profession need a sense of urgency? I would argue, YES. Things need to change drastically if we are to create long term sustainable change to impact the future that we envision for our students and our children. We need to understand that we hold the power to change the world, but every second counts. Thanks for reading.
Little teachers in action in target games unit
I had a great time today watching my grade 3 students teach grade 1 students different types of target games. I gave the grade 3 students extra PE time today to take on the role of teacher. I made it very clear to the grade 3 students that I was looking for three things:
You must show responsibility and take care of the grade 1 student.
You must clearly explain the rules, how to play, and the scoring system.
You must give them feedback about how they are doing.
I closely observed the grade 3 students as they taught and played the game with the grade 1 students who they had been paired with. They did a fantastic job for the most part and I was able to assess most of the grade 3 students in regards to how much they know about target games. We used the visual below as a starting point for the lesson in order to get them thinking about some big ideas related to the unit.
Once I set the grade 3 students off working with their grade 1 partners, I walked around listening and observing what was happening and tried hard not to intervene. Near the end of the class, I asked the grade 3s what the most difficult part of teaching for them was and what they enjoyed the most. These were some of the most common answers:
What was most difficult...
Some times the kids do not listen.
It's difficult to explain things in an easy way.
It's frustrating when they walk away when I am talking.
I tell them one thing but they do another.
What they enjoyed the most...
We liked being leaders.
We enjoyed playing the game with them.
We liked that they were able to learn from us.
This is what grade 1s had to say about the grade 3s.
Things they didn't like about their teacher...
They sometimes shouted at me.
They spoke too fast.
They got frustrated when I made mistakes.
Things that they liked about their teacher...
They were nice to me.
They helped me to improve.
They helped me get better.
They said things like, "Nice job" and "You are getting better!"
As I said above, I was able to walk around , observe, and take some notes on most of the grade 3s as they taught the games to the younger students. I commended both grade 1s and grade 3s for the great work that they showed today in this combined lesson. Definitely worth trying out with your own students if you can set something similar up. Thanks for reading.
Kids helping to unpack and breakdown what good ball control means in net games
To open up the net games unit last week, I had my grade 2 students share what they already felt that they knew about the topic. I have three grade 2 classes, so each class had a chance to share their ideas. I created a visual with their ideas to make their learning visual. I then used the grade 2 visual with my grade 5 classes as they are doing net games as well. The grade 2 visual served as a starting point for grade 5 who then extended upon some of the ideas presented in the poster. I blogged about it here last week.
In today's grade 2 class, I had my students explore a few different tennis activities with the aim being to self-identify what they felt was the best challenge for them. We did a bunch of individual skill work which then led into the partner phase of the lesson. In the last phase of the lesson, they had to work with a partner hitting it back and forth, but increasing the level of difficulty at a pace that they could handle. The focus of today's class was for the students to begin to address the importance of ball control and to describe what good ball control actually means.
The driving question of the class was 'How can we better control the ball?'.
I had the original visual up and beside it included the driving question for the day. At the end of the class, I had the students gather around to share their ideas, but before sharing, they did a walk and talk with their partner. During the walk and talk, they shared their answers about what good ball control means. When they came back, I recorded their answers in my journal and during my prep period created the visual that you see below. This visual will be up and ready for the next grade 2 class which comes to PE. Great student generated ideas being shared in today's PE lesson. Check out the visuals below and the video in which I explain what we've done so far in this unit. Thanks for reading!
A successful strategy to try out in your classes
For those of you who read my blog, you have seen that I often create visuals that unpack or breakdown the big ideas and concepts in the units that I teach in physical education. These visuals serve multiple purposes throughout the unit and greatly assist in giving the students a specific direction with their learning. In this blog post, I want to share with you one of the most powerful ways that I use these visuals in my classes. I will give you a specific look at the process to see for yourself just how powerful it can be in regards to student learning. If you have never used the strategy, I encourage you to try it out for yourself.
The strategy that I am going to describe is something that I’m currently putting into practice with my grade 2 and grade 5 classes as both grade levels have just begun a net games unit to wrap up the school year. To kick start the net games unit I used the following key question to check for prior knowledge with my grade 2 students, “What do you know about net games?”. I had the students do a walk and talk for about 3-4 minutes discussing the question and sharing their answers. We gathered as a whole class and the students began to share some of the thoughts that they had. I recorded these thoughts in my journal without judging them as being right or wrong.
Once class was over, I went over my notes identifying the most common answers and then created the visual that you see below.
Since grade 5 is also doing net games, I wanted to use the same key question with them. However, to begin their net games experience, I showed them the visual created with student answers from the grade 2 class. I could see their eyes quickly scanning the visual checking out all of the thoughts on the poster. At this point, I told the grade 5 students that they would do a walk and talk to discuss what they know about net games, but they had to either extend upon any of the ideas from the grade 2 class OR they could discuss any totally new ideas or thoughts that they have.
Once they came back from the walk and talk, the grade 5 students really dug deep, sharing lots of great thoughts and ideas about net games. Some of these thoughts definitely extended upon the grade 2 ideas, but many ideas brought up were completely new. Once class was over, I created the visual that you see below for the grade 5 class.
The beautiful thing here is that the grade 5 students have identified key terminology and vocabulary that the grade 2 students may not understand but need to know. I am now going to use the grade 5 visual to teach some of the new vocabulary to the grade 2 students next time they come to PE. As the unit unfolds for both grade 2 and grade 5, they will closely monitor, discuss, and learn about what’s happening in the net games unit at the other grade level.
It’s great for students to know and understand that there is a shared, common experience in many of the units done in PE. Whether it be having to understand key vocabulary, skills, concepts or other big ideas, using visuals across the grade levels has been a super effective way to teach my lessons. From a transdisciplinary point of view, the visuals don’t even have to be from the same units as certain ideas and concepts can easily transcend specific unit boundary lines and often times even subject area boundary lines.
How do you unpack big ideas and concepts in your classes? How do you make these ideas and concepts visual to your learners? How do you use these ideas and concepts to breakdown and unpack the learning that is taking place in your program?
I believe that these are the non-negotiables of good teaching practice. Share you thoughts in the comment box below. Thanks!!
Checking for prior knowledge, getting them tuned in
I've opened up my last unit of the year with my grade 2 students this week at Nanjing International School. To begin the unit, the key question that I posed to them was 'What do you know about net games?'. The students did a short walk and talk sharing their answers to the key question. I recorded their answers in my journal. I had two different grade 2 classes today share their answers to the key question. They came up with some great ideas with the second class building upon the ideas of the first class. As you can see, I included some clip art images of net games on the visual to help stimulate their thinking. All of the student answers you see came from them.
Once they had shared their answers, I had them take part in a number of different activities using ping pong paddles and ping pong balls, both individually and in pairs. Please check out the video below to see the 6 different activities done in today's class. The kids were super engaged not only physically, but also thinking and sharing what they felt that they knew about net games. A great start to the unit! Please check out video below to see the activities done today.
What They Already Know About Net Games
Building upon student ideas helps to deepen learning
We are off to a flying start with our grade 4 invasion games unit here at Nanjing International School. I've taken on a bit of a different approach than what I normally do in my units. For those of you who know my teaching style, you know that I post key questions, then give each of my classes a chance to share their answers. I use my journal to record their ideas without judging them as being right or wrong. In some cases I ask further questions to help the students clarify exactly what it is that they are thinking or feeling about the topic. Once all the students have had a chance to share their answers in regards to the key question, I then create a visual that includes the most common responses. The next time the students come around to PE, the visual is up with their answers. This begins the process of unpacking the big ideas and concepts in the unit helping to make essential student learning outcomes explicit. It has always helped to give students a clear and specific direction in the units I teach in PE.
This time around, I am doing it a bit differently. I have three grade 4 classes (4A, 4B, 4C). Instead of giving all three classes the chance to share their answers to the initial key question, this is how I changed it up.
My 4A class was the first to address the key question "What are the skills necessary to succeed in invasion games?". I recorded the answers from the 4A students in my journal then made the visual that you see below as soon as I could after the class.
As you can see, the students came up with some great answers to the key question above. They answered the questions at different points in the class between some initial invasion games that we had played. For the first class, I used no balls or equipment whatsoever. When my 4B class came in the following day for PE, I had the visual up on the gym wall ready to go. We had a look at the visual then I asked the students to do a walk and talk to see if they could come up with any other answers to the key question.
I then had the students take part in similar invasion games that I played with the other grade 4 students the day before using no equipment. However, the 4B students had to take any of the big ideas from the visual above and begin to unpack them. I told my students that it wasn't good enough to just say that we have to be good at defending. What does good defending mean? What does good decision making look like? What does good attacking mean? etc. In between the games. I jotted down student ideas in my journal once again. They were free to choose any of the big ideas to unpack. Through discussion we addressed 4 key areas; Attacking, Defending, Running, and Decision-Making. Once the class finished up, I checked out the most common answers and responses then created the following visuals that you see below. Once again, the students came up with some great points that helped to unpack the big ideas generated from the 4A class the day before.
Up Next Grade 4C,
The following day I had the 2 visuals you see above ready to go as well as the key question visual at the top of this blog post. When the 4C students came in we went through the same process as before. They looked at the key question and had a chance to share their ideas and answers. We then looked at the 4 concepts that had started to be unpacked by grade 4B. The 4C students then had a chance to add ideas to what was already unpacked OR unpack any of the other ideas. We played the same type of invasion games with no equipment (I actually included one simple passing game using small rings) and they shared their answers at different points during the lesson. The 4C class really dug deep sharing loads of new ideas and merging other ideas . For example, they decided that the key ideas of chasing, dodging, and running should be merged and unpacked under the Good Running visual. This was a perfect chance to introduce the concept of 'Agility ' to the students. We renamed the Good Running category Agility.
As well the students added to other existing ideas unpacking good defending and attacking even further. They also came up with the need to play safely and to know and understand rules, so I started a new visual to reflect these thoughts and answers. See how some visuals have changed and new ideas being unpacked have been added. Lots to build on as we move forward in the unit.
The process will repeat itself next week with all three grade 4 classes being able to add their thoughts, ideas, and other things learned to these visuals. A map of their learning will take place throughout this unit. A new direction and a bit of a change with how I usually unpack big ideas, but I'm finding a lot of success with it already. Ball skills will be added in the next phase of this unit.
Could this style of unpacking work for you in your program? Is it applicable in middle and high school PE as well? Could it work in other subject areas? Try it out and let me know how things go!! Thanks for reading.
What are our responsibilities in pushing quality physical education forward?
Creating engaged learners doesn't always imply that we need to give our students total freedom over their learning journeys. There must be a firm structure in place that often times requires a teacher directed approach in order to help our students find their own level of success in PE. I get all that, but at what point does control and compliance become a disservice to our students?
Even though teacher direction and control is an important, how do we know whether or not we've crossed the line? These are important questions to think about as you read this blog post. A friend of mine, whom I shall call Teacher X needs some advice. Teacher X has taught internationally for many years, but has recently returned to their home country. They found work, back home, continuing to teach PE in a public school .
Teacher X had been quite used to an inquiry-based approach to education at their previous international placements and was looking forward to bringing this type of teaching style into their new school. Teacher X is one of a handful of teachers in their PE department. A few weeks back, I received an email from Teacher X explaining that they were very frustrated with what they had seen in their first few months of teaching at this school. They saw that the physical education program was being delivered in a way that allowed zero choice to students. Despite students being clearly disengaged, they are forced to take part in teacher led activities that are extremely traditional in nature. Lots of waiting around for turns and lots of situations where the athletes are the only ones to excel in the class while all of the others (the majority) are pushed aside wondering, "What is the point, why should I try?".
I offered Teacher X some advice, but received another email a few days later explaining a new situation that had taken place earlier that week. In Teacher X's own words:
Traditionally everyone at this school must compete in the events selected by the teachers in the Athletics unit because that's the way it has always been done. So, today's situation was bound to happen sooner or later. There was lots of complaining from my middle school class. When required to sprint 200m and be timed, some students only jogged or walked, very resistant to being told that they had to do it. One girl who had to run the 1500m stood at the start line, arms folded and refused to move saying, "You can't make me do something I don't want to do".
I totally understand why the students rebelled. There was no engagement, no questions, no focus, just a 'This is what you must do" mentality from the teachers. The students have obviously been a part of a control and compliance type learning environment for years at this school in PE. At a time when middle schoolers should be embracing being healthy and active, they obviously do not see the relevance in why they should put forth effort in PE. They do not see the point in being active because their voice and what they want doesn't matter at all. There is a lot of disengagement in this program. I don't know what to do to begin changing this.
I thought long and hard about the way I should respond to Teacher X's last email to me. What I decided to do was to explain Teacher X's situation to my grade 5 students. I read the email to the students in three separate grade 5 PE classes. I then had each class do a 3-minute 'Walk & Talk' sharing their ideas and answers with one another about what Teacher X should do.
I asked them what advice that they would give the PE teachers in the school that Teacher X now works at. My students never surprise me with the answers that they give. Little people can give solid advice to big people!! Here is what they had to say:
"Those students should be allowed to choose what events that they have to do. I mean....they should have to do some events for sure, but they should be able to choose. Maybe this way, they will want to do it."
"The PE teachers at that school should include other fun types of running, jumping, and throwing games and activities NOT just serious competition."
"The PE teachers should show interesting videos like Mr. Andy does. Maybe the videos will inspire them to want to do more running, jumping, and throwing events. Maybe the students will understand that it is about doing their best and not competing against or comparing themselves to others."
"The students should be able to work on teams and maybe make practice and training plans together. They should have to do something, but maybe working with their friends and supporting one another might help."
"The students shouldn't be forced to do anything. They should have to do something, but maybe the PE teachers can listen to what they want more. "
Most of the student answers from across the three grade 5 classes were similar to the statements above. I emailed Teacher X back to say that I had taken some time to think about how to respond and decided to let my students share their ideas and that I would share their responses in a blog post. I'm sending Teacher X the link to this blog post once I publish it. The ideas that my students came up with are exactly what I probably would've told Teacher X. I would also tell them that as difficult as it is, it is important to try to have continued, ongoing discussions with their colleagues to try to gain an understanding of why they teach the way that they do. Perhaps small changes over time may become possible.
I no longer get frustrated or upset when I hear of these situations happening. Instead, I place responsibility on my own shoulders to continue to make small, micro-improvements in my own teaching and sharing my practice with others. Just as I share my own good teaching practice, there are loads of excellent PE teachers doing the same on social media. When we focus on what we can control and share our good practice with regularity, our impact and reach will continue to spread. Our message about quality physical education will begin to reach those who are in charge of making very important decisions about how PE is implemented and delivered in different districts and regions across the world. Change is a slow process, but we all have a voice in making a long term difference in the way our profession is perceived.
My advice is to SHARE, SHARE, and continue to SHARE your excellent practice. When sharing on Twitter, use hashtags outside of PE itself to help spread what quality #physed is all about. The more you share, the more impact and reach you will have. We want more and more administrators and policy makers to see the important role that PE plays in a curriculum.
Is PE broken? Yes, I do believe it is in many schools around the world. PE does need fixing. I certainly don't blame only the teachers themselves as it is ultimately administration that must step in and come up with a better way to evaluate teacher effectiveness. And these administrators must take the time to find out what quality physical education is all about. They must see it in action to know exactly what it looks and feels like.
To end this blog post, I want to draw attention to a great post that my friend, Adam Howell, wrote last week. It's totally worth the read as it emphasizes the need for total overhaul in the way teacher evaluation is being done in physical education. I encourage you to read Adam's post and to add your own thoughts in the comment box of his blog post.
A rewarding story 4 years in the making
As I approach my last 5 weeks of teaching, I am filled with mixed emotions. I'm so very thankful to have spent the last 4 years at a truly amazing school in Nanjing, China. I feel blessed and have nothing but gratitude for the experience that my family and I have had here. As some of you may know, I've decided to stop teaching at this end of this school year to pursue a long time goal of becoming a full-time teacher trainer/consultant.
I must admit there are some days I wake up thinking to myself, "What the hell have I done??!!!". Why would I give up such a great job in a fantastic school? But, when I reflect for any length of time, I'm proud to have taken the risk to do something that I am truly passionate about. I'm certainly going to miss my students though. My wife, Neila Steele, will continue on at the school and our boys, Eli and Tai, will continue on as well. Although I will still be a part of the community, it won’t be the same as going into school to teach every day.
Teaching can seem like such a thankless job at times. We put our hearts fully into it, diving deep into our practice in an effort to change kids lives forever. What we often overlook is the fact that our lives our being changed forever as well. I know mine certainly has over the past 15 years of international teaching. Receiving feedback about the genuine impact we are having on those who we teach doesn’t come very often. However, when it does, it plays a powerful role in reminding us about why we teach. I want to share a story of one of my small victories in teaching that has been 4 years in the making.
There is a boy I have taught for the past 4 years who has really struggled in physical education. I made it a goal, years ago, to spend as much time as I could having discussions with him and working on his mindset in an effort to get him to better believe in himself. I felt like I was beginning to breakthrough a couple of years ago. I noticed he was putting in greater effort and getting more involved in the activities done in PE. I kept on him, continuing to have important discussions and praising his level of effort whenever possible. Here is a recognition certificate that I gave him last year.
This boy has continued to blossom and really embrace the idea that physical education is about being the best we can be, learning new ways to be physically active, and working together with others. I've seen a big change in him as he is continuing to take risks and is showing lots of courage. He chose to take part in the 800-meter run which was a huge step for him. I was pumped that he had decided to do this. He knew that he would not be one of the fastest and that he would struggle but he gave it a go which is what's most important. I could see that he was pushing himself throughout the run doing the best he could. Although finishing last in his heat, some of his classmates ran alongside him cheering him on. One of our teachers gave him his house flag to carry the last 200-meters. he ran along, waving the flag to the cheers of the crowd, but was really feeling the pain. I couldn't tell how he felt at the time, but his end of unit reflection below said it all. he was very proud of himself. A couple of years ago he would have never chosen to run this event. I made sure to go over to him after the race to let him know how proud I was of him. It was truly great to see.
A few weeks back our PE department was approached by a graduate student asking if he could do some fitness testing on some of our students for his masters thesis. Our administration allowed him to do this and we didn't mind as he was doing a comparative study on how fit international students are compared to Chinese students. However, we made it very clear that it was optional for students. A letter was sent home to the parents explaining the situation. My student's mom had written to us to say that she didn't want her son taking part in the testing, but was clear about her reasons why. See what she wrote below.
Please do not include --------- in the fitness testing. He is only just gaining confidence in fitness and sport. And he is sometimes teased by his classmates about being a slow runner. Andy has been wonderful in building his confidence to the point that he has decided to sign up for the basketball squad.
I consider this to be one of those small victories in teaching and knowing I have played a part in building up his confidence to the point that he has chosen to sign up for after school sport means a lot to me. He played on my son's basketball team and travelled to Shanghai recently to compete in a tournament. From what I understand, he did quite well which makes me even happier for him.
I'm sure that many of you reading this blog post have your own success stories and small victories with students. It's what makes teaching a beautifully rewarding profession to be a part of isn't it? I hope you can reflect on the impact that you are having and continue to be difference makers to those who you teach. I'll end this blog post with one of my favorite quotes by none other than Jim Carey himself. Don't ever forget the effect that you have on others!
“How will you serve the world, what do they need that your talent can provide? That's all you have to figure out. The effect that you have on others is the most valuable currency that there is.”
Taking time to understand our students genuine thoughts about their PE experience
Athletics is one of my favorite units, but I must admit that it is certainly not one of the easiest to teach. Every single year, I try to switch up how I present this unit in an effort to get all students to understand that the most important thing is to strive for personal excellence and to be the best that we can be. I put a lot of effort into the immersion phase (the initial stage) of the units I teach to try to hit upon these major points, but I'm not always successful. Many students still feel that they are not fast enough, and cannot throw or jump far enough. A number of students in Athletics simply feel that they are not good enough and have a difficult time dealing with the resulting emotions that stem from these re-occurring thoughts and feelings.
As their teacher, I try to impress upon them what I feel to be the most important things in the unit, but for them, they are experiencing Athletics through their own eyes and their own perspectives. Many students struggle with self-confidence and it's for these students that I try extremely hard to create an learning environment that is supportive and allows them to achieve some level of success.
I think that I open up my units in a pretty solid way, using powerful provocations that will hopefully get my students emotionally hooked and ready to learn. It is my goal to inspire and encourage them to want to learn, but also to get them to want to take part in the unit and do as many activities as possible without fear of being judged as either good or bad in regards to their level of skill. I want them to have a go and do their best.
This unit was set up in a way that allowed them to ultimately decide which events that they wanted to compete in during our culminating event which was Sports Day. The students had to choose 2 runs, 2 jumps, and 2 throws, but could add a 7th event of their choice if they wished to do extra. We felt that giving them this choice was obviously the best direction to go in order to make them feel that what they want matters.
The Big Day!
After 6 weeks of training, Sports Day was upon us and, for the most part, the students were as ready as they could be. Of course, more time to prepare would have been ideal, but the time had come for them to showcase what they had learned. Sports Day is an important community event at our school here in Nanjing, so there was no question that they were feeling the pressure.
As usual, there were some students who were visibly nervous on the morning of Sports Day. I tried to get around to as many as possible to have little side discussions with them to help them feel better. I also noticed a few students crying and quite upset before their races. I even had a some parents come up to tell me that their son or daughter had been up very late and unable to sleep because they had been so scared and nervous about competing the following morning.
When seeing and hearing these things, thoughts were running through my head like, "Did I not prepare them well enough?" and "Did I not do a good enough job of helping them to understand what's most important in this unit?". I was a bit baffled. Had I not paid close enough attention in previous years to checking in with their emotions, thoughts, and feelings during the Athletics unit? By the end of Sports Day, I knew that I had to address some of the things that I had seen in order to close the unit off in a meaningful and relevant way. I made it a goal to really get down to the bottom of how they felt and why they felt that way in an effort to see if there is a better way the Athletics unit can be rolled out next year. Don't get me wrong, the day was great! But, I know that there is always a better way to deliver the learning that takes place. I am convinced that there is an improved way in which the unit can be delivered to help them face the realities that they will face on Sports Day itself.
The Use of Provocations
Although I use provocations quite effectively during the immersion phase of the units I teach, I decided I was going to hit the students up with some provocations to end the unit. Something I hadn't really done in depth in the past.
The driving question that I used was simple; What are some genuine thoughts and feelings that you had during Sports Day? I set the students off, with their peers, on their 'walk and talk' discussing how they felt. At first they were not very open, but after a while they all began to share. The more they shared, the more they opened up. I jotted down many of their answers in my journal.
Once the students had shared their answers in a group discussion format, I showed them a video of Luca Patuelli, an amazing hip hop dancer from Montreal who happens to be disabled. Many of my students know who Luca is because I shared different videos of him in the past. However, the students had not seen this one. Luca was born with arthrogryposis which is an abnormal fibrosis of the muscle tissue causing muscle shortening. Therefore, people with this disease are unable to do passive extension and flexion in the affected joint or joints. Many are unable to walk. Luca had set a goal for himself to walk 2.5km last summer without the aid of his crutches. I shared the video of his walk with my students as a provocation to help initiate a discussion about why he might have decided to do this.
My students were very moved by the video and shared many reasons why Luca may have set such a goal. I also asked my students to think about why I had chosen to show them this video at the end of the Athletics unit. They began to tune into the fact that we must always remember that Athletics is about striving for personal excellence and doing the best that we can, regardless of the skills that we have. It's about setting goals and working toward those goals.
I emphasized that this was Luca's personal race and that he was trying to complete it to the best of his ability. My students understood that he was trying his very best to finish his own personal race which was simply to complete the walk. As well, we discussed how lucky we are to be healthy and to have bodies unaffected by disease, sickness, or injury.
We also re-visited the story of Ivan Fernandez Anaya, a Spanish 5000-meter runner who is one of the best in Europe. I shared Ivan's story earlier in the unit. You can read about it here. The story is all about what demonstrating genuine sportsmanship actually means. It is an inspiring story that my students loved.
Earlier in the unit, I had also shown the two videos below. We re-visited what these two stories meant and what they taught us about Athletics. One is the story of a 600-meter runner named
Heather Dorniden who fell down in a race but managed to get up and keep running eventually catching the ones in the lead and passing them to win the race. Another great video to emphasize the importance of trying our best.
The last story we revisited was the story of Derek Redmond. It is a video that my students had seen last year, but I hadn't shown it again this year until many students had asked to see it again. They clearly remembered seeing it the year before and wanted to see it again. Derek's story is one of compassion, resilience, and personal excellence. It's quite moving as well.
To close the unit off, I had used the most common student answers to create final visuals that captured my students' thoughts and feelings, the reasons for these thoughts and feelings, and what was most important to remember about the Athletics unit. Although I won't be teaching at the school next year, I'm leaving these visuals for the next teacher to use at the start of the unit next time around to remind the students about the important ideas related to Athletics. My students and I definitely had some pretty powerful discussions at the end of the unit and their final reflections indicated that many of them had grasped on to the big ideas and concepts that I hoped they would grasp on to.
As you can see in the visuals below, we identified major reasons why they had felt the way that they did. The purpose of doing this was to help them understand that we all experience the same feelings, insecurities, doubts, and fears about our own abilities. I needed to drive these points home to them in order to get them to understand that we all share the same human experience. My hope is that when they become more aware of this as they get older, they will remember these discussions and know that the thoughts and feelings that they may have are normal. Everyone experiences similar emotions but often times cover them up and not want other people to know. Knowing others feel the same way may help to give them the courage and inspiration needed to really go after it, do their best, and see what happens. I want them to know that what matters most is removing obstacles that stand in the way of them and success. We are all capable of personal excellence. This fact has nothing to do with Athletics itself but about life in general. We need to prepare our learners for a lifetime and not just a moment.
How do you run your Athletics units? What is most important to you to get your students to understand? Should all students have to compete in all events or should they be given choice? What does success look like in your Athletics unit? How is success celebrated? How can we deliver our Athletics unit in a way that has students understand the relevance of the unit and how it applies in their own lives? How can we get them to have the courage to really go for it? What type of learning environment must we create for them to feel free to take the risk to give it their best? How can we create that all important community feel that supports each and every learner as they strive for personal excellence? Would love to hear your thoughts!
I plan on writing a couple more blog posts about this unit , so I hope you come back to read more.
Examples of some of the students thoughts in their final reflection