Young people taking action to make the world a better place
Curriculums that help young people to understand the importance of taking action to make a difference in the world around them is what it's all about. There are so many educators out there who strive to do this on a daily basis by creating the richest of learning environments in their classrooms. They inspire young people to be caring, kind, generous, and to take action.
In the video below, you will see something very special. I encourage you to take the time to watch it and share it. We need to share more stories and examples of young people, such as the ones in the video, making a true difference to inspire others to do the same.
What can we learn from how the Beatles became great?
I wrote a blog post yesterday about Malcolm Gladwell and the 10,000-hour rule that he speaks about in his book Outliers. It was a blog post aimed at getting teachers to think about the role that reflection plays in their professional lives. I'd like to mention a couple of things here. Firstly, I failed to mention that it was not Gladwell who actually developed the 10,000-hour rule. The 10,000-hour rule originated in the work of psychologist Anders Ericsson from Florida State. Thanks to Shane Pill, a lecturer from Flinders University in Australia for letting me know this. Shane brings a lot to our #physed network on Twitter.
Shane also brought up a great point that deliberate and purposeful practice is essential in order to become more effective educators. It made me think about the best balance that I had described in yesterday's blog post which was 80% teaching and planning time versus 20% teacher reflection time. I believe that deliberate and purposeful practice must be embedded within this 80%. This 80% also includes collaboration time with colleagues and professional development time. My main point was to stress that teacher reflection plays a pivotal role in everything we do no matter how things are broken down. Without reflection we merely go through the actions of teaching and assessing ultimately watering down our effectiveness as educators.
As I listened to more of the Outliers audiobook today, I heard a part in which Gladwell speaks about why the Beatles were so incredibly successful. At the time that they were starting to get noticed, they were asked to go over to Hamburg, Germany (which was considered to be foreign land back in those days compared to their home of Liverpool) to perform several times over a span of 18 months. Although they were a pretty good band at the time. when they started doing gigs in Hamburg, they weren't a great band yet. Once they had finished up the 18 months, they were world class. After the Beatles broke up, John Lennon while being interviewed spoke about their amazing success and was quoted as saying:
What key points does Lennon make that can be applied to becoming master teachers? It is so easy to fall into a pattern of continually doing the same things in our teaching, even if these things are very good. When the Beatles played in Liverpool they performed the same numbers over and over. It made them great at a few songs, but not master musicians, not yet anyways! It wasn't until they were forced to change things up and to find new ways of playing that they achieved true excellence.
When we reflect on our own teaching practice, it is essential to consider how we can constantly change things up and find new ways to teach, assess, and challenge our learners. In doing so, we will find the spark needed to continue to push our teaching to new levels. It's hard work but well worth the time and effort.
Over the next several days, I will be following the Twitter feed for the National Institute of PE conference being held in Asheville, North Carolina. The conference is organized by Artie Kamiya, a highly motivated physical educator and co-owner of Great Activities.
It has been great to see all of the tweets coming out of North Carolina using the hashtag for the conference #PEInstitute14.
One of the tweets that came out yesterday was written by my good friend Joey Feith, the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com. In the tweet, Joey refers to 10,000 hours needed for mastery and 50 hours needed for competency. He was participating in a workshop led by Stevie Chepko. Here is the tweet below.
As I read Joey's tweet, I immediately thought of the work of Malcolm Gladwell and the book he wrote called Outliers. I have read Outliers a couple of times and have the audiobook version as well. I began to write a blog post a few months ago (that I never published) about the book and the idea that Gladwell presents, the 10,000-hour rule. Essentially, he states that 10,000 hours is needed to truly become a expert at a something. Joey's tweet brought me back to my thoughts on Gladwell's work and the blog post that I had begun to write a while back.
I decided to listen to a part of the audiobook again in order to revisit the thoughts that I had while reading the book the first and second time around. A perfect opportunity to reflect on what it takes to become an expert teacher. Does it take 10,000 hours? Gladwell gives loads of examples from the Beatles and Steve Jobs to Canadian professional ice hockey players and world renown violinists. I know that it is a far stretch to compare expert teachers to the likes of John Lennon, Wayne Gretzky, or Steve Jobs. However, my point in comparing them all relates back to the 10,000-hour rule.
Breaking Down Gladwell's 10,000-Hour Rule
Let's start by assuming that if this rule were true, teachers would need approximately 10,000 hours to practice the art of teaching before becoming true experts in their profession. Gladwell states that in most cases 10,000 hours takes ten or more years of hard work and being extremely committed to becoming the best you can be
I personally know many educators who are very serious about their teaching and strive to be the very best that they can be. Not only for their students but also for themselves. I consider myself to be in this category of teachers. The fact that there are a few hundred physical educators attending Artie Kamiya's conference in North Carolina during their summer vacation is a testament to the fact that there are many teachers intrinsically motivated to improve their practice.
I would like to propose the idea that teacher reflection should take up a good chunk of this 10,000 hours. It's not just about 10,000 hours of actual contact time with students needed, but also authentic and genuine teacher reflection added into the mix. Adding this teacher reflection component consistently into our practice will speed us along our path to mastery. It is one of the strongest beliefs that I have about how to become the best educators we can be.
Teacher Reflection is Critical
Most people really do understand that reflection is an important part of the teacher process. Above, I have assigned what I feel is the best balance between actual teaching/planning time (80%) and teacher reflection time (20%). When I look at my own practice, I definitely reflect, on average 20% of the time and this is accomplished through journal writing, blogging, and thinking.
As PE teachers we love running and exercising! I run approximately 4 times and week and workout in the gym another 2-3 times per week. I used to only listen to music when I worked out and ran, still do at times. But most of my time running is spent listening to audiobooks and reflecting on what's best for my teaching and the learning of my students. I come up with loads of ideas and thoughts during these runs. The first thing I must do to keep those thoughts alive is to record them in my journal when I back home after my runs. I always bring the journal with me when I go to school and ALWAYS have it on hand when planning.
I find that using my exercise time is one of the most productive ways for me to genuinely reflect on my teaching practice. It works well for me. However, all people are different and have unique needs. You can chose to reflect in any way that best suits who you are as a person and educator. However, reflection is a must if we are to truly become better teachers.
The purpose of this blog post is to get you to think about 3 main questions. Would love to hear your thoughts, especially any teachers attending the National Institute of PE conference in North Carolina.
Are we truly ready to receive feedback?
We hear all of the time just how important feedback is in relation to our own teaching practice. On Twitter, many educators constantly solicit feedback from others and they do this because deep down they want to improve. Soliciting feedback seems like the right thing to do, but are we truly ready to receive it? Personally, I put a great deal of time and energy into the planning that I do in order to have maximum impact on student learning.
This is what helps me to become a better teacher. I blog about my teaching and learning journey as it helps me to reflect on every aspect of my profession. However, I need to be careful because there are times when I grip on too tight. I believe so hard in what I do at times that it actually narrows my vision and when it comes time to receive feedback, I can't help but take it personally. It can feel a bit painful and hard to accept.
The reality is that as open as we are to receiving feedback and knowing that we'll improve as a result, it sometimes isn't so easy. When I catch myself feeling this way, it is a definite sign that I need to back away and take that metaphorical deep breath to calm myself and remove emotion. Only then can I be open to receiving the feedback in a proactive manner. I've gotten a hell of a lot better at receiving feedback, but there are times that it still isn't easy.
The purpose of this blog post is to get you to think about your own emotions, thoughts, and mindset when you are receiving feedback about your own teaching or any aspect of your life. Are you truly open to it or are you guarded at times? If you are guarded or feeling closed, perhaps that deep breath and letting emotion go will assist in opening your mind more consistently. This allows us to truly reap the benefits that feedback can have in our lives.
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
The Power of Forgiveness Can Be a Life Changer
As educators we often seek to improve our practice and look for every opportunity to help us become better at what we do . Our schools push us to attend professional development conferences and workshops in order to learn as much as we can about how to improve upon our teaching so that we can have the greatest impact possible on our learners. Technology integration, differentiation, instructional strategies, classroom management, providing better feedback and more effectively assessing our learners is usually the focus of these workshops and conferences.
Improving within each of these areas of course will lead to better teaching. However, in my opinion, to become better educators, we must first look inward and reflect upon our own mindset. How we deal with adversity and obstacles in our lives plays a pivotal role in shaping who we are as educators. Do we walk away from challenging situations with a mindset that allows us to grow and expand upon our ability to better deal with adversity and change? More often than not, as teachers, we look externally for tools and strategies to better serve the learners under our care and guidance rather than looking inward.
Looking inward and truly reflecting on our own mindset is a skill that can and should be developed. This same skill is also critical to develop in the students we teach for they too face daily stressors that can feel completely overwhelming to them. The power to let go of anger and frustration is also incredibly important to foster in our students. Easier said than done of course, but it often times begins with forgiveness.
I have followed the work of Orlando Bowen since meeting him personally a couple of summers ago while doing some coaching for a local high school football team in the Toronto area. Orlando is a former professional football player having played a number of seasons with the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Ticats in the Canadian Football League. Orlando's career was cut short due to heinous attack that left him seriously injured.
Instead of bitter resentment and hatred for what had happened to him, Orlando chose forgiveness. In the video below he explains what happened to him, what he learned from it, and ultimately the need to forgive. A powerful message for young people to hear, so consider showing it to your students. Orlando now dedicates his life to empowering people to overcome adversity, find their passion and use their gifts to serve others. I suggest that you too follow Orlando's workHe can be followed on Twitter at @orlandobowen.
Everyone has different approaches to the way that they handle adversity and obstacles in their lives. Success often times is a result of grinding it out, learning from our mistakes, and picking ourselves up when times are tough.
The purpose of my Good Teaching is LIFE series is to show just how powerful reflection can be in shaping our personal and professional lives. To me personal and professional are inseparable. The very essence of who we are as a person manifests itself in our teaching and how we connect with the learners under our care and guidance, whoever those learners may be. Being honest and open about our experiences, both negative and positive, is the most genuine form of reflection that there is.
I am very happy to have connected with and gotten to know Joey Feith. Last December, I was lucky to have had a chance to fly to Montreal and spend some time getting to know Joey personally. Although in the early stages of his teaching career, I have always felt that Joey is wise beyond his years.
He not only brings tremendous value to the physical education network worldwide, but also to teaching in general. His insight, wisdom, and teaching practice continue to grow with regularity because he constantly monitors where he is at and what he needs to do in order to steadily improve. In reading his L.I.F.E reflection below, you will see that he is committed to being the best person and educator that he can be. I'd like to thank Joey for taking the time to complete this L.I.F.E reflection and his willingness to share it with the readers of my blog. Thanks Joey!
A Bit About Joey
Joey is the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com. He currently teaches elementary physical education in Montreal, Canada. Joey believes that every child should have access to a world class physical education experience, and thatteacher professional development is the key to that. That is why, between lesson planning and helping kids improve their running, he has dedicated thousands of hours to creating a site that helps inspire fellow physical educators.
Joey has presented his ideas at the local, provincial, national, and international levels through various speaking and training events. He's a recipient of Physical and Health Education Canada's Dr. Andy Anderson Young Professional Award for the province of Quebec. Joey also was an Education finalist in the 6th Annual Shorty Awards, an awards ceremony honouring the best in social media.
When not teaching, blogging, or developing new teaching resources, Joey enjoys spending time with his family, long boarding, and drinking tea. I encourage you to follow Joey on Twitter at @joeyfeith and @phys_educator.
Joey's L.I.F.E Reflection
Guilty myself of always referring to thinking inside and outside the box
I am now laying down a new law for myself and will police the space inside of my head and thoughts to ensure that I never use the phrase 'thinking inside or outside the box' again when it comes to the learning of my students or my own learning. It kind of struck me on the head when I was taking part in a #nbtchat on Twitter this morning.
In the workshops that I lead when training PE teachers to deepen their practice, I always make reference to the importance of thinking both inside and outside of the box of physical education when designing the learning experiences they have their students engage in. This is a slide from a keynote that I have used in my last few workshops to emphasize the point that to be the best that we can be as physical educators, we must think both inside and outside the box of PE.
As I said, I was struck with the thought this morning that this type of thinking is now wrong, at least in my opinion it is. When taking part in the #nbtchat, I saw the following tweet that was sent out by Dr. Matt Parker, a high school administrator from Waynesville High School in Missouri. I think that Matt brought up an extremely valid point and I completely agree that there is a need for flexibility and to constantly be willing to change things up when teaching and learning in order to be the best learners we can be.
However, as educators, I feel that we should no longer use or refer to there being a box at all when it comes to thinking and learning. Simply put, the box reference to me implies that there are limits and constraints to our learning, which should never be the case. This was the tweet that I sent in response to Matt's. I was not trying to challenge Matt but to state my reflective point of view on the subject.
As I said earlier in this blog post, I always referred to this box in the workshops that I have led in the past, but I will no longer do this. As educators, our ultimate goal should be to develop students who have nothing but open roads in which to navigate where their learning journeys will take them. This requires subject area boundary lines to be blurred at minimum or removed all together as learning should be very transdisciplinary in nature without any reference to limits at all. So I am doing away with the phrase thinking inside and outside the box from now on. No more boxes, no more limits on learning, especially when it comes to our own learning! Would love to hear your thoughts.
This quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes is one that I like using in the workshops that I lead. I am always on the lookout for great ideas to help stimulate my own thinking. As Austin Kleon says in his books Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work, there is good theft and bad theft. Simply taking an idea from someone else and spitting it back out does no good for the person the idea was taken from or for the person who took the idea. It certainly doesn't help to build upon our own creative genius.
True growth is taking the ideas from the world around us and transforming the ideas into something better. Challenging ourselves to be as creative as possible by reflecting on our own teaching and learning space as educators. When we take an idea from someone else, we must re-create, modify, tweak, twist, or refine it to best suit what it is we are trying to accomplish at that particular moment.
I read as many blogs and books as I can and am overwhelmed by all of the greatness out there. There is no possible way I can use it all, but those ideas that truly resonate with me always get the wheels of creativity spinning in my own head. I use these ideas to carve out my own teaching trail. This trail is always changing and morphing into something different as I go. I love the journey and wouldn't have it any other way. Sharing as much of my own teaching and learning journey as possible is about putting my own ideas out there for others to use. When I give, I always receive in return and for this I am forever grateful.
Regardless of what you read, how do the ideas that resonate with you change who you are as an educator? How do these ideas help you carve our your own teaching trail? Would love to hear from you regarding this topic!