Wise words to live and teach by
My thought of the day is devoted to sharing an inspiring prose poem written by American author Max Ehrmann in 1927. It is called the 'Desiderata' which in Latin translates to mean 'desired things'. If any of you had a chance to read my last blog post, you read about a very unfortunate experience that my wife, Neila Steele, and I experienced last week.
Revisiting this poem over the past week has allowed us to put things into better perspective. We are in a much more positive frame of mind and pressing forward. It feels good to have my mind back into teaching. A little background about this poem....
My wife remembers always seeing a plaque of the 'Desiderata' up on one of the walls of their family home back in Toronto. As she grew older, she remembers reading the poem from time to time trying to figure out the meaning. The poem held more of a special place for her as she became an adult. Years ago, she asked her mom if she could have the plaque for our own family home. We've kept the plaque up for years in our own home and it has held special meaning in our lives. The message is so powerful. Neila uses many of the messages from the poem in the mindfulness and yoga classes that she teaches to both adults and children.
As you read through the poem, what resonates with you? What lessons from the 'Desiderata' are worthy of sharing with your own children and with the students that you teach? I'm sure that you will all connect with this amazing poem and I hope that you find as much value in it as my wife and I do. Have a great week!
Love not your possessions but more your health, happiness, and family
You can imagine the dread and terror I felt when I realized yesterday morning that my wife and I were the victims of identity theft. We've always heard of the dangers of identity theft and how easily it can happen to anyone, but we never expected it would ever actually happen to us. I found out yesterday morning that both my wife's bank account and mine were completely cleaned out over the course of the last several days. We are looking at the numbers and trying to tell for sure, but it looks as if it is in the range of between 22,000 and 25,000 US dollars from both our accounts.
We have been international educators for the last 15 years and have experienced some difficult situations in the past. We understand that there comes risks with working and living abroad. We have always been vigilant about our safety and the safety of our boys. We never take safety for granted. However, this theft has taken us by complete shock and total surprise.
We have lived and worked in Nanjing, China for 4 years now. We've never had a problem, but that all changed big time for us yesterday. Somehow our bank cards were copied and our pin numbers compromised. I was about to do a large bank transfer yesterday back to our Canadian account only to find out that we had zero left in our accounts.
My school, the Nanjing International School, has been extremely supportive and is taking this identity theft crisis very seriously. However, laws here in China are different and banks do not offer compensation for these types of thefts. All we were told is that the money was taken from an ATM in Poland. Even though it is clearly obvious that we were in Nanjing and using our own cards, somebody at the same time was draining several thousand dollars per day from our accounts outside of China. The bank never put a lock on our cards or blocked the ATM transactions. It's something that we will now have to live with. The chances of compensation very slim to no chance at all.
My wife and I are confused and don't know what to do. We are both caring, kind, generous, and giving of our time and energy to others. We teach our two boys the value of these traits on a regular basis. We practice visualization and meditation focusing on only positive things that we want to happen in our lives. Even though we are left questioning all this, we will never sway from these beliefs. As hard as it is, we will press on and continue to be the best that we can be as educators and as people. Perhaps this is a test of our resilience, who knows. I just know that we must look forward. We told our boys something last night that we feel is so true given this shitty situation we find ourselves in.
We are grateful for our loving family. We are all safe, healthy, and happy. Although the theft hurts like hell, the above statement is the absolute truth. I know that anyone reading this will understand and be compassionate with what we have gone through. Change your pin numbers, be vigilant, and never assume that this will not happen to you. Protect yourself accordingly, so it never happens to you or anyone you love. Thanks for reading.
Everything begins with thought so think like a champion
I have been involved in education and coaching for over 20 years now and there is one thing that I know for certain. Everything begins with thought and success is more achievable when we have a positive mindset. As a former competitive football player and competitive golfer, I always performed at my highest level when I was in the right mindset. It wasn't always easy to do, but getting myself into this zone took a lot of hard work and mental preparation.
As a physical educator, I believe that we MUST address mindset with our students before anything else. Before getting caught up in curriculum demands and student learning outcomes, we have a responsibility to help our learners understand just how powerful thought can be in achieving success. This applies to all facets of life, not just school. We must give students every opportunity possible to address their own mindset and to practice freeing themselves from negative self-talk and destructive thoughts. Bob Marley sums up the power of mindset in his beautiful 'Redemption' song.
My grade 4 students are working on a "Who we are" unit in the classroom which focuses on the central idea "We all have distinct interests, attitudes, and skills that can be developed.' As integrated learning means everything to me, I am piggy backing on this by focusing on the same central idea for my grade 4 students in PE. I have met with the classroom teachers a number of times collaborating with them on how best to plan and deliver this unit. I told them that I wanted to get all students in grade 4 to pick a goal to work on in PE. Whatever they choose to do must be something that they are either a beginner at or consider themselves not very good at.
The main aim of my unit in PE is to get the students working on improving upon their level of skill in their identified activity over the entirety of the 7-week unit. The classroom teachers have been informed of their goals and have addressed these goals in discussions that they have had with their students back in class. This is among one of the very best collaborative units I have taught in elementary PE. The kids are responding amazingly well and have already shown a great deal of improvement.
I have had ongoing discussions with them about getting into the right mindset and maintaining this mindset. I have given a number of personal examples of how a positive mindset has allowed me to accomplish some great things in sport and in life. My own blog is a testament to this. I am so proud of my blog. It's a work of love, patience, effort, and passion.
What's even more special about this unit is that the classroom teachers are coming to PE to support their students, learning more about their progress related to their goals, and to support my efforts as well. One of our new grade 4 teachers at NIS, Paul Johnson, popped by for a lengthy visit yesterday.
Breaking Down 7 Big Ideas in Our Growth Mindset Unit
There are 7 big ideas that both the classroom teachers and I are addressing in this unit. As seen in the visual below, my students and I have broken these ideas down and have had numerous discussions related to each area. The visual has been perfect for spring boarding a deeper understand of what a growth mindset looks and feels like.
It has been a wonderful experience seeing how this unit is unfolding in PE and in the classroom. Integrated learning such as this brings so much value to a school's curriculum. I wrote a letter to the parents earlier in the unit to explain my unit from the perspective of PE, so that they can observe their child to see whether or not action is being taken after school at home in regards to their goal in PE. I have had a few parents already tell me that their kids are practicing at home which is so rewarding to hear. Please check out the short video below to see my students talking about their goals and the set up of the unit. What are your experiences with integrated learning in PE? Would love to hear your stories!!
Math Integration in PE
We are currently working on a Body Systems unit in grade 3 PE. I have been collaborating with the grade 3 classroom teachers at planning out the best learning experiences possible for our students. In math, the students are learning about place value, so I am doing some math integration this week in my PE classes with grade 3.
I am preparing them for their summative assessment task which will be a joint effort with their classroom teachers. So, to begin to get them ready for this summative task, I created a place value chart in order to model how to properly record their heart rate. We started off with a couple of high intensity tag games and then gathered as a group to determine their heart rate using a quick and simple 6-second formula (students count the number of heart beats in 6 seconds and add a zero giving them the number of beats per minute).
I modeled how to properly record their heart rate on the place value visual seen in the picture above. In a couple of weeks time, the students will have their own place value charts to record their heart rates on, so it was important that I show them how to do this ahead of time. After a couple of tag games, I had the students break off in pairs and choose any activity that they want. Regardless of activity, the main goal was for the students to get their heart rates into the 'Magic Heart Rate Zone'. I created a visual last week that reinforces what this zone is. I reminded them of this zone today before letting them go off with their partners.
I called the class back together three different times to have them determine their heart rate and I again modeled recording this. However, the last two times I called them all together, I chose 2 students to record their times on the place value chart. It worked well to give the students a chance to record and to explain how they were thinking about place value as they recorded their number of beats per minute. I sent a picture of the place value chart to the classroom teachers so that they can print it off to discuss it in their math class.
Allowing students to choose their activities kept them more engaged and active during the class as they were really into it. I know that modeling how to properly record their heart rate using the place value chart also helped to get them ready for the summative task which will take place on September 24th. On this day we are bringing all of the grade 3 classes together for a health day. I'm looking very forward to seeing how this day goes. What are your experiences with integrating PE into the units of study in the classroom. Can you share some examples on my blog? I would love to hear about it. In the meantime, check out the place value visual from my grade 3 PE class today. Thanks.
How will you serve the world?
My thought of the day is devoted to always remembering how noble a profession teaching can be. It's not always rosy and tough as hell some days. There will be times when we feel that we are having no impact whatsoever. There will be days when our motivation is extremely low.
There will be days that our mental energy reserves are being rapidly depleted. However, for every bad moment, we must remember that in the eyes of some students, we are mountain movers. We are difference makers in their lives. This week I have had both my best and worst days in quite a while. Educators serve the world and make it a better place. Jim Carey's quote below made me feel better and reminded me that teaching is the noblest of professions. If you have a spare 26 minutes, please watch a commencement speech he gave a few months ago which is awesome. It's worth the watch.
What are your responsibilities on a team?
We are opening up with a great unit in PE that is being fully integrated into the unit of inquiry that is happening in the classroom in grade 2. To start off the year, the grade 2 students are doing a unit on 'Rights & Responsibilities' with their classroom teachers. The central idea of this unit is:
'With rights come responsibilities"
Getting the students to discuss what their responsibilities are in PE was a great way to lead into creating essential agreements with them in PE. The first couple of weeks of school was more or less devoted to getting the students in tune with routines in PE and introducing the idea of fitness and health being an important part of our program. With that out of the way now, I can move into the main guts of the rights and responsibilities unit.
My main goal over the next couple of weeks is to help the students be able to identify exactly what their responsibilities are when working on a team. This seems like quite a simple task, but when we try to go beyond surface level with the idea of what responsible teamwork is, it becomes more complex in nature, especially considering it's grade 2. However, it is imperative to breakdown what good teamwork is and to be able to describe specific components of success. Doing this will not only help students in this unit, but set them up for success for the rest of the year in PE.
To set the stage for learning, I am using the same driving question with all of my grade 2 classes in PE this week. Once I introduce this question to the students, I have planned a number of different activities aimed at requiring the students to obviously work together. I am giving them clear and simple instructions in each of the activities, but letting them figure out the best ways to accomplish the task.
When I was sure that the students understood the question and the expectations in the initial activities we were about to do, I set them off on teams of 3 or 4 to begin working. I will now outline one of the activities that the students were required to do. Using a large swiss ball, the students had to show as many different ways as possible that they could move the ball across the gym. The key rules were that all members had to be in contact with the ball at all times and that they had to be able to move the ball all the way across the gym using one style. Once they made it across the gym, they could then use a new method of moving the ball back across to the other side.
If they had great difficulty in using a particular style, they were of course allowed to switch it up and start over. I gave them a few short breaks, so we could discuss their progress or lack of. I gave them my own observations during this time. During these moments, I was assessing whether or not they understood my objective for the unit which was to ensure that they could clearly identify what their responsibilities are on a team. Here are some fun photos of the students in action today.
During the last 5 minutes of class, we got back together as a whole group to discuss what the students thought were their responsibilities when working together as a team. I recorded their answers in my journal and created the visual below to be used to initiate further discussion about rights and responsibilities in PE over the next couple of weeks.
As an exit pass, I required all teams to come up with one key idea that demonstrated their success working together as a team. It was clear to see that they really did understand the driving question and focus of today's lesson. All in all, a really good lesson. I will share the students' progress with their classroom teachers as this is an integrated unit of study.
Thomas: "We shared ideas well and listened to one another."
Alina: "We made sure we moved together at the same time and stopped when someone fell behind."
Elijah: "We switched up the hard work so people didn't get too tired."
Ludovico: "We did a good job taking turns talking."
A visual to help students identify emotions and reflect on how they feel.
There is no question that emotions play a huge role in what it means to be human. Students and teachers both go through such a wide array of emotions on a daily basis. As educators we can often see and understand the impact that emotions play in the day to day interactions within a classroom. Student reflection has always played a critical role in my PE program. We have a great guidance counsellor working in our elementary school here at NIS. Gail Griffis recently posted an emotions poster outside her office and while I was strolling past one day I noticed it. I thought that it would be a perfect fit in PE, so I spoke with her about using this poster in PE.
It seems as though the posters were created by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, so I must credit them for their work (Center for Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning). All I did was to cut and paste these images into a poster that I am going to use in PE with the driving questions being, "How are you feeling in PE today? Can you identify which emotion below? I am putting the poster up for the first time today to begin to test it out. I am sincerely hoping it will work well to initiate important discussion in my classes and to help in getting students thinking more when writing their reflections. I'm always willing to try out new things if it is going to enhance the learning experiences for my students. I'll let you know how it goes!