I was fortunate enough to meet Neil on the golf course this summer in California. A mutual friend that I was visiting introduced us. We enjoyed 4 days playing golf and getting to know one another. It was easy to see Neil's passion for physical education and to feel the motivation and drive that he had for our profession. Neil is an experienced workshop leader and highly believes in the value of pedometer use in schools. If you are thinking of introducing pedometers in your classroom or within your school, you will be interested in what Neil has to say.
Neil has been lucky in life, and has found himself presented with a multitude of exciting opportunities. He has lived and worked in the UK, Spain, the UAE, the PRC, the USA, Japan, and currently Singapore, where he continues to teach MS PE. He is in the third year of his M.Ed. program with the American Public University, and is happy to say that he still really enjoys what he does.
PE Past and Present:
When I finally made it to teaching college back in 1989, I realized a sense of purpose, something that had apparently eluded me for the first 23 years of my life. For the first time I felt that I had the power to make a difference. Notably, as I moved into my first year of teaching I remember stating, “I would be able to do for students what wasn’t done for me in school”.
As Daniel Pink (2009) points out in his book Drive, motivation revolves around autonomy, mastery, and purpose, and so I’m not surprised that with my new sense of purpose came a new sense of motivation. Fortunately, I feel that this sense of motivation is still with me, however, I am not necessarily motivated by the same things as I once was.
Fortunately, teaching has become far more student centered. At one time our grading systems might have been bell curved with the fastest runners at the top end. Whereas now we really are focused on motivating students toward an involvement in, and an appreciation for life-long physical activity, healthy nutritional choices, and optimal physical, mental, emotional, and social wellbeing. This higher focus allows us to treat each student as an individual, and make a difference in the individual’s life.
Indicative of this new approach was the pedometer program that we initiated in the MS while at my last teaching post. We were well aware that pedometer programs had tried and failed in many institutions around the world. Hence we were careful to do our homework. Building the program up before hand, with exclusive access to pedometers for teachers really helped build up the desire on behalf of the students.
When the program was finally implemented, the students for the most part approached it with a very responsible attitude. They were asked to log their daily steps, and quarterly reflections into their Google Docs spreadsheet; being a 1 to 1 school only helps with the logistics of this.
Being involved in a program such as this really brought home the fact that we had successfully passed the ownership of physical activity onto the student. They were the ones now in charge of their activity levels, and also the ones asked to reflect on their lifestyle choices as indicated by their step counts. Living data such as this also proved very valuable to the math program, as they integrated the numbers into several of their units.
Having moved on to a much larger institution, we have had to consider carefully how we go about implementing such a program on such a big scale. However, knowing its value, it is something that we will have to get going in one form or another, as its application in the field of authentic assessment is almost unparalleled.