Keep fighting the good fight, come on PE teachers!
Just this week, I was engaged in a Twitter chat with Dr. Doug Gleddie and I'm Sporticus (this is his Twitter handle, click on his name to connect). I'm Sporticus holds a director of sport position in education in the UK and blogs at http://drowningintheshallow.wordpress.com/. I'm Sporticus ( I think his name is Alex), wrote up a very thought provoking blog post that focused on the stigma attached to PE. To get an idea of his message, here is a short excerpt taken directly from his blog post. I highly suggest you read the blog post to get a clear perspective on the powerful message he wrote about.
I feel the message being sent at the moment tells children this; mind at the top, and body at the bottom. That success in life is equated to a career and this in turn is only possible by studying Maths, Science, Engineering and Technology. The study of a subject for enjoyments sake is no longer important. It distracts from the pursuit of grades and even has the potential to corrupt your ability to achieve this, as my academic colleagues insist when they require pupils to no longer attend extra-curricular clubs but join them in ‘interventions’. This gives the impression that work and education is solely of the mind. That a professional life is one that is chiefly a mental and not a physical one. That success is due to the character of the mind and that our bodies contribution to that success is diminished.
A bunch of teachers got involved in the chat to express their opinions about I'm Sporticus' blog post which was good to see. It left me thinking about our subject area and what needs to be done, here and now, to begin to put a huge dent in the negative perceptions that so many people hold about PE.
To continue this story forward, just last night my 9-year old son, Tai, came up to me at home and said, "Hey Pops, what is the name of that PE network that you belong to? ". I asked him why he is asking me this and he said that in the book he is reading Lunch Lady, there are a bunch of really bad PE teachers. He then goes on to say how many of the characters in the book hate PE because of bad experiences they have had. A bit curious and intrigued, I asked my son to show me those parts in the book which he immediately did.
As I read the parts of the book that were hammering PE, I explained to my son that many people have had bad experiences in PE in the past. I then told him that myself and lots of other PE teachers/researchers on Twitter are working really hard to change people's thinking about PE. I told him that one of the main reasons I blog and share my work is that I want people to know how much I love teaching PE and that when I train PE teachers to be better at what they do, it is all about giving students the best experiences possible. It's about helping them to understand that being physically active is not only a joy, but can enhance their learning, increase their confidence, and bring them so many other benefits in their lives.
Have a look at a few of the pages from his book below. Although meant to be humorous in nature, there is a very negative message about PE which is being delivered to young people. If the subject area that we are all so passionate about is being ripped apart in children's books, it is just another sign that we need to continue to step up our games and be the change makers needed to force decision makers to see the great stuff that is happening out there. How are we going to ensure that our quality work in PE is reaching the right people? What else can we do besides blogging and being active on Twitter?
I am so proud to lead workshops and give presentations that show how much I care about physical education and its rightful place in a school's curriculum. One of my favorite things is to work with schools one on one getting to know their PE team and helping them make already good programs better. It is my firm belief that teaching is the greatest job in the world because we impact the future. When I look at all of the amazing practice of teachers in the PE network that I belong to, it is truly inspiring, but I am left wondering how we are going to keep spreading our message in order to have maximum impact.
Twitter has helped to showcase the quality work taking place in physical education. There is no doubt about it. However, we have all seen PE teachers who have no idea what quality learning is about. We have heard stories of these teachers and may even know a few. It's easy to tip toe around these teachers and not address how shit they are, but in tip toeing, we are ultimately doing an injustice to the students under their care.
I have a friend who works at another international school that once told me the PE teacher he works with in elementary essentially plays two different games in class. He either has the kids play dodgeball or when in a good mood, he will bring them out to the field and kick rugby balls non-stop, one after the other, and have them chase and retrieve them. What a thoughtful and caring guy!!
I was seriously shocked when I heard this. I know this is an extreme example of horrendous teaching and am not implying that this happens on a routine basis in schools. However, I am sure that there are similar versions of these types of stories taking place in many schools albeit on a smaller scale. Are there ways to proactively address situations like this in an effort to create long lasting positive change in our subject area?
What ideas do you have? Instead of throwing our hands up in the air and saying there is nothing that can be done, let's hear your ideas. Let's collectively act on these ideas in order to have the greatest impact possible. To any researchers/lecturers reading this blog post, your input is absolutely essential! Please comment! For other teachers reading, your comments have equal importance. As for me, I know I am doing my share, but there is still so much I can be doing and I will.