First off, I should say I kind of got carried away in replying to Maymie’s post and covered my response and reflection in one, but i’ll see if I can expand on it here. I have to echo what Ashley said, in that one of the things that stood out for me on Wednesday’s lesson was seeing our classmates present for the first time. While P.E. has always been my subject of choice, I think we all have anxieties surrounding planning and delivering lessons, particularly in the first few months of our program. So it was really great to see everyone do such a great job in the first week, and I think it inspired the rest of us into believing we can do it too!
On top of this, based on the comments posted so far on this blog, it has surprised me how many people have had such negative experiences of P.E.. I would never have been able to tell this, as in our class on Wednesday everyone seemed to be having a ball running around playing tag, and with the beanbag toss. It just shows you that it’s possible to make physical education fun, even if it’s not your preferred subject.
This made me start thinking about my teaching philosophy. I have played a variety of sports growing up, even at an international level, and I previously mentioned the impact it has had on my social and emotional learning, in helping to keep me on the ‘right’ path. And while team sports might not be for everyone, with such an emphasis on more diverse activities these days, I truly believe that every child can enjoy and value having some version of physically activity in their lives. There are larger implications socially and emotionally, and it is our job to make sure they – unlike some of us – have fond memories of P.E., and maybe even help them find their ‘sport’. Even if that ‘sport’ happens to be dancing crazily in the rain in open, public spaces…
It felt so odd to be back in a gymnasium for Physical Education after years away. I stopped taking PE as soon as it became optional in high school because I absolutely hated the fitness tests (especially the 4 lap run) and how none of my friends ended up in my class. PE in elementary school was different though – in a good way. It was more about team work and having fun, while in high school it was more about developing specific skill sets and repeat practise of techniques. I think it’s important to keep a fun and encouraging atmosphere in Physical and Health Education. In my high school classes it wasn’t fun or encouraging; we were told to run around the track until the whistle blew. I had zero motivation to do so. When exercise is under the guise of an interactive and fast paced game, it is much easier to have an enthusiastic group that looks forward to PE class. I think the purpose of PE is to build interpersonal skills, communication skills, hand/eye/foot coordination, and to keep kids active. By sharing our personal experiences, we can take a step back and examine our stories with another perspective, possibly gaining more insight into why we had those experiences and how they will shape our teaching. We can recreate the positive experiences we had, and avoid recreating the negative ones for our students.
I found today’s first group teach and instant activity/summary to really sooth any sort of anxiety I had about the class. This is due in a big way to the fact that both groups did such an extraordinary job, but I think I was also reminded that being physically active is something I love to do, and always have.
PE today seems to have come a long way since I was in elementary school, and many of the things I didn’t like about it back then are all things we’re trying to change or improve (hall of shame games, exclusion, favouritism etc.) on now, which makes me feel excited about moving forward teaching PE. I really appreciate that these sorts of considerations are valued now by PE teachers when creating the conditions and environment of their PE classes.
As I mentioned in my reply to Kate’s reflection, I also think it’s really kind of a blessing that it seems so many of us didn’t have the best experience in PE – many of us can empathize with students and make sure to avoid a lot of the issues that led to us having negative memories.
When I reflect on my own experiences in physical education as a kid I have mostly positive memories. I was never a star athlete, but I was fortunate to not have any traumatic experiences. I feel that my teachers did a good job in creating an inclusive and positive environment. But when I think about what sort of PE teacher I would like to be, I think about what sort of values and lessons I would like to teach my students. I’ve realized I am less concerned about teaching them about physical fitness, and more concerned about teaching them about what it means to lead a healthy life – or perhaps helping them define what “health” means to them. I think being a good athlete is only one small aspect of what it means to lead an active or healthy life.
I grew up as a competitive synchronized swimmer and spent plenty of mornings dreading the fact I had to jump into a cold pool and swim a thousand meters. Overall, I think this training taught me more social and emotional lessons than physical. It taught me how to work in a team. It also taught me how to “suck it up” and deal with moments that I wanted to avoid or skip out on. I hope that I can help debunk the myth that gym class is only about physical fitness. I believe the more we, as educators, enforce that health is about the number of lengths you can swim or weight you can lift, the further we will be from nurturing a generation that is physically, emotionally and socially “healthy”.