I was sitting in the middle of our school oval surrounded by tall pine trees on what was then a cracked concrete cricket pitch. I was with my classmates in Grade 4. My PE teacher back then was a wind surfing kombi van driving, long blonde haired teacher called Mr. Constable. I recall him be so easy going and gentle in nature. We had PE back then once a fortnight and Mr. Constable was an area PE teacher covering 10 schools. Our school was the largest in the district with 63 students. He was instructing us on how to perform the scissor jump in high jump. Our high jump pit doubled as the sand pit at recess times and the bar we were jumping was the zebra striped metal triangle bar. Quick instructions were given and we watch as Mr. Constable demonstrated the scissor jump, his hair going everywhere as he performed the desired action he was asking of us. We then moved left or right depending on which side we were more comfortable jumping from. The majority of the class moved to the right hand side of the area. One at a time we jumped, successful or not, we then returned to the back of the line. After an hour we were done and ready to return to class. Despite only jumping a handful of times in the hour this class was easily my favourite class all week. My early memories of Primary and Secondary school all involve Physical Education or Sport classes. Upon reflection Mr. Constable had a major impact on what direction my life was going to take in the future.
I look back at that lesson and match it up against the same lesson I teach on High Jump this year. There are very similar characteristics in both lessons. Mr. Constable and myself had similar theories on teaching PE; self-discovery, feedback and challenging students were evident in both of us despite being 30 years apart in lesson deliveries. I wonder what Mr. Constables lesson would have been like if he had access to Ipads for Video Delay feedback or slow motion vision for students to see their performance match against an elite athlete? I ponder at how his lessons from 30 years ago may have felt like if he had access to 3 different areas to teach the one lesson, a high jump mat for frosby flop, a small mat for scissors jump and a mini tramp to teach students how to land on their upper backs. How revolutionary would he have been for his time! Fast forward to 2015 and as I am preparing my Athletics Unit and thinking about how to teach high jump effectively, I am challenging myself to set up different areas for smaller group work all equipped with Ipads for quick reflection and instant replay of performances. Students will be seeing unit goals display on the white boards and will know explicitly how to be successful in the unit. They will have a clear vision on the different stages of skill attainment of the required task and will be able to assess themselves and their peers accurately and constructively.
Teaching Physical Education to me in the year 2015 has had a face-lift from my first teaching appointment at Black Hill Primary School in Ballarat. As a Graduate University student back then you were given a position and left to teach the subject with as much knowledge that you were able to acquire at University. I think back to that appointment and wished I knew what I know now. I think I was quite fortunate in the following years as I had a Principal in my second school that was very supportive and inspirational. He was a Physical Education enthusiast as well and gave me the direction and guidance I required to start making a difference. Life was great. I was heavily involved in sport outside of teaching but then was getting paid to be involved in sport for a career.
It is great to reflect on where I have started and what has helped shape my career in Physical Education but to me the greatest impact on my career has been in the past 5 years. Sitting in my office as a single PE teacher can be a lonely place. Self-motivation plays a heavy factor in quality of lessons. For me I needed to connect with others, I needed to expand my office and find like-minded PE teachers to talk shop with. Other PE teachers and myself would always meet to discuss sport but never curriculum. It was for many years a hidden secret in many schools as to what was taught and how it was taught for personal reasons I guess. Connecting with other PE teachers locally became my goal for this particular year and I found the easiest way to start this was by providing professional development to get teachers engaged as a starting point. We started with 12 PE teachers then and formed a Professional Learning Team.
What was evident from that first PD was that I had a group of teachers in front of me that were hungry for motivation and guidance. They too were finding it hard being the only PE mind in their schools. The light bulb went off during this PD and I knew then that my energy and enthusiasm not only had a benefit for the students under my direct teaching but also to the teachers of other schools and the flow on affect was the teaching of their students. This has become one of my main goals in my teaching and professional developments. By making my teaching and learning visible to others then provided them with the guidance to ensure that high quality lessons were taught to their students within their own schools. My goal was that no child should miss out on high-level instruction because their PE teacher was not in the know. Providing less experienced PE teachers with the complete package created starting points for them to set about exploring different styles and methods of teaching. It created a movement of open classrooms for PE teachers. Not being afraid to share and a willingness to assist others through guidance and observation has lead me to a new level of importance of being a Physical Education teacher. It was after this initial PD and formation of a PE PLT on a local basis I became hungry for fresh ideas and more relevant initiatives that assisted children to learn and grow in Physical Education post year 2010. The game had shifted and as PE teachers we needed to shift with it.
The single most important game changer for me was in 2011 when I joined Twitter and eventually found #pegeeks and #pechat. These two important #s opened up a world of free quality professional development delivered by PE teachers across the globe. Fresh new initiatives were a plenty and I must admit gave me a headache trying to find the perfect fit for my goals in my own classes but also for me as a professional. The information that I was able to obtain from Twitter allowed me to present and trial in my own classes and effective or ineffective, gave me conversations locally and across the globe about quality PE. From the beginning of 2011 to the end of 2011, my PE office had expanded from 1 to countless PE teachers all striving to teach the ultimate lesson. As soon as you think you have the latest style of teaching that makes a difference you discover that someone else is teaching in a style that adds extra value again to your program. Layering the lesson and layering the curriculum is a phrase I use often in Professional Developments now. This refers to the simple art of adding quality to the lessons that you deliver. My students are the lucky recipients of my Twitter endeavours and are now fortunate to be involved in high quality learning experiences that teach them to take risks, analyse performance, give feedback, repeat skills, use skills across a range of sports and make use of ICT to apply their skills to a range of APPS that are on the market. Because of Twitter and global connections, no longer is PE one dimensional at Leopold PS rather it takes on a form that is quite universal. It is exciting to be involved in and I enjoy finding a new initiative that will form my next layer of excellence.
Just this past few months I have turned to ‘Voxer’ and am involved in a Physical Education group from across the globe discussing ideas in Physical Education. The pleasing thing about all of the above is that initially I started as an observer on Twitter feeling that I could be rewarded by watching and learning. As time went on I felt more comfortable about my position as an educator on the global stage and found myself involved in discussions contributing with my experiences that other PE teachers then can use in their classroom. I am not sure how many schools I have may have had an impact on by helping shape their curriculum through my sharing of best practices but I do know that through this global PE community my curriculum is formulated using at least 20 other PE teachers best practices. A recent highlight for me has been the successful application to be involved in the Physed Summit 2.0. This is a free online Professional Development built for PE teachers. I am presenting as part of a round table discussion on Elementary Assessment during PE lessons. This summit uses Google hangouts to broadcast live across the globe. I will be joined with 5 other PE teachers from different countries. The Physed Summit is presented by http://physedagogy.com/.
This year I get to tick off a career goal of mine by travelling to Seattle, Washington State and attending the Shape America, National Physical Education Conference. I have had this on my wish list for several years and will spend 5 days at the conference as well as visiting several schools around the Seattle area. Through Twitter connections I am sharing a room with a colleague from Chicago and will meet up with many of the #pegeeks that I regularly collaborate with. Setting goals and achieving dreams is what teaching PE is all about. I was often referred to when I was young as having my head in the clouds but I am living a life where dreaming big and having huge goals brings out the best in my students and myself. Being self-motivated to achieve in a position that can be lonely at times is extremely important. Set goals that you can achieve but set large goals as well that may take some time to achieve. These goals keep you motivated. Fellow teachers and friends have often called me ‘The ideas Man’. This is a phrase that I have heard over and over throughout my career. Dreaming big and thinking of how to make that next big impact keeps my teaching fresh. Knowing that I have a job that I can make dreams and goals into reality means that the depth of what I can achieve is only limited to how far I can stretch my imagination. I am fortunate to have an outstanding staff that allows me to trial new initiatives to groups of students and across the whole school. A recent example of this was the Leopold Mini Mudda. This can be viewed via my website. The single most important thing I learnt about myself in the past 5 years is being confident in my own ability as a PE teacher and knowing that my passion for Physical Education has remained the same as my earliest memory. The only difference is that now instead of one lesson a fortnight I am involved in 50 lessons a fortnight.
For me being a PE teacher is one of the most important roles in a school. You teach as much about physical skills as you do about self-discovery. There is no better highlight during the week than seeing a student achieve a goal for the first time and be proud of themselves. My goal each week is for students to go home and tell their families about what they do in Physical Education. Like my open classroom initiative I have with fellow teachers, I give parents the same access to my classes. Welcoming them in and sharing in their child’s learning then creates conversations at home, which benefits the growth of their child physically and emotionally. Knocking down the barriers and making learning transparent has been one of the keys to success in my program.
Across the past three years I have been fortunate to work closely with ACHPER and ACHPER Victoria and have been successful in presenting many key Victorian based workshops to other PE teachers. Dr. Bernie Holland has been a great inspiration and keeps pushing the boundaries for me to work towards. He has done a wonderful job forming a team of presenters across a wide background of experiences yet are joined by their love for PE. As a teacher reading this article and thinking that you have something worthy of sharing, my recommendation is to put your ideas into a PowerPoint and approach ACHPER and your local branch and see where they can fit you in. Your knowledge is valuable and if it only assists in one other teacher then you have influenced the PE program for another school population. I have presented at several ACHPER Conferences and in 2014 co-presented with Ashlea Mills. The two presentations we did were both collaborated online using Google Drive and we didn’t actually meet face to face until 30 minutes prior to presentation number one. The power of Google and Twitter was evident in this instance.
The work with ACHPER has led to school visits by other teacher to see my program and indirectly the profile of my school has risen. My Principal loves seeing other schools wanting to take home a little slice of Leopold PS to help with their own school development. Collaboration at its highest level! I keep her in the know with the structure of Physical Education and believe the key to my success and having my Principals confidence in my decisions is again the transparency of my program. She can walk in and see learning intentions visible on the walls and can ask any student what is the goal of the session and students can answer with confidence.
The title of this blog post was ‘Why Teach PE?’- I teach PE because I thrive on seeing students succeed through goal orientated curriculums. I teach PE because it challenges me to devise the ultimate lesson that encourages students to take risks. I teach PE because it allows me to ‘Keep my head in the clouds’ and dream big. I teach PE because the world is my Professional Development background. I teach PE because my theories can now, through online collaboration, indirectly influence the learning of students on the other side of the world.
To me PE is not a job, it is a lifestyle that keeps me motivated and energised everyday.