Tagged in: Physical and Health Education, Teaching

Back-to-School Isn’t Just for Students

Expert strategies for hitting the school ground running

I never was one of those teachers who freaked out when Back-to-School ads came on TV. Perhaps this is due to the great memories of organizing my back-to-school supplies as a young girl, and as a teacher. While most teachers have more than earned their time to recharge their batteries during the summer months, it’s also a wonderful time to plan ways to have the best academic year yet. The purpose of this post is to share few suggestions on how you can prepare of a wonderful school year. Please add to the list your favorite “pre-game” must-do activities in the comment section below!

  1. Self-care. The best time to get your work out on is first thing in the morning. MacGyver and I usually have it completed at zero dark hundred. The reason is that when the kids wake and clients call, the day can sneak away. Since we are in the business of teaching physical literacy, it’s important we work on our own physical literacy - always. Once you get in the groove of getting up early and going to be early it’s more like brushing your teeth than a daily struggle. The summer is a perfect time to practice getting your early morning workouts in. I enjoy a run as the sun comes up, and yoga when the sun goes down. What’s your favorite way to move?
  2. Yearly Plan. I like to make two of them. An A and B yearly plan. This way, I can choose to teach two grade levels the same activities (both grade levels will need differentiated instruction of course). As a result I can teach the curriculum over twice as many activities and be more likely to allow students to find something that they jive with. I also color code my yearly plans to make sure that I have a balance of activities (games/modified sports, dance, gymnastics, and individual pursuits such as hiking, biking, swimming, yoga). I’ve also color coded based on outcomes or strands. It is a friendly reminder to me to really prepare students to be “competent and confident in a wide variety of environments” as per the physical literacy definition I adhere to.
  3. Reach out to Students and Families. Ask your administrator if you are allowed to contact parent(s)/guardian(s) of new students to your school if you are returning to the same school. A phone call or an email introducing yourself and your program can ease students’ minds, and show families how much you care to know their children. Make sure to check school policy on this practice, but I have only had positive experiences. If you are new to the school, ask if you may  post a blog to the school website introducing yourself and sharing pieces of your philosophy around physical education. This will undoubtedly set the tone for the type of inclusive and warm classroom community you hopefully aspire to create.
  4. Reach out to Colleagues. Physical education has undergone some incredible changes in the past decade. It sure ain’t what it used to be. It’s important that you share your yearly plan with your colleagues and ask them for theirs. This way, you can identify ways to collaborate for more integrated learning. I truly believe this makes learning more meaningful for students, and more fun to teach. If possible, modify your yearly plan to optimize such collaboration. While this communication with colleagues should be ongoing, physical educators are not always included in school professional learning communities (PLCs) and so it may require some extra effort. But, a fit and productive person can accomplish anything so the extra effort is doable and pay back is three-fold!
  5. Reach out to other Physical Educators. Use Google docs and other innovative ways to share with other physical educators your personal growth targets for the school year. Contact district coordinators for permission to see if PE teachers from other schools can come and observe your teaching. Check out PHYSEDagogy’s new series written by Collin Brooks (@CollinBrooksie) regarding systematic observation. I also wrote about it here. It’s important that we reach out to others to assess our own pedagogy. Low ego = More fun.

This is far from an exhaustive list but I wanted you to start thinking of ways to make 2014-2015 your most outstanding year teaching physical education. I’ve said it before, but society needs us to step up our game. Who’s in?

  • Heidi Connors

    Please please please NEVER stop sharing your brilliant insights…no matter how “trivial” or obvious things may seem to most, you have an amazing talent for making things make sense…you never know how the little things strike a chord and resonate to make a giant difference. I’ve always struggled with fitting in a daily workout – life gets DAMN BUSY, and the days just slip away. I never realized the pressure and stress created upon myself when it wasn’t my first priority of the day, and most days time ran out (no pun intended) and no workout was completed…talk about negative self-talk!!! Since reading this article, which helped to “normalize” my conundrum, I’ve chosen to make my daily workout my first task upon waking…11 days running since reading this post…and only now do I truly realize the stress and pressure I had put on myself!!! Thank you for helping with that;)

    • astanec

      Awe…thank you for your kind words, Heidi! Society tries to tell us that it’s great to be stressed out and busy – and omits the fact that when we are active we feel empowered and capable. Keep focused, take days off of exercise, but remind yourself it’s for long-term benefit and not just short-term!!