Being a teacher can be an isolating experience. Often, we do not get the opportunity to connect outside of the beginning of the school year meeting or during professional development courses taken on our own time. Thus, I feel compelled to share some tips I have learned from physical educators. I looked up to these teachers, and their examples have helped me use more of my teaching superpowers.
Leave a Perimeter
I was having a conversation with a mentor in my new district who came out to support me. I was explaining how I felt as though it was hard to keep my eyes on all the students. I expressed that when I stepped back to observe everyone, I had to wind up going into a group to do the correction and then I could not see the class. I was frustrated because I felt as though students were going off task because of my inability to teach with my back to the wall. Her suggestion was simple: move my stations off the wall and create a perimeter to walk around. Such a simple change has made an enormous difference. I now set up my activities and stations, so there is a good foot or more of space for me to walk around the entire gym. I can both observe everyone and stop at a station without losing sight of the class.
Put Away the Equipment
This idea came from a mentor in my second year of teaching. I was teaching in a classroom in a school with no gym. I always had to keep asking the students to be quiet and stop the lesson. He told me to turn off the projector I had on and asked the students how many times I had to ask them to stop. The students’ answer was 7. Their response blew my mind; I had no idea I had asked so many times. His point and lesson he drew out were that when they are not listening, stop the teaching and start to put things away. The students get the message very quickly what the expectations are. I am no longer teaching in a classroom, but when I have a group that cannot settle, I start to clean up. It works like a charm every time.
This idea is something that physical educators and non-physical educators have hammered home to me through my career. The notion is that you have to have your group practice the way you want them to behave or do a skill. For example, if a group is not rotating stations by stopping on the signal, sitting down and getting quiet, we pause and practice doing this. I have them alternate from station to station and following the proper cues until they get it right. It is frustrating to have to do, and it does eat into instructional time, but it pays off in the long run when you can teach because students know what you expect.
Change Your Language
This tip came from a counselor in one of my schools. I found myself telling the students I was disappointed in them a lot. I thought that by saying that it would motivate them to do better. However, I came to realize through a conversation with this counselor that it was not about me and how I felt. Instead, I would be better served by putting things in terms of how the students could change. For example, rather than telling a group I am disappointed they did not listen well, I may say something else. I may express that because they did not follow a particular rule, we lost five minutes of physical education time, which could have let them get to an additional station or two. Also, I state that I know they are capable of more. I make it about the students and how their choices have consequences.
Old is New
I love technology and using that to help my teaching. I also like finding the latest resources and ideas to use with students. However, I have been given some great task cards and activities that pre-date my birth. What is more, the students love them! I have learned that an old book that seems outdated may have some gems that still have validity and impact a lesson positively.
Mindfulness is also an important developmental skill to help bring out the best in you and allow you to be more present, calm, and focused. View this infographic for more information on building mindfulness. This information is brought to you by gse.harvard.edu.
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Do you have a tip you think can supercharge physical education lessons? Please comment below.
About the Author:
Charles Silberman is a physical education and health teacher with 14 years of teaching experience. He has become a leader and advocate for incoming physical educators by running workshops on teaching in limited space at staff in-services and conferences, assisting with new teacher orientations, and other initiatives. He has experience writing curriculum from scratch and writing published information specific to physical education in state and nationally recognized publications and websites. Charles has also created a niche as a physical education specialist who fuses technology and primary instructional subjects into physical education lessons.