This is a guest blog I wrote for @meaningfulpe – check out LAMPE for more good content on meaningful (and purposeful!) #physed. Part 1 of this blog series on delight and physical education raised the question,… More
Speaking of Physical Literacy, Part 2: Becoming Travel Agents
In March 2015, Ever Active Schools hosted a Physical Literacy Summit in Calgary, Alberta. I was invited to close the Summit and chose the following title for my talk: Becoming Travel Agents for a Storied Physical Literacy Journey. I also revised and refined this keynote for another Summit hosted in Winnipeg, Manitoba in October 2015.
My purpose in choosing this title and topic was to bring together the life-course aspect of physical literacy with the concept of storied lives. Since we know that physical literacy is a journey, not a destination, I thought the metaphor of travel agent was appropriate. Travel agents facilitate key experiences and assist with the progress of our travels. However, no one comes back from a trip and shows you their itinerary – no way. They tell you stories. What follows here is a synopsis of how we might become travel agents for Canada’s children – helping them to build a storied physical literacy journey.
In the last post, I shared a definition of physical literacy. Today, I want to add the idea of moral purpose.
“A compelling and inclusive moral purpose steers a system, binds it together, and draws the best people to work in it” (Hargreaves & Shirley, 2009, p. 76)
In other words, “Why do you do what you do?” I feel that for those of us who work with children and any form of physical activity – health, education, sport, recreation and home/family – physical literacy can be that moral purpose. Here are some quick examples of compatible goals/vision statements found within each of these sectors that can connect to a moral purpose of physical literacy. Although these examples are specifically from Manitoba (woot, woot – shout out!), I would be VERY surprised to find much difference in other regions.
- Health: “…to meet the health needs of individuals, families and their communities … A health system that promotes well-being…”
- Sport: “…a goal to advance the health, social and recreational benefits of sport and the overall performance of Manitoba athletes…”
- Education: “…ensure that children and youth have access to an array of educational opportunities to experience success to prepare them for lifelong learning and citizenship…”
- Recreation: “…enable Manitobans to fully develop their innate capabilities and creatively use their energies, while enriching their lives and improving their health and sense of well-being.”
- Home/Family: Hmmm… Would there be any parent that would disagree with the above values and goals for their child?
Margaret Whitehead expressed this very concept of a shared moral purpose at the International Physical Literacy Conference in Banff (2013).
Our mission or challenge is to do all we can to enable ALL to make progress on their individual physical literacy journey.
What if all areas touching on physical activity bought into and operationalized physical literacy? Powerful. Efficacious. Life changing.
Since we can’t MAKE someone physically literate, it becomes our mission to: Provide enriching and enhancing environments in which kids can have positive, educative experiences. What might this look like? To go back to Margaret Whitehead’s talk in Banff (2013) she shared the following about creating experiences to foster physical literacy:
- Rewarding and enjoyable – fostering motivation
- Positively effect self confidence and self-worth
- Enable progress and have success in a wide range of pursuits
- Empower decision making
- Enable appreciation of life-course physical activity
- Energize for proactive participation
Therefore, our roles, whether in education, sport, recreation, home/family or health, are to be travel agents for a storied physical literacy journey. Travel agents don’t send everyone to the same place! They take time to get to know you, your dreams, skills, passions, past experiences – then they craft an experience that meets YOUR needs. When you get back home, you don’t shares clinical, dry details of your trip. NO! You tell stories. Stories of risk, surprise, joy, learning and new experiences. If you need a refresher on the power of story – check this out.
I encourage you to become physical literacy travel agents to help kids (or adults!) take steps on their individual journeys. As you do so, remember:
It’s about relationships – take someone along – connect across sectors.
Where do we want kids to go? Where do THEY want to go? Choose destinations with the CLIENT’s needs at heart – not yours.
Explore and try new things… Nuff said.
Take (acceptable) risks!
Remember, it’s a life-long journey! The value is in the journey – not the destination.
Be a travel agent.
Do what’s best for kids.
Enable ALL to make progress on their PL journeys
LIVE Storied LIVES.
To order the shirt, go here (no % 4 me, just love the shirt!)
Welcome to what is now the third installment of the “Youth Sport” series (I really need a better name for this…)! Post #1 addressed some issues with school sport. Post #2 was a look at winning vs. development. My friend, Andy Vasily (whom I have yet to meet in person!) replied to Post #2 and shared his son’s experience with a school sport league in China. I thought it was so cool, I asked him to expand it into a guest post. So, without further ado, here is Andy’s guest post!
When I read Doug’s blog post, I couldn’t have agreed more with the points that he had made. As a teacher and coach for the past twenty years, I have seen numerous examples of young people being turned off of sport because the attitude and environment in which they play the game is much too serious in nature. Whether it be overzealous coaches hell bent on creating winners at all costs or parents who simply push their kids much too hard, we have to be extremely careful about the expectations we are placing on young people in regards to competing in sport. Helping young people to understand the value of being physically active for life is essential as the research has conclusively shown, time and time again, the massive benefits it has in regards to their physical, social and psychological well-being. When they have a positive sporting experience, they are much more likely to remain active in sport and recreational pursuits for years to follow.
Building a supportive community around the concept of healthy competition not only lends itself to better engagement, but also emphasizes that every person involved in the sport experience can learn so much about what it truly means to be a part of a team. As important sport related physical skills are being developed and improved upon, the students also begin to understand that their self-worth and self-identity are NOT connected to winning or losing.
In certain cases, when there is too great an emphasis on winning, a young person’s self-confidence can be completely crushed in the face of failure, defeat, or being benched for not living up to the expectations of the coaches. Therefore, there must be another way to deliver the sport experience in a way that engages young people and encourages them to give it a go and be involved regardless of level of skill.
As I read Doug’s blog post, I immediately thought about a model of sport competition that has been running at my school in Nanjing, China for the last several years. The Nanjing International School belongs to the Chinese International School Sport Association (CISSA) which is essentially a league that is set up to give all students from grades 5-8 a chance to experience sport competition in which the emphasis is not on winning or losing, but playing the game for the pure joy of being involved in sport and to experience all of the benefits that come along with it.
Not only has my own son, Eli, been involved in CISSA sport, I have been lucky enough to coach several different teams over the years. As rewarding as it is for the students, it is equally rewarding for me, as a coach, to be involved in the CISSA experience. My good friend and colleague, Danny Clarke, our Athletic Director here at Nanjing International School sums it up perfectly below:
“CISSA is a Shanghai based organization with additional schools from surrounding cities such as Hangzhou, Suzhou and Nanjing. It is for students in Grades 5 – 8 (Year 6 – 9, ages 10 – 13). The philosophy is highly inclusive and one that fits our school philosophy and the philosophy of our Athletics Program. What we find is that students sign up and participate in sports competitively that would never normally do so. By providing a competition in which no scores are ever recorded or displayed, no awards given and in which coaches are required to play all their players equally, it creates an environment in which the focus of success is inwards towards your own team and players and a supportive and non-judgmental culture is fostered.
Students support each other because they know that they all have a different level of experience in that sport and that winning and losing is not the most important thing. Of course the students know the result and are disappointed when they lose and happy when they win and this is part of sport. More importantly though, enjoying playing the sport, enjoying the improvement of self and of teammates is what it is about and I have witnessed it over and over again. The kids really enjoy this competition and I am convinced that, all of the students, whether they are the best athletes or the weakest, benefit from this experience. It also influences the coach and their coaching methods. They become more inclusive, supportive and focused more on improvement and less on results.
It is important to note that the CISSA model is not the be all and end all in sports competition. Offering a more competitive and selective program for students as they get older (for our school it is from age 13) is also important whilst hopefully still encouraging those students who are not selected for the more competitive teams to continue to participate through other recreational opportunities.”
I’m happy that Doug asked me to guest blog about the CISSA experience because I have truly seen firsthand how wonderful a model it is. My son comes home from every single tournament with loads of stories about how much fun he had. Not only has he bonded with other students on his own team, he has also made many friends with students from other schools (that he stays in touch with).
As a CISSA coach, we are required to referee the games and rarely do we ever have discipline problems or rough play as the very nature and culture of the league is one of friendly competition which makes the entire experience all that more special to the players. The CISSA model is perfect for those students who may not be athletically inclined as it gives them equal access to playing time. I’ve seen some student’s self-confidence sky rocket as a result of being involved in CISSA team sport and actually being able to participate equally in games along with their team mates.
Included in this blog post is our CISSA handbook which explains, in detail, all of the rules and regulations in the league. Should you be interested in reading the handbook, feel free to download it. If there is even the slightest of possibilities of setting up a league like this in your area or region, I highly recommend doing so as it completely changes the sporting experience for many kids who may not have the chance to play otherwise. I’d like to thank Doug for allowing me to guest blog and to share my thoughts about the CISSA model and the positive impact it has had at our school here in Nanjing, China.
Thanks for sharing Andy!
This post is the first of what I intend to be a bit of a series on youth sport and kind of picks up where A Sporting Chance left off. I want to chat briefly about winning vs. development in child and youth sport and share a wee epiphany with you. Although this has long been a topic close to my heart, I have been doing much more thinking and reading on the topic as preparation for the Re-Imagining School Sport pre-conference session that Vicki Harber (@vharber) and I planned for the #Banff2015 National HPE Conference. The day was full of great conversations and evidence to push some of the boundaries of what we know is good for kids in sport. As well, two recent articles on youth sport caught my attention this week and are worth the time for you to read them (now or later- it’s up to you).
Where the “elite” kids shouldn’t meet. Tim Keown, ESPN. All about the marketing and the myth of elite sport for preteens. “This is the age of the youth-sports industrial complex, where men make a living putting on tournaments for 7-year-olds, and parents subject their children to tryouts and pay good money for the right to enter into it.”
Playing youth sports about having fun, developing skills. Jason Gregor, The Edmonton Journal. This article is all about why a 9 year old hockey player quit playing spring hockey and the letter his dad wrote explaining the decision. “…as a nine-year-old, you have only played two shifts in the game, no matter how important that game is … it is time to have a talk with yourself and re-evaluate why we do this.”
Full disclosure: I am extremely biased on this topic and believe that there shouldn’t even be a debate. In my mind, if you are involved in child or youth sport in any way, shape or form (parent, coach, ref, etc.) and consider placing winning some banner, trophy or medal ahead of the development of individuals and teams – you should give your head a shake. Just thought you should know…
In this installment, I want to address the culture of “my kid is really good and therefore deserves to play much more so we can win”. Kinda what both of the previous two article’s address.
I once chatted with a parent who was bemoaning the fact that her daughter was playing the same amount as other kids on her team. She shared with me that, in addition to the $1,400 team fees that all the kids played, she was also spending $800/month on private training and weekend clinics (her daughter was playing U15 volleyball). In her mind, her daughter should be playing more because she was spending more on training and was “better” than the other girls. This got me thinking…
Let’s look at a professional sports franchise – often held up as the pinnacle of sport achievement. The Edmonton Oilers, not currently contending for Lord Stanley’s Cup (but things are looking up!), are such a team. According to http://www.hockey-reference.com, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made $6,000,000 last season and averaged 20:38 minutes a game. In contrast, Luke Gazdic made $800,000 and averaged 7:23 minutes. Hmmm… Here comes the epiphany – wait for it!
Since there are a certain number of people who want kids to play “just like the big leagues”, why don’t we model that? Since our kids DON’T get paid to play, what about if kids that PLAY MORE – PAY MORE! PLAY LESS – PAY LESS! We could have a sliding scale based on minutes / sets, etc. That way, those that want their kids to play more can pay for that privilege! Brilliant, eh?
Sounds odd but if you really want your team to focus on winning, wouldn’t this be the best way to go? (insert sarcastic emoticon here)
Of course I am being facetious, however, I am using this example to ask why we focus so much on winning in youth sport? Kids really don’t need to focus on winning – sure, anyone would rather win than lose BUT – their care does not last… There has been LOTS written about what kids value in sport – winning is not at the top of the list. Winning should not be a high stakes game for kids.
So. You GET PAID to play? Then playing time can differ.
If YOU PAY, then you should PLAY!
School sport, youth sport – anything that claims to be developmental and “for the kids” should be held accountable to actually follow through and be “for the kids”. Why the focus on banners, titles, trophies, winning as the main goal? I have yet to hear someone with a valid argument on why (in a “developmental system”) – please let me know if you do!
I could tell you more stories on this theme but I’d rather post this for now and then take a look in the pot I have stirred up…
April 30-May 2, 2015
Why should you come to Banff for the 2015 Health and Physical Education Council (Alberta) and Physical and Health Education Canada National Conference? Well…
I could tell you about the long hours and hard work the Steering Committee has put in to make your experience at #Banff2015 second to none.
I could tell you how important our theme of PHYSICAL LITERACY is and why you should come and learn all you can.
I could tell you how inspiring and informative our keynote sessions by Dr. Kathleen Armour, Dr. Yoni Freedhof and Dr. Nancy Melnychuk will be.
I could tell you about the incredible variety of sessions facilitated by leaders in the field from across Canada and beyond (even Australia and Ireland!).
I could tell you about the incredible social events on Thursday night, Friday night (including a National Dance-OFF!) AND Saturday night.
But I won’t.
Nope. You can get all that from the conference website.
What I want to do is tell you a story of how you might maximize your #Banff2015 experience and leave the conference a richer human being.
Slow fade to black as I take you back (way back) to the beginning of my final year of undergraduate education… After a summer of working hard and playing harder I did a lot of thinking as I made the long drive out to campus. I was mulling over how I wanted to spend my senior year. Would I do the same things? Try some new stuff? The upshot was, I made a conscious decision (shouted out loud on the Coquihalla Highway) to take risks and be open to the opportunities they created. I had the BEST year. Here are some examples:
The woman in the apartment across the hall was the editor of the campus paper. She was bemoaning the fact that she did not have a sports editor. Because I am a sporty guy, she asked me if I knew anyone who could do it. Given my new philosophy, I said, “Yes. Me!” Presto – the “Strapped Jock” editorials were born. Risk taken. Opportunity accepted.
As part of my decision, I resolved to introduce myself to interesting people who I might meet around campus – the gym, weight room, cafeteria, classes, wherever. I had fabulous conversations, made many new friends, had unique experiences and even (finally) got a few dates! Risk taken. Opportunities accepted (I even asked a girl out after a final exam… Like, right after. I mean, I waited in the hall until she came out an hour later).
I know. You are trying to figure out what the heck my college dating life and experience as sports editor could possibly have to do with #Banff2015. Good question! Simply this. Give my senior year strategy a try and take a risk (or 4) at the conference. Then, be open to the opportunities those risks provide.
Make an effort to get outside your normal group of conference buddies – invite others to move with you and go and move with others.
Try a brand new activity to bring back to your students. Preferably, one that makes you slightly uncomfortable.
Introduce yourself to 15 people you have never met before. Partner with them during sessions. Follow them on Twitter. Exchange emails and teaching ideas.
Meet at least 6 people from outside your home province and dance with them on Thursday night. Find them again on Friday night and do it again.
Come to #Banff2015.
Take risks. Be open. Enjoy (the conference and the gratuitous Banff shot below).
I have been challenged by Andy Vasily to answer the above question. Here is my response! Hope you enjoy – I recruited a little bit of help…
Thanks to the awesome EDEL 321 classes for their insights and enthusiasm! #321pe
I am now challenging all the #Banff2015 Steering Committee members, @LifeIsAthletic and @CollinDillon to answer the question and post.
Be sure to check out physedagogy for the latest info on the #PhysEdSummit coming on October 25th. Hope to “see” you there!
I have been pondering doing something like this for a long time – time to get ‘er done!
“This” is figuring out a way to better integrate Twitter (and other technology) into my undergraduate classes (Curriculum and Pedagogy in Elementary Physical Education) and also further connect with those either new to teaching elementary PE or those just finally coming to the glorious realization that whole child education includes education of the physical!
So, here goes… #321pe
What? A hashtag? Seriously, didn’t Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake do that already? Doesn’t the online PE community already have #physed, #pechat, #pegeeks, etc.?
Why, yes. Yes it does. However, many of the folks that use these current tags are PE specialists. Not all – but many. Now, that is not a bad thing – au contraire! I LOVE PE specialists and wish we had more of them – especially in our Elementary schools. But, I wanted something distinct and focused for the elementary based teacher.
The teacher who is passionate about PE but may be the only one in their school.
The teacher who maybe had 1 class in University on how to teach PE.
The pre-service teacher inundated with “core” subject responsibilities.
The pre-service teacher who wants to connect with others interested in quality elementary PE.
The pre-service teacher who wants to learn from experienced elementary teachers who also love PE and teach it amazingly.
You get my point…
My hope and dream for #321pe is that it can grow organically and rhysomatically as it morphs to meet the needs of the community with input from said community. Although I don’t have all the details yet, here is my initial plan:
- Start using #321pe with my classes this term.
- On the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month (September 25th to be the first!) anyone can post questions and ideas to #321pe and, for now, I will direct those questions to people I think have a good idea of how to address them.
- Summarize those Thursday discussions and questions and post the summary to Google Drive.
- Speaking of G-Drive, springing from the #321pe conversations I will add shared file folders for folks to be able to access resources, links, co-created lessons, etc.
- Eventually, I would like to have “featured hosts” who will coordinate a Thursday session (maybe 1 hour, maybe just sum up the day’s discussion and provide links and ideas).
As another way to launch and explore this idea, I will be submitting a #321pe session for the #PhysedSummit on October 25th, 2014. In the meantime – tweet me your ideas, comment on the blog and let’s build a community together!
So why #321pe and not something else? You’ll have to wait for the #PhysedSummit to find out!
Seeing as how it was Father’s day yesterday (in Canada anyways…) AND it happens to be the longest day of play THIS week on June 21 – I figured I would write a short post connecting the two (brilliant, I know – thanks for noticing!).
First, some key stats:
- Youths whose fathers do more vigorous physical activity (VPA) are more likely to do weekly VPA AND get a higher number of days/week of VPA (see study here).
2. Since only 7% of 5- to 11-year-olds and 4% of 12- to 17-year-olds meet the daily recommendation of at least 60 minutes of MVPA (2009-11 CHMS, Statistics Canada via Active Healthy Kids Canada) and we know more boys than girls meet the 16,500 steps/day target (2012 Kids CANPLAY) – the findings from Jaffee & Rex (2000) are TRES COOL! 100% of girls with active fathers were physically active (compared with 86% of girls with active mothers).
So, my fatherly friends – not only is it important for you to be active for YOU, it is also important for your family! Nice work Dad!
Now, on to the longest day of play…
This initiative by ParticipAction is intended to take advantage of the longest day of the year (approximately 16 hours and 47 minutes here in sunny Edmonton, Alberta) and encourage everyone to get outside and move!
For all sorts of tools to spread the word, including a video, posters and idea sheets, go here.
So get outside and enjoy an ACTIVE father’s day (it’s good for you AND your family) – then do it all over again on the Longest Day of Play on June 21!
Move your daddy – move your family!
I know. My Canadian friends are thinking, “What the heck is he writing about Track and Field (T&F) in November for?” Hey – it’s never to early to start planning your T&F or activity day for the Spring! As well, my friend Mel (@mjhamada) and I recently had a wee Twitter flurry focused on alternate track and field events/days. After our short exchange of ideas, we decided to collaborate on this blog post to highlight our perspectives and thoughts. Take a read, tell us what you think and, most importantly, please contribute to the google doc we have started to share your ideas as well (link at the end of the article)!
Mel’s Ramblings! Recently I have heard a lot of comments online about how PE was very difficult and how rotten we are as a profession! I have to say that in my High School life I adored running and so Track and Field was a joy to me as I could actually do well in something I really enjoyed. Now, I know that PE and T&F aren’t everyone’s passion but I take from this that it is also important to respect that a T&F day should also be about allowing our athletic students a place to compete and see success. “What did you say Ms Hamada?”, I hear you shout!
However, I also believe that we need to not exclude students who find T&F day (as well as other traditional sports days) a grind and who are ‘sick’ on these days to avoid having to participate. It is the participation and the fun that we want to ingrain in our students. I love T&F days because they were fun for me! I will add here that I work in International schools and I haven’t had a school that has a zone or district carnival or T&F team, we just have our school carnival/day and no more. This makes me think harder about the fun and participation of our students.
So it is important to find the middle ground. Recently I have worked with different schools who have had varied philosophies on what should constitute these days and found that the winning formula should provide some time in the curriculum for learning about T&F concepts such as how to throw, jump and run and time to practice these with no pressure. Maximum practice is the most important factor. Try some of these ideas:
Long Jump – set up your students to jump across the pit on the side rather than the long end. Set up stations, have 4-7 lines all jumping at the same time into the pit and then running around back to the line. You get to see your students frequently and they get to jump a lot! Set up tiered stations next – regular jump at one end of the pit and then add a cone 1.5m back from the sand; then add a small hurdle to promote the height of a jump (over length) then add the next line with a hurdle 1.5m back etc. Students can then quickly get to their level and work at it and in a 60 min lesson you can have students jumping every 1 minute. Set up student coaches to assist with visual feedback or use your fave app to assist you.
High Jump – use hurdles frequently in your HJ lessons to practice scissor jumps. Set up hurdle stations and have students practice scissor jumps while waiting for the HJ bed. Differentiate with mats, hurdles, HJ soft bars etc with lots of places for kids to practice and get maximum jumps.
Running – complete running drills for sprints with student pairs watching specific technique (eg. arm swing) so they can learn about correct technique and coach each other efficiently. Set up mini relays or games for students that involve timing and sprinting for success, but limit competition. Avoid too many block exercises or peers that can ‘watch’ or evaluate time or distance, make the emphasis fun!
Okay so coupled with these athletic pursuits, we have some fun activities thrown in for students who dislike T&F traditional events and who haven’t participated at all! The T&F day schedule has been pretty full on with 4 sessions in the day and a lunch break. Each Grade level had 4 sessions to complete the field activities offered: Long Jump and Shot put; Javelin; Discus; High Jump. The Track sessions had a separate schedule that ran all day and Field event participants went to the Track when required. Our last school hosted: 100m, 200m, 400m, 1500m and 4 x 100m relays. It was a struggle to get kids into the 1500m and I wondered if we were better off with 2 x 1500m, one for girls and one for boys to avoid the long waits!
I would love to see the alternative events in-between the field or during the field events. We could then have the egg and spoon or water relay races on for Middle School while High School are completing another T&F activity and vice versa. This would bring a nice blend to the day. I am excited about implementing more of this at YIS this year and hope that our fun and participation values drive the day! I am excited to hear of great alternative activities that we could do on our day to promote fun, friendly competition between Houses and generally improve this day for all concerned!
Doug’s Ramblings! I started teaching PE at a school that followed a very traditional program and T&F was run as a school wide meet. When I took over as the male PE teacher there was actually a “passing of the starter gun” at the former PE teacher’s last meet (crazy eh!). I started to keep stats on the T&F day the next year and realized that many kids skipped the day and many did minimal events (format was 2T and 1 F required or 2F and 1 T) or nothing at all. Lots of sitting around, minimal activity etc. Over my five years at that school, I slowly made a few changes but was still not really happy with how the day met student’s needs (or the PE curriculum).
When I moved to a new school I was again asked to take charge of the T&F day (which had been very traditional). I decided to do something completely different and ran an activities based day in which the kids (grades 5-9) were mixed up into multi-grade level groups and moved throughout the day as a team to a variety of active living themed stations. We did not do any traditional T&F events on that day although we did do them in PE class and invited anyone to join the inter-school team. Over all I thought the day was successful but…
The next year, I taught a grade nine leadership class with a group of students that had now had a traditional TF day as well as my crazy new format. I asked them (nuts, I know) what kind of day they would like. They met and discussed things, I put in my two cents and objectives (essentially to have fun, learning, LOTS of activity) and we came up with a plan. The students wanted to be able to move with their friends and choose from a variety of active living activities as well as traditional events. But the TF “events” were not to be used to determine who went to Zone meets – that would happen separately, after school.
With the students taking the lead, our eventual T&F day looked like this: student’s chose from a menu of track, field and active living sessions (AL). Each student needed to get a stamp on their “passport” for a minimum numbers of events – no limit on how many you could choose. My leadership students invented and ran the active living sessions, teachers ran the TF events and students were free to roam around with their friends and complete their passports in any order they wanted. In the morning each student had to do a required 3/6 T events, 2/4 F events and 3/6 AL events. In the afternoon it was 2/4 T, 1/3 F and 2/4 AL.
The day was AWESOME! Lots of choice, lots of activity and lots of fun for all involved. Very few behaviour issues due to the high level of autonomy and almost no absences that day. Most importantly, the feedback from the students was amazing. Those who wanted the athletic challenge could compete against themselves and their friends, those who wanted to take a more relaxed approach could do that all well – but all were active!
YOUR TURN! Please share what you have done for T&F days (or just activity days!) at your school. These can be event descriptions, key resources, day overviews – whatever you like!
Click the link to share!
Sometimes I wonder about things – things we take for granted and perhaps just accept. Sometimes I dig deeper into those things – this is one of those times. A while back, I encountered two articles in the local paper that made me wonder – today’s blog is the preliminary result of my digging.
The first article was a feature piece about how post-secondary education, and particularly more “male-dominated” fields such as engineering and medicine, is an area of huge growth for female students. The article went on to say how wonderful this was/is (I agree!) and that the gender gap is not only reduced but, in some cases (medicine) reversed. The author went on about how important it is to have women in these fields and listed the many benefits (I tried to find the article but it does not seem to be in cyberspace…).
The very next week, in a “back to school” feature, that elusive creature – the male elementary teacher – was profiled. One teacher was interviewed about being a male in a female dominated field. He shared his perspective and why he was in that profession. Then, a number of “experts” (if I could use more quotes, I would…) were consulted. To a person, each expert said that the gender gap in elementary education was not worrisome at all – a good teacher is just a good teacher! No cause for alarm here, go about your business.
Hmmm… This is where my wondering began. Why in some fields (medicine) is it important to have gender equity and in others (elementary education) it does not matter? As a place to start my excavation, I thought I would check the stats for Canada.
Year 1998 2008
Male Education Grads 26% 24%
Male Physical and Life 47% 43% Science Technology Grads
Male Full Time Teachers 33% 29%
By the way, the ratio in overall degree programs is now (2008) 60-40 in favour of women. As interesting and telling (alarming!) as the stats on males in education are, it gets worse. I could not find any stats breaking out those who teach elementary (K-6). So, I went to my own Department and asked for the male/female percentages for students currently enrolled in our undergraduate BEd (Elementary) program.
Program My last 3 classes
Male 9% 6%
The numbers above very closely mirror the numbers for female physicians (7.6%) IN 1970!!!!!!!!!
So why the difference? How come our society worked very hard; successfully and rightly, to get more women into male dominated fields but never the other way around? I don’t know, but I DO think it is time to do something about it. So, rather than whine and complain (been there done that), I thought I would highlight a successful male elementary teacher who was one of the 6-9% in our BEd program. Since I don’t think a huge government program to boost male presence in elementary is on the horizon anytime soon, I will lift Andrew up as a role model for other males to consider elementary education as a rewarding and viable career. The following is a piece I asked Andrew to write about his experience as a male elementary teacher.
Before I started at U of A in elementary education I finished a diploma in Police Studies at Grant MacEwan. Going into policing I knew that I would need a lot of volunteer experience, and seeing as I always loved kids I volunteered as a Big Brother for a year. I fell in love with the impact that I had on that child, it was such a rewarding experience. After I finished at Grant MacEwan I sat down and thought to myself about the positives and negatives of policing and decided to pursue a different path. As any teacher will tell you, the feeling of making a positive impact on a child’s life is simply incredible. The thought of being able to do that on a daily basis and getting paid for it just seemed to click.
When I first graduated from University, the thought of getting a full time job as a teacher was terrifying. Not because of the job itself, but because there was such an oversaturation of teachers looking for the same thing. I had a couple friends of mine say that jobs that were posted at their schools were receiving anywhere from 250-400 applicants, for one position! This is where I found my first huge break being a male in elementary education. I was given many interviews simply because I was male, something that is lacking in almost all elementary schools. I was lucky enough to be offered a full time continuing position after my first year.
I can’t rave enough about being a male in elementary. Without trying to sound arrogant the kid’s just love me because I am a guy, and they have never had that experience before (I am the only male elementary teacher in my school). For me, through my first couple years, I think the biggest thing that I have been told from parents, other teachers, and students is that I am seen as a role model to the boys. It is hard for young boys with “problems” to come to a female teacher so them having me as that outlet has been really beneficial for them. When you look at the stats, what I just said makes sense, most families with single parent households consist of the mom, and the children. This shows that they are obviously lacking that male presence in the children’s life. Being able to provide that influence at school, where they spend most of their time, is very rewarding. What I notice is that for the boys especially, who want to be outside playing and goofing around all the time having a male be in charge and showing them that it can be fun at school changes their perspective on things that they once didn’t like.
I had a student in my first year who had always said he hated school; he was acting out and generally just didn’t put forth an effort to allow himself to be successful. Right away I was able to form that bond with him on things that he enjoyed such as hockey, hunting, cars, traditionally male dominated topics. I then made tests that involved sports or related new concepts to cars in any way that I could to draw in his attention and engage him in what we were learning. By the end of the year he was crying because he didn’t want to leave. That is and probably will be one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.
One challenge that I have had, yet has also turned out to be a lot of fun is being a new male teacher there is a certain expectation that I will be coaching different teams in the school. The school that I teach at is a K-9 school and not only am I doing junior high basketball and volleyball but also help with cross country and journal games which is more elementary focused. It is such a great experience, even though it consists of lots of extra time. It is a way to see the kids outside of the school in a different setting and also for them to see that I don’t in fact sleep at the school.
Another challenge that I have faced is that I am given the students who seem to have the worst behaviour. It makes my day-to-day teaching a lot more…interesting? Especially as a new teacher with a new curriculum to learn, and trying to find new exciting ways to deliver that curriculum, it adds up to a lot of long nights. A lot of my energy from the day is put into a few specific students because they need the male role model in their lives.
I want to leave you with one of the best parts about being, not so much a male in elementary, but just an elementary teacher in general. Kids say absolutely everything that is on their mind, no filter. They are so excited about being able to answer a question they don’t care what comes out of their mouths. For example, when I asked my grade three class the very question of why they like to have a male as a teacher here are three of the top responses:
“just because there needs to be a man in the house”
“you are stronger in case someone attacks the school”, and my favourite,
“you are more sarcastic”.
I wouldn’t trade my job for any other.
We need more Andrews.
I Am Confident.
No, I am not auditioning for a deodorant commercial. I am not even trying to talk myself into doing something I don’t really feel like doing (say… a SSHRC grant application).
I Am Confident in the future of physical education in Canada.
There, I said it. I will not deny that I have had my doubts about the future of PE (who am I kidding, I have doubts about the present…). Sometimes it seems like we are banging our heads against the same old walls. Don’t tell me we just need more proof of the efficacy of movement and PE – we know this stuff – let’s get ‘er done already! I’ve said before that sometimes PE folks are the biggest part of the problem. Yet…
I Am Confident in the future of physical education in Canada.
My confident confidenceness springs from having recently participated in the 10th Annual PHE Canada Student Leadership Conference (SLC). 67 post-secondary student leaders and 14 mentors from across Canada loosely connected by the broad field of physical education coming together to explore leadership. Check out the overview video here.
Two words: Wow!
Peter Gray, developmental psychologist and author of Free to Learn, describes three characteristics necessary for self-directed education / learning: curiosity (the drive to explore and understand), playfulness (the drive to practice and create) and sociability (the drive to share information and ideas). For a little taste of Peter’s work check out The Play Deficit. Anywho… The students (and mentors!) that I interacted with over the course of the SLC demonstrated these characteristics each and every day – in numerous ways! Here are a few things I noticed over the week:
curiosity: no hesitation – a desire to explore personal leadership characteristics – genuine quests for understanding – a seeker attitude – focused inquisitiveness around what could be learned – openness to what mentors had to say – openness to what other students had to say – probing problems and not giving up – constant snooping around mentors and other students to see what could be heard, observed, learned and applied.
playfulness: every task approached with zeal and enthusiasm – every task faced with a desire to learn and succeed – undaunted in the face of (much) failure – a student driven campfire night that never quit – as many solutions to problems as there were groups – spontaneous games and dancing (and late night lake swimming!) – original creations – practice, practice, practice and, more practice.
sociability: constant, purposeful conversation – constant, purposeful listening – sharing of hugs, sweaters and ideas – stepping up and stepping back – debate – diversity – respect – integrity – genuine appreciation for the gifts and talents of others – and self – willingness to put an idea out there – willingness to remove it in favour of a better one – humility – questions, thoughtfulness and more questions.
Therefore, I Am Confident.
Confident that these leaders will NEVER stop learning.
Confident that these leaders saw the end of the conference as a beginning.
Confident that these leaders will surpass their mentors and then some.
Confident that the future of PE is in good, no, GREAT hands.
Confident that these leaders are curious enough, playful enough and sociable enough