A High Five and a Kick in the Pants

This post is for all my PE peeps out there. #pegeeks, #physed, #peplc, etc…

I was given the opportunity a few years ago to give the combined Robert Routledge Memorial Address / R. Tait Mackenzie Scholar Address at the joint HPEC – PHE Canada National Conference in Banff (Coming back to Banff, AB in 2015!). It was both an honour and a responsibility to address my PE colleagues in this manner – if you want to read the whole speech, including a summary of both men’s lives, click here (and scroll down to page 40). I feel the message is still of value today so here is the main part of the speech for your reading pleasure!

Two men.  One life cut short.  One life almost 20 years longer.  Obviously, I never knew R. Tait McKenzie and Robert Routledge died the year before I was born.  As I examined their lives and accomplishments, a few things caught my attention.  These were passionate, professional, committed individuals who stood up for what they believed.  If they were here today, I think they would have some things to say to us – I’d like to give you my interpretation…

Friends are important.  Friends love you.  Friends will tell you when you’ve made a mistake or if you are traveling the wrong path.  Lawry St. Leger told a story yesterday of a large hospital in Australia where once per week, the surgeons, interns, nurses and all staff associated with the surgeries would enter a room and discuss the week’s surgery.  No notes.  No recordings.  Honest.  Truthful.  Friends and colleagues who push each other to be the best and are not afraid to give and accept constructive criticism.  Let’s enter that room together as health and physical educators.  My role today is to be your friend in that room and talk truthfully and honestly like I believe McKenzie and Routledge would.  Sometimes we need high fives.  Sometimes we need a kick in the pants.  Today is about both.

I believe that you, my friends, are some of the most passionate teachers on the planet.  You model.  You teach.  You empower.  You love.  Your students are privileged to encounter you on a daily basis.  Your energy and enthusiasm lifts up your colleagues, energizes your students and carries you through the day.  Like a McKenzie or a Routlege, your passion begins in your subject area, but more importantly, it extends to encompass children.  I often tell my student teachers’ that if they are passionate about their subject area and love children there is no better career in the world.  If they don’t – get out!  My friends – you do both and you do it well.  High Five! (Go ahead)

Time for a kick in the pants…  Please don’t do so to your colleagues – this one will remain figurative but feel free to accept this mentally!  I am beginning to see an alarming trend in Alberta – and I think across the country.  Teachers are becoming less involved.  They are coaching less, running fewer clubs, and not stepping up when things need to happen.  Our provincial organizations sometimes struggle for participants and members.  Sometimes, we can’t even get up the energy to nominate people for awards.  Friends, we need to be involved in our professional associations.  Demonstrate to everyone that we are committed to the value of HPE and will not back down in the face of adversity.  Follow the examples of our predecessors – recognize your colleagues, advocate for HPE, celebrate success and get deeply involved in your school community.

There are over 1000 people at this conference.  When I think of HPE people, I think of people committed to improving practice and honing their craft.  Despite an overwhelming focus on literacy and numeracy, you manage to still seek out and attend PD.  You are committed to improvement and willing to work hard to find it.  Workshops, conferences, books, journals, websites – all fuel for your fire.  You know that what you do changes lives the way no other subject area can.  I commend you for your dedication to excellence and improvement – High Five!

Do you only teach the activities you are good at?  Do you avoid gymnastics and sexual health because you don’t feel competent?  Is your gymnasium a place where elitism reigns and varsity team members can train to their hearts content?  A colleague of mine encourages student teachers to ask the following question when they are planning: “Who are you planning your program for – you, or your students?”  Let me put it this way…  Say I was teaching math and I said to my students, “We really should cover long division, but Mr. Gleddie here is not so competent and it actually makes him very uncomfortable – so we’ll just skip it.”  Ask yourself the questions, “Who is NOT in my gym?”  Who is NOT engaged in my class?” Then go and work on the problem.  Kick in the pants.

Haim Ginott (1972) reminds us of a somewhat scary responsibility: “I have come to a frightening conclusion.  I am the decisive element in the classroom.  It is my personal approach that creates the climate.  It is my daily mood that makes the weather.  As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.”  You, my friends, are instruments of inspiration.  Your work makes a difference.  You may not always see it today, tomorrow or in a year but the seeds are there.  Last night, Steven asked us to consider those kids like him – on the margin.  I received a phone call a few years ago from a girl that I taught in grade 7.  Amy had a rough life with parents in and out of drug rehab and several nights on the street.  Our school had a policy of linking staff with students at risk.  We were to smile a little more, talk if the opportunity was there and generally be there for them.  Amy called me 2.5 years later, out of the blue, and thanked me for my role in her life and wanted me to know that she was doing well, getting good grades and hanging out with good kids.  YOU make that kind of difference, whether you ever get to see the results or not.  When you get back to school – find that kid in the shadows – and begin  to do what you do best.  High five!

I’d like to finish with a creed.  Tonight’s social theme is “I AM CANADIAN”.  I’d like you to focus on, I am HPE!  When the right spot comes up – please rise and join me…

This next little portion is to be spoken to the rhythm of the ever popular “I am Canadian” rant courtesy of Molson Canadian in 2000.

Hey, I’m not a jock, Or a health nut

And I don’t give pushups for punishment, Or yell at kids, Or own a pair of short shorts

And yes, I did forget your name over the years, But I’m sure you were a really nice student

I follow the Program of Studies  – not the sport seasons, I teach physical education, not gym, And it’s pronounced HPECer, not H-P-E-C

I can proudly paint the ABCD’s on my gym wall, I believe in healthy schools not health kits, Inclusion, not elitism, And that a man can teach yoga and still hold his head high

Schlockey is a sport and a grocery bag is a juggling scarf, And yes, I teach sexual education and I’m good at it.

Health and PhysEd are the 2 core subjects that extend your life, The first choice of students, And the best part of the school day!

My name is “____” and I am H-P-E!

YOU DO GOOD WORK AND I LIKE YOU!

2 thoughts on “A High Five and a Kick in the Pants

  1. Thanks for the inspiration post Doug! There are a lot of good reminders of how to engage all students in P.E and also about how to be a great teacher!
    Thanks again!

Come on, MOVE me!

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