Purposeful Teaching – My Philosophy

BioPic_drawing
1997 ‘Me’ as drawn by a student   : )

Twice in the past few years, I have had to develop and refine a teaching philosophy statement (required for a tenure application and an award nomination). I struggled a bit with trying to define how and why I teach the way I do. However, I very much enjoyed the struggle and feel it is an important process for educators to go through. For what it’s worth – I thought I’d share my final product with you!

I have always believed in the importance of physical education (PE).  Movement and physical activity have been an integral part of my own life since I was a child.  As I grew up, went to school, tried to figure out my life and eventually settled on a career in education, PE was always at the forefront.  The year 2017 marks my 24th year in the field and after nine career “adjustments” over this time span (new positions, new schools, new degrees), two constants have emerged: PE and working with children and youth.  Over the length of my career, I have developed a fundamental belief in the absolute, critical, elemental, life changing and life giving need for human movement. This belief guides my teaching and provides the foundation of how I choose to support pre-service teachers in their journey towards becoming teachers of PE. ­­­­­­As well, my philosophy of teaching is rooted in my own experiences as a K-12 teacher. I pride myself on being a teacher first and have had a very diverse career. My practice in K-12 education has ranged far and wide including: a school in Peru, a Hutterite Colony in Southern Alberta, several different schools in Alberta and a school for disadvantaged children in Ecuador. These experiences have enabled me to grow and develop as an educator, refine my management and assessment skills, gain valuable insight into the social and cultural influences affecting students, families and communities and finally, helped to define my identity as a teacher. Throughout those experiences, I can see the threads of joyful, essential movement being woven into the fabric of my teaching identity. Those threads also form the basis of my relationships with students and encourage me to meet students where they are. The following quote is from an email a parent sent to me in 2002 (the name has been changed):

Thanks for making PE fun and enjoyable for Katie this year. She always comes home with good comments about gym and I am thankful, because PE was not my favourite subject. In those days, you were ridiculed if you couldn’t do the skill well. I have many scars from that experience and so I appreciate your approach. You have taught Katie the importance of trying and not to be afraid of failing. Thank you!

I share this email because it speaks to the creation of a safe learning environment, where students feel free to challenge themselves and support those around them to do the same. Sometimes PE can be a scary place – everything you do, including your body itself, can be seen to be on display. As I did in my K-12 teaching, I also strive to create a PE culture with my university students that is inclusive, safe, caring and joyful. Finally, my teaching philosophy draws heavily on John Dewey’s theories of experience and education. I base the nature of my classes at the University of Alberta, undergraduate and graduate, on this premise:

Experience and education cannot be directly equated to each other. For some experiences are mis-educative. Any experience is mis-educative that has the effect of arresting or distorting the growth of further experience. An experience may be such as to engender callousness; it may produce lack of sensitivity and of responsiveness. Then the possibilities of having richer experience in the future are restricted” (Dewey, 1938, p. 25-26).

In every class I teach, we dig into past experience and strive to learn from both the educative and mis-educative. My students come to PE with their own individual experiences and contexts. We take the time to explore their past as it impacts their teaching: present and future. We search for instances of joyful movement wherever they may be found and then we build on those experiences and extend them to our teaching and learning. As a teacher, I have engaged in this process as well and feel that my students reap the benefits of my own reflective practice. Therefore, I strive to ensure that each and every class I teach provides students with a truly educative experience enabling their growth, learning and understanding as pre-service teachers. Quite often, students will approach me and express their apprehension about taking a class on PE pedagogy. Their fears may be grounded in a negative experience, a misguided perception or a stereotype – it really doesn’t matter. My teaching philosophy allows me meet them where they are, provide joyful movement experiences and, help them establish an identity as a teacher of PE.

“I was really dreading the idea of having to teach PE. All of that changed this semester! The things you taught us were real life, things we can actually use and it was so much fun (so different from past classes)”

(Student letter, Winter 2014)

An Introduction to Physical Literacy Praxis

We join our hero as he realizes it has been over 3 months since his last post…

Speaking of Physical Literacy Part 3: An Introduction to Physical Literacy Praxis

Right. So suddenly it is 2016. MARCH 2016! I am not sure how so much time went by since my last post – oh wait, I know – life! Life got in the way. And work.  Definitely work. Anywho…

What follows is a lead in to a rough framework that explores the implementation side of physical literacy. The post is loosely based on a talk I gave on October 22, 2015 at the Manitoba Physical Literacy Summit ‘Moving it Forward’. As well, I am working with an exceptional graduate student to design and implement a research project that will use a similar framework in high school physical education (more on that later!). Here goes.

If you recall, the last post in this series was about experiences and stories. So, please consider this story of an experience (brilliant segue, what?)…

PE, recess and lunch were always my favourite subjects in school. Perhaps it was a connection to my life running around on the farm but I found it tough to adjust to school and sedentary life. Opportunities to be active during the school day were not only my favourite times, they were critical to who I was as a person. My problem on this particular school day began with the excitement of heading to the local church basement for PE and ended with a frightening experience no grade two-er should have. I never forgot my PE clothes and shoes. NEVER. This day was no different. I had my shorts. I had my t-shirt. I had my shoes. As we were changing in the tiny bathroom of the church basement, however, I realized I had forgotten something. My regular underwear. I had neglected to put briefs on under my long johns…

 

longjohns

EDITORS NOTE: for those from more southerly climes, long johns are full coverage thermal underwear and completely necessary for about 8 months of the year where I live. Thank you.

…and was therefore in a bit of a conundrum. I couldn’t wear my shorts with my long johns, I couldn’t wear my shorts without my regular underwear. I agonized about it until everyone else left the change room and decided to just head out in my jeans and t-shirt so no one would know of my problem. Surely the PE teacher would understand? As I headed over to try and quietly explain my embarrassing dilemma to the enormous ex-football player who was my teacher, he stopped everyone and singled me out. “Doug, you forgot your gym clothes! Come over here!” I sheepishly slunk over to the centre of the basement and was ready to explain my situation when suddenly I was swept off my feet, lifted high into the air and pinned against the ceiling. “Why do you not have your gym clothes?!?” Three quick, relevant facts. Number one, there was no way I was explaining myself in front of the whole class. Number two, I could barely keep myself from peeing my pants, much less actually talk. Number three, I stutter badly when forced to respond verbally under pressure. Therefore, I said nothing except for a few stuttered grunts. After a little more uplifted condemnation fornot being changed, I was forced to sit out for the rest of the class. Although I kept a brave face for my friends, (“That was so cool how he lifted me up so high”) inside I was embarrassed, frustrated, mad and ultimately – helpless. (Gleddie & Schaefer, 2014, p. 9-10)

Now that you’ve read my story (thanks!) answer me this: Why would someone who underwent that sort of humiliation and embarassment go on to have a career in physical education? Why wouldn’t that experience have turned me off of physical education for life? John Dewey, the renowned education philosopher, would probably have answered the question somewhat like this:

 

Experience and education cannot be directly equated to each other. For some experiences are mis-educative. Any experience is mis-educative that has the effect of arresting or distorting the growth of further experience. (1938, p. 25)

 

I think that I had been ‘inoculated’ or ‘vaccinated’ with WAY too much educative experiences of movement and play to be turned off by one mis-educative experience – no matter how humiliating. Dewey went on to say that there are two key aspects to experience. The first is the immediate:

“Yes, this was good.” OR “No, this was not.”

The second aspect emerges when we consider the influence of the current experience on future experiences. Quite simply – I knew deep down in my soul that the one mis-educative experience with my long johns did not have the power to impact the future already set up by my countless educative experiences with movement and physical education. This idea is enormously important – now put it away for a moment and keep reading… Hopefully, you are already familiar with at least the definition of physical literacy if not the whole set of philosophical underpinnings (here’s a hint… It’s so much more than fundamental movement skills!). What I want to focus on, however, is physical literacy praxis. And no, I did not spell ‘practice’ wrong…

Etymology: From Ancient Greek πρᾶξις ‎(prâxis, “action, activity, practice”)

Noun: praxis ‎(plural praxes or praxises)

  1. The practical application of any branch of learning.

  2. (philosophy) The synthesis of theory and practice, without presuming the primacy of either. (en.wiktionary.org)

 

 

 

Love it! Take a closer look: the synthesis of theory and practice, without presuming the primacy of either. If you remember way back in the Travel Agents post, I quoted Margaret Whitehead as saying:

“Our mission or challenge is to do all we can to enable ALL to make progress on their individual physical literacy journey. (Whitehead, 2013)

This is PRAXIS! This is what physical educators can do with the theory! Or, as John Dewey put it,

“…upon them devolves the responsibility for instituting the conditions for the kind of present experience which has a favourable effect upon the future.” (Dewey, 1938, p. 50)

 

 

 

 

This is where my rough framework for physical literacy praxis fits in. Here is a visual to get you started.

Slide5

 

We leave our hero as he realizes that this post is getting way too long…  Hopefully, he doesn’t wait 3 months before the next one and leave us all hanging…

TO BE CONTINUED!

BE a Travel Agent

Speaking of Physical Literacy, Part 2: Becoming Travel Agents

travelIn 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:

1294380_684473301578022_2005795376_oIt’s about relationships – take someone along – connect across sectors.

SkiingWhere do we want kids to go? Where do THEY want to go? Choose destinations with the CLIENT’s needs at heart – not yours.

 kayak

Explore and try new things… Nuff said.

 cliffs

Take (acceptable) risks!

Hike

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.

findthejoyinthejourney 1

To order the shirt, go here (no % 4 me, just love the shirt!)

Something is very wrong…

I recently became aware of two very different stories about children and physical activity. The first was a Facebook video of a young kid cruising around in a parkour gym. If you haven’t seen it – check it out – it is worth the 1:14 min. What a great place for kids to play, learn and move! Check out the movement skills of that boy! And, kudos to the wonderful instructor leading the class – love the clip with the kids jumping to a box and grabbing his feet for stability.

A couple days later and this story hits the inter-web: School district bans game of tag to ‘ensure physical, emotional safety of students’. (Spoiler alert: tag is now back at Mercer Island School District after the outcry – yay.). The rationale given by the communications director was:

“The Mercer Island School District and school teams have recently revisited expectations for student behavior to address student safety. This means while at play, especially during recess and unstructured time, students are expected to keep their hands to themselves. The rationale behind this is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all students.banning-tag

Let me go out on a limb here (properly harnessed in, of course) and let you know what probably happened.

Random kid: Julie pushed me.

Other random kid: Ryan pushed me.

Not so random Principal: That’s it – no tag for anyone! Everyone must keep their hands to themselves. In fact, why don’t you sit on your hands all recess for good measure (ok, that part might not have happened).

Unfortunately, over the last few years there has been no shortage of these type of events:

This School Banned Cartwheels, Tag, Balls, Fun at Recess

The School That Won’t Let Students Play Tag or Hold Hands

Children Banned from Playing Tag in School Playground

Toronto School Bans Hard Balls

I could go on with even more, but I think you get my point.

From what I can tell, each of these “bans” springs from an incident or two where someone gets hurt (in the Toronto case it was a parent who got a concussion from being hit in the head with a soccer ball…). If this is the way we handle inappropriate behaviour in schools then would someone please answer these questions?

If a kid gets stuffed in a locker – do we ban all lockers from the school?

If a kid throws an eraser in class and hits another kid in the head (like my friend and I did to each other for most of grade 5…) – do we ban all erasers from the school?

If a group of kids is too rowdy when they work on problem solving in math class together – do we ban group work?

NO!

Why do school staff (and some parents) go for the kneejerk reaction and frickin’ ban everything? Why don’t they just do what they do in all these other cases and DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM. We have enough issues with children not moving enough, not engaging in free play and not interacting with each other enough without putting even more constraints on them…

If anything, we should have MORE active play and student interaction at recess – the Lord knows they spend enough time in front of screens not interacting. Hmmm, here’s an idea – how about MORE physical education classes taught by qualified, trained professionals who can help TEACH social skills and appropriate behaviours for playing together in and out of class. Booya (does anyone say that anymore?) – problem solved.

UnderPressureCarl Honore shares a story in his brilliant book (which you should buy), Under Pressure: Rescuing our children from the culture of hyper-parenting, from the Secret Garden nursery school in Eastern Scotland – the first outdoor nursery in Britain. A group of 3 year olds had spent the day in the woods; helped by the adult in charge, they built a fire to ward off the chill. Wee Magnus Macleod reached in with his bare hand and picked up a burning ember.

BAN fires! BAN bare hands! BAN outdoor nurseries! BAN three-year-olds!

Nope. Everyone stayed calm. Magnus’s wound healed. His mom kept him in the Secret Garden and also enrolled his younger brother. She said, “…the main thing is that Magnus is now very sensible about fire – he knows not to get too close to it. The truth is that there are risks in the world and that children benefit from being exposed to them within reason” (p. 240).

A couple months after “the incident”, Carl spent the day with the kids at Secret Garden. Guess what? It was cold. They gather material for a fire. Magnus volunteers to light it – using a Swedish firestarter (that has sparks up to 3,ooo degrees Celsius) and a piece of denim. He lights the fire successfuly and here is how the chapter ends:

A smile crawls across Magnus’s mud-streaked face.“ You have to be careful with fire,” he tells me, in an almost professorial tone. “But you don’t have to be afraid of it.” He trows another log on the flames and then whispers, as if to himself: “I’m not afraid of anything.” (p. 255)

Yup.

Manly, yes?

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.

TwinsBefore 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.

Thanks man.

We need more Andrews.

Actively Improving Your Life-Story

MMTYI have recently been re-reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller (author of Blue like Jazz and a few other tomes).  This time around the book has been especially impactful as I am in the midst of some exciting (at least to me) research using narrative as the mode of inquiry.  More to come about that soon!  A Million Miles is the story of Donald’s experience having a film made about his life.  Through the process, he learns a LOT about what makes a good story – and what makes for a story no one would pay to see.

If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers.  You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie… The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back.  Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. (Author’s note, xiii)

Miller comes to the conclusion that the life he is living is NOT a good story.  The essential question he asks  is, “If your life was on film, would anyone watch?”  Donald begins to “edit” his life and much of the book details that process.  I don’t want to give it all away – just read the book – it is worth it!  Yesterday, I finished a chapter that included the following quote from one IMG_3173of Miller’s friends, “I am too busy living actual stories to watch them on a screen”.  Later, as I was walking through the melting snow of the river valley with Rover, my dog (yes, I have a dog named Rover…), I began to think of how the stories of physical activity and movement we create in our own lives are memorable and impactful.

As you have seen in earlier posts, I was fortunate to grow up in a place where physical activity was the norm.  As I walked, I began to think of how we could improve our life stories – especially with physical activity – and several thoughts came to mind:

First, I thought of my mom.  She loves to walk, snowshoe, bike ride etc. and most of our family recreation activities growing up included an emphasis on the physical.  Pretty sure some of my love for an active life came from her…  She definitely created active stories for our family.  Once, she hosted a huge New Year’s Eve party where the “main event” was a multi-team Olympics that involved dog sled races with toboggans and other events both indoor and out.  I am sure that no-one who attended will forget that party!  Then, last Thanksgiving (the cool one in October in Canada), my mom and I cooked up the idea to have a full-on family dinner at a local park.  We were fortunate to have a nice sunny day, although the wind threatened the turkey and it couldn’t have been much warmer than 5 C (41 F).  We enjoyed a full potluck dinner, punctuated by Frisbee, football, playground games and culminating in a beach volleyball game that included ages from 7 to over 70.  Who needs to sit on the couch and watch football when you can play your own games!

Next, I thought of my friend Ryan who happens to be one of the most active people I have ever met.  He once used a period of unemployment in his life as an opportunity to hike the West Coast Trail.  Why sit at home when you can blaze a new trail?

I thought of my friend Cathy who is riding in her 10th MS bike tour this June (click to donate!) and consistently invites current and former students, family and friends to join her storied rides.  Why not invite someone new along for the ride?

I thought of my cousins Carlynne and Dan who, on a cross-country move from Alberta stopped in at my cousins Nathan & Heather’s house in Winnipeg for a visit.  Since they arrived at 2:00 am in the morning and Nathan had no idea they were coming Carlynne and Dan did what any of us would surely do.  They set up their tent on the front lawn and then hung a sign on the door saying who they were and to please wake them up for a visit.  Nathan’s kids woke up to an instant adventure and a mystery on their lawn (I think they used binoculars to read the sign…).  How about creating a little magic for someone else?

I thought of Nathan & Heather who, when their family solved the tent mystery, proceeded to invite the occupants in for pancakes, kept the kids out of school for the day and let the story develop.  Do you think the kids remember that day? The answer is a resounding, YES!  Why not break a few “rules” a create some memories?

I thought of my friend Heather (@RunSoulCycle) who is heading down to Disneyworld not to take part in the manufactured joy that is Disney but to do the “Dopey” challenge: a 5km, 10km, half marathon and full marathon all in one weekend.  What about challenging yourself to a more interesting story than meeting Mickey?

IMG_0827I thought of the ways I have tried to create active stories with my own family.  Last summer we IMG_1172competed in the Bruce Stampede (99th annual small town pro rodeo!) as a family and entered the calf scramble, greased pig chase, bloomer race (first team to put panties on a calf), wild cow milking (yes, the picture in your head is the right one…) and a wild cow race.  We will be continuing that particular story this summer at the 100th annual Bruce Stampede (and defending our cow race title) and have invited more friends and family to come along for the ride – care to join us?

IMG_0822If you look at the pictures on my Facebook page (or others) it is easy to see where the best stories are created: back-packing, skiing, biking, walking, winter camping, fishing, anything active and engaging makes for a better story.  This June our family challenge will be the Spartan Race – bring it on!

One more quote from Donald Miller: “We have to force ourselves to create these scenes.  We have to get up off the couch and turn the television off, we have to blow up the inner tubes and head to the river.  We have to write the poem and deliver it in person.  We have to pull the car off the road and hike to the top of the hill.  We have to put on our suits, we have to dance at weddings.” (p. 214)

Interesting that most of these examples involve movement…  What kind of active story are you creating?  The choice is easy.  Sit at home and watch someone else’s stories or get up and move.