Clap once, clap twice...
Now that I have your attention, I am a beginning teacher in the Upland Unified School District. They call me COACH JENNIFER. I have almost completed my second year of teaching in a district that has provided amazing support and confidence in me. I teach Elementary Physical Education, Grades 1-6. I am beginning my teaching career after being a Stay at Home mom for 12 years. Having the opportunity and privilege to raise my children has provided me with a deeper understanding and compassion for parents and those in the teaching field.
Valuable Learning Experiences...
- Just as each child has different needs and abilities, each school site has its own set of diverse needs and abilities.
- Set expectations and remind students often what those expectations are.
Children want to be validated and letting them talk to you about their interests builds a connection.
Misbehavior has a catalyst, talking to a student may allow you to find out why they are misbehaving and allow you to help them work through a problem instead of just being disruptive.
Giving students more responsibility allows them to own their experienced in the classroom.
You would be amazed at how much caring and compassion students have for one another. I have students paired up with our kids with Special Needs and this peer support is beneficial for everyone involved.
Sportsmanship is probably the most important thing I teach. Children learn to treat one another with kindness and respect.
With time, the most growth is being able to see your students as individuals instead of this big mass that needs to be controlled. Having the eyes to pick out the students, in classes of 40-65 students, who are struggling with a skill and taking the time to help them make the necessary corrections took time. Another way I grew, was by allowing myself to slow down and not feel "I just need to get through this." When behaviors are hindering the teaching process, I am able to utilize the assistance of my aide to either continue the activity or to help those creating the distraction. Sometimes, we have to stop in order to ensure the students are conducting themselves in a safe manner, skills are being performed correctly, and students are being good sports. In the beginning, this was harder for me to do, now I make sure I take the time needed. I think confidence in what you are teaching shows and students respond well to solid routines. With increased confidence, I was able to teach skills in what I consider and students agreed was a more engaging way. One example would be: changing individual movement circuits into an obstacle course.
Changes as an Educator
I have changed the way I work in order to fit the needs of the different schools I teach at. Year one, I was more one size fits all, but this year I have learned some modification strategies that are helpful at certain sites.
In my experience, I have found that the students at some schools have the opportunity to play sports outside of school. This gives them an extended knowledge of warm up procedures, how to play their sport, and a background in sportsmanship. Other schools, in lower socioeconomic region, do not have these same opportunities. Thus, you can not teach them the same way. I have changed the "flow" in teaching to allow for these differences.
I have also changed by trying new strategies to make students responsible for their own behavior. Utilizing a "Squad Program" has helped at one school. The squads have a leader who is responsible for ensuring his/her squad follow the routines of the class and leads warm ups. The students have taken a sense of pride in their squads behavior and it has cut down on some negative interactions and time spend addressing these behaviors.
I have one class in particular that is difficult to get started, as it is after lunch and the kids lollygag their way to the class. I have implemented an Instant Activity in the class which seems to encourage them to make it to class on time. Not only do I like them getting to class, but the instant engagement and movement is something I will probably extend to all my classes.
Growth for the Future
- I want to become more familiar with PBIS. I have not been trained in its application, but I like the idea of positive intervention although I am not sure it works for all students.
- Expand my "Squad Program." I learned this strategy at a CAHPERD Conference and have only scratched the surface of what it can do.
- Increase the Home-School connection. One of our struggles in PE is the State Physical Fitness Test and how we, as educators, can in 50 minutes a week get students fit enough to pass. Connecting with home, will allow me to provide parents with information on how to help their children get/stay fit and what they can do at home. The connection with classroom teachers also needs to be stronger in order to coordinate efforts for fitness and help them find fun alternatives.
- Integrate other strategies learned at CAHPERD Conference. One of the fun ways we can work on fitness with out the students even realizing they are working their core is some basketball handling drills. Also, Instant Activities I do with one class will work well in other classes for immediate engagement and movement.
- Revisit allowing the students to create their own games using PE Equipment. The students were very imaginative and really responded well to this strategy.
Common Themes From my Learning Community
We struggle a bit to understand how far fitness and skill levels have dropped. Kids do not play the way we used to. This fact requires us to teach very basic skills at all levels. We can not assume children know how to do something based on their age. We have to ask, look, listen, and learn in order to modify our content.
Another common theme is the struggle with dealing with students who are continually disruptive. It feels like a couple of students can "ruin it for the whole class." We share experiences and try to come up with successful solutions. In some ways, the teachers I have talked to feel the PBIS mode is too lenient and not making a difference in very difficult cases. I think we are all still learning and trying to do what we can.
Finally, all of the professionals I have spoken with want to do more for the students who are on task and following the rules. We want to recognize students who continually follow expectations. We value positive reinforcement over punishment.