Engaging the non/selective participant

This is something that has been bugging me for at least the last six or seven weeks, as I normally teach at the primary/elementary level, and have had to take on a secondary class this year.

Some of you may have a seen a recent video clip of a teacher physically trying to force a student into the pool during a PE lesson. Whilst one might not understand why this teacher chose to deal with the situation in the way that he did, one of the things questions that came to mind was “had this happened so many times that he had just had enough and was this teacher just driven to the point where he simply blew up?” Nothing excuses the fact that the way in which he dealt with the situation was completely inappropriate. However, perhaps we should consider all factors leading up to the incident to ensure that it never happens again.

As a physical educator, it is tough to even try to understand why someone might choose to exclude him/herself from a PE class. We’ve all heard the excuses.

“I forgot to pack my kit.”

“My kit hasn’t been washed.”

“I don’t feel well.”

The list goes on.

Some reasons students choose not to participate may include lack of motivation, social isolation, PE is not important, competitiveness, lack of support, negative experiences, and discrimination (gender, skills, appearance).

The accepted tradition of excuse notes allowing students to self-exempt from lessons is one such ritual associated with the PE in schools. This policy of excuse notes attributes power to parents and pupils to self-exempt from participating in PE, as parents will provide an excuse note for their child if they do not believe PE holds much value. (Penny Lamb, 2013) I see this happen too often where I currently teach, although we have a policy where students still need to change into their PE kit even if they have a note.

It is our responsibility as physical educators to provide opportunities for students to be physically active. What can we do to ensure all students make the most of these opportunities?

Do share your thoughts.

1) Does this affect you at your current school or do you see it happening in certain year levels?

2) What do you think is the most important factor in motivating students to be physically active?

3) How do you engage your non/selective participant(s)?
4) What is your school’s policy when it comes to parents writing notes to excuse their child from PE lessons?
5) How do you construct an environment that is likely to maximize participation in your lesson?


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