As the Pendulum Swings

Last year was a step backward for my journey as a teacher. My students received a quality education where the standards and grade level outcomes were explicit and well delivered. They covered more of the curriculum then they had ever covered before. Yet there was a huge missing piece. That piece was love. Love of learning, love of movement, love of growth, love of life, and most of all love of my class. Like the rest of education, I had let the pendulum swing too far in the wrong direction. I was so worried about being taken seriously that I had forgotten who I was as a teacher. My instruction became of a higher quality yet my relationship building fell off. I would imagine that last year I had the most amount of students ever who did not enjoy coming to my class for the pure joy of movement. They came there because it said so on their schedule.

This year I have been rededicating myself to getting to know each child on a much deeper level. I want my students to feel that I value them as tiny human beings not just as an athlete in my class. There are a variety of ways I am going to accomplish this. 

According to Psychology Today, “When teachers touch students platonically, it encourages their learning”. That is why the first two weeks of school I have been sitting with my prek-1st-grade students on the floor and asking each one of them if they would like a hug or high five. When I see students walking down the hall I ask if it’s ok that I put my arm around them. In the past, I have shied away from physical touch because I worried about being seen as creepy or that I would make students feel uncomfortable. I believe by asking them if they would like a hug that alleviates their fear or any misconceptions that may arise.

The second part of relationship building I am working on with my students is their relationships to each other. I have dedicated the first two weeks to games and activities that will have my students using teamwork, cooperation, and communication. These games are fun and easy. They are tied into the standards but I am sacrificing mvpa (moderate to vigorous physical activity) time. I am not bothered by this in the least, though. The benefits of creating and strengthening the relationships between the students and myself as well as each other far outweigh any movement time they may lose in my eyes. 

Another part of relationship building that I am attempting to improve is my student’s relationship with the content. My questions are making them think more about how what they are doing in my class will help them outside of school. I started to do this more as an exit ticket last year but we have a loooong way to go. As you can tell from the image below we are still attempting to go beyond the literal skills of the activity when we are analyzing it for personal growth outside of phys ed. There were a couple of students who were able to make genuine connections to the outside world. We will dissect the answers as a class and see if as a group we can make outside connections that approach a deeper level.


  1. What is your favorite way to build relationships with your students?
  2. What is your go to when encouraging students to build relationships with each other?
  3. What is your view on physical touch and students?
  4. How do you connect your students learning with the outside world?
  5. Who is your go to when you need help with relationship building?






3 thoughts on “As the Pendulum Swings

  1. Pingback: Teamwork | #slowchatPE

  2. edifiedlistener

    Dear Justin,
    Good on you! I appreciate the honesty you bring to this post as well as the concrete steps for change. I agree it is always a challenge to strike that balance between what we know to be good for kids and learning with what the ‘front office’ determines we must do to apparently meet those needs from their standpoint. In all of this, trying to remain human, to be our best selves when we are under pressure to perform and deliver results at the same time, poses a genuine challenge. And it’s the challenge that, once we recognize its importance, we can meet and surpass in extraordinary ways – one student at a time. This post speaks to that impulse:To put kids, relationships and love back at the center. That’s winning – regardless of how much curriculum you cover.
    With you on this one,



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