Monthly Archives: April 2017

4 of 9 Dimension of Wellness: Financial

This is the fourth of nine installments about how I attempt to teach the whole child. Last week’s blog reflected on how I teach Spiritual Wellness in Physical Education and Health. It also discusses how I believe it is every teacher’s duty to teach the entire child. After writing my original blog on why I teach Physical Education and Health, I received feedback from Shrehan Lynch (@misslynchpe) that there are currently nine dimensions of wellness that are being taught at the collegiate level. Armed with that feedback and the encouragement of Mel Hamada (mjhamada) this has now morphed into a nine-part blog series. I fully expect that I am derelict in my teaching of several areas of wellness. This blog series will allow me to highlight those areas I need to improve.

This week we will be analyzing the what, how, and why I teach Financial Wellness. According to the University of New Hampshire, financial wellness is the ability to, “Live within your means and learn to manage your finances for the short and long term.” Link Remember that line you read above that stated I would be derelict in my teaching of certain wellnesses? Welcome to the first wall I have run into. I do not teach financial wellness.

This is the time where you tell me I am a physical education teacher and I do not need to be teaching financial wellness. Save it for the math teachers. Isn’t elementary school too early to be tackling financial wellness anyway? I will save you time and energy and push back by saying if I am serious about teaching the entire person then I must address financial wellness. There has to be a way. 

I have activities that work on identifying coins and dollars. We make change and even have used money to buy back equipment for games. I have never addressed the idea that financial wellness is a skill that can be addressed in my class. This will be the first of many times I am going to ask you the reader how can I teach financial wellness in my class. I will be asking this in my Voxer groups and will document how I taught financial wellness to my students in the two weeks. I will write an addendum to the bottom of the blog with the date and an exact description of what I did.

UPDATE!! 4/24/2017

Today my students chose an exercise in order to obtain a piece of equipment or use a locomotor movement. They then used that equipment to perform a task. When they completed the task they would come to the bank and get paid for completion of that task. Here is the link to my 1/2 grade activity,  here is the link to my 3/4 grade activity here is the link to my 5/6 grade activity.

Update 4/28/2017

The students were now instructed to work in groups to earn 50$. Every 50$ they moved up one level. Their goal was to get to level 30 which simulated a month. I threw a curve ball in there that I called life. Every fourth step they had to roll a 12 sided dice. Each number of the dice had something that would either propel them forward or backward. Examples would be saving for retirement, going out to dinner and a movie, or paying off a credit card. The reflections were the best part of the unit. Students were able to understand that you need to work to earn money, had to save for emergencies and retirement, and that expenses pop up in life all the time. This unit was fantastic and is definitely something I will do again in the future!!


Shared Experiences

Life is all about shared experiences. It’s that simple. We create bonds around these shared experiences. Those bonds may change over time but they do not disappear. No matter how much you grow apart from those throughout your life those shared experiences will always be there. It’s why when I hang out with my high school friends we inevitably end up talking about the glory days. No matter how much we have changed after those formative years we fall right back into the nostalgia of yesteryear laughing or lamenting our actions and behaviors with those who we shared them with.
This spring break we packed some bags and children into our SUV and drove 21 hours straight down to Ft. Lauderdale from Trenton NJ. The purpose of the trip was to visit my grandfather who is the namesake of my youngest child. Tax money had come in and the need to see him outweighed the logic that this trip would be expensive and set us back a pretty penny.
My grandfather was the kind of family member that usually only exist in stories. He is a retired guidance counselor who was quite athletic in his younger days. This combination made him the perfect playmate for two young boys such as my brother and I. We would go camping, fishing, play basketball, bike ride, drill math facts, learn to read and do all the other things that grandparents and grandchildren are supposed to do together. We were a match made in heaven.
I was around 7 years old when my grandfather and grandmother moved to Florida. The one positive thing for me was that they would come home every summer and stay in the addition that they had put on my parent’s house. I vividly remember coming home from elementary school in late spring and seeing their white Crown Victoria with Florida plates parked in front of the house. This sent me sprinting as fast as possible to see my grandparents. I can only describe the feeling as the joy of combining Christmas, my birthday, Hanukkah, and a having a snow day off from school.
I realize now what their arrival meant. It was the arrival of fun and new opportunities to share experiences. Where would the summer take us? Would we go boating or find a new campground? Would we take trips to Shenandoah Valley or travel to the Pine Barrens in South Jersey? Wherever we went I knew that we would enjoy every minute of the day and night we could.
Fast forward 25 years and that spry athletic grandfather has mellowed out to a man who barely leaves his room anymore. It is a painful process to be a part of. The last remaining parts of my childhood are rapidly deteriorating. I no longer have the carefree attitude and freedom of a child. I understood that when I had children this was the tradeoff I was making. That doesn’t make it any easier to see the man who I admired and shared so many experiences body failing him. When I see him now it really makes me reflect on just how amazing he made my childhood.
While in Florida my grandfather and I looked at old photographs and watched home videos on his VCR while my children ran around like nuts and tried to eat jolly ranchers by the handful. One moment that brought tears to my eyes was watching my son read to his great grandfather. I remember clearly being in the same position and reading in the same struggling staccato method. My grandfather just sat there and smiled the entire time. It was obvious it meant as much to him to see that as it did to me.
This trip created new shared experience for my family. We suffered the marathon car rides, played on the beach, went to our first movie in a theater, and strengthened our familial bonds with my aunt and cousin. That is the part of trips and vacations that are terribly undervalued. It’s not just about seeing the world or doing something fun. It’s about having people to share those experiences with.

As I get older and barely wiser I realize that my classroom and my summer camp are wonderful opportunities to create positive shared experiences. I now outright state to my students and campers that we are going to create shared experiences throughout the year and the summer. When I focus on this idea of shared experiences in the classroom it changes the way everything is done. The power automatically shifts onto the students. My class becomes a meeting place where ideas can organically grow. I tell all my students they are more than welcome to create a game or activity they would like to play in my Physical Education class. They have to share the game with me beforehand and I reserve the right to modify the game slightly to meet the standards and grade level outcomes. Most games and activities I create last about five minutes. After that beginning round, I ask the students to make one rule change to improve the game. This is one way I attempt to create an experience that they find enjoyable.

We also use circle time in the beginning and end of the class to reflect on our previous weekend or day as well as the current class period. This creates an atmosphere of unity amongst the class and allows the students to connect on a humanistic level. That is the beauty of Physical Education, we can focus more on the journey than the destination. In an era of unprecedented cognitive state mandated testing, we are missing the big picture of why our students learn. I am attempting to create an atmosphere where my students can look back on their schooling with the same fondness that my grandfather was able to create for me.

3 of 9 Dimensions of Wellness: Spiritual

This is the third of nine installments about how I attempt to teach the whole child. Last week’s blog reflected on how I teach Occupational Wellness in Physical Education and Health. It also discusses how I believe it is every teacher’s duty to teach the entire child. After writing my original blog on why I teach Physical Education and Health, I received feedback from Shrehan Lynch (@misslynchpe) that there are currently nine dimensions of wellness that are being taught at the collegiate level. Armed with that feedback and the encouragement of Mel Hamada (mjhamada) this has now morphed into a nine-part blog series. I fully expect that I am derelict in my teaching of several areas of wellness. This blog series will allow me to highlight those areas I need to improve.

This week we will be analyzing the what, how, and why I teach Spiritual Wellness. Spiritual Wellness may worry some public school teachers. After all, there is a separation of church and state. However, spiritual wellness is not only taught through religion. The University of California Riverside defines spiritual wellness as:

Spiritual Wellness is a personal matter involving values and beliefs that provide a purpose in our lives. While different individuals may have different views of what spiritualism is, it is generally considered to be the search for meaning and purpose in human existence, leading one to strive for a state of harmony with oneself and others while working to balance inner needs with the rest of the world. Link  

This is the most intriguing of all the wellnesses to me. How do I get elementary school students to question why they are here on earth? That is quite a task! Especially when you think that children only stop being egocentric at the age of 7! Link Anyone who has ever taught at this level knows that having students identifying their own feelings is a monstrous endeavor let alone worrying about another person’s feelings!

You may have heard me speak before about Restorative Justice in earlier blogs. If you want to know more about it I would check out Ken Johnson’s book. One of the concepts that I have been using from RJ is circle time. We come in and do an instant activity where the students work on some aspect of fitness. After that, we sit in a circle and the students have an opportunity to share anything they want. If they do not want to share I ask them a question to get to know them better. I sit in the circle with them and we talk about the purpose of the circle. We discuss how everyone has an equal part in the class including myself. I stress that everyone sits in the circle including anyone out on medical. This allows the students to understand they are all connected in the class. It is a far cry from understanding our purpose on earth though.

We also discuss how someone’s actions affect the others in the class. This can come in the form of wasting time or it can be how people help each other out and create a class culture which allows everyone to enjoy their time together. Either way, they understand that they are not individuals solely going embarking on their school journey alone.

Physical Education provides resources for students to be in harmony with themselves. We practice yoga using Miss Jamie and her Cosmic Kids Yoga. We identify how movement lessens depression by releasing endorphins as well as the social aspect of gameplay. All of this helps with the mind-body connection. You can not be in harmony with yourself if you are ignoring either part of oneself.

My Health program is where we really delve into the idea of why are we here on earth. My fifth graders have a wellness unit and we discuss the idea that we are all interconnected on earth. The idea that someone’s actions in NJ can affect someone in Japan is something that is challenging for anyone to comprehend. I also plant the seed that we are on earth for a reason. I ask them to start thinking about their why. It is not realistic to believe that many of my students will fully realize their why in 5th grade. My hope is that being aware of spiritual wellness and the idea that they find their purpose in life will continue to grow throughout their schooling. After all how many adults do we know that can articulate their purpose in life?

Writing this blog makes me realize how important spiritual wellness is. The older I get the more importance I place on being a kind caring person over knowledge and physical activity. It may be that the world around me seems so angry all the time. It may also stem from the selfish reason that I want my children and grandchildren to live in a world that isn’t filled with greedy egocentric people. The idea that we are all connected in some way is nothing new.

I would be remiss if I did not include the fact that when I state that everyone is connected I mean EVERYONE! I make sure that my students hear this explicitly. You can not just be connected to those you identify with. That is another reason that understanding how our actions affect everyone else is so important for our students.

Michael Brown, the author of Finding the Field, offers the idea that there are five universal truths. His third truth hypothesizes that everything is connected.

The third universal truth is that all things—seen and unseen—are connected. All things are different faces of Consciousness. The Field, the Great Spirit, the Source, the Tao, the One: these are all names for the same thing. The universe is consciousness: an ocean in motion, a river of eddies, an infinite field of creative works in which the art is the artist, and the artist is the art. Consciousness, longing to experience itself, imagines us into existence, individualized, so that we can interact as if we were separate. What we create in that experience is also consciousness, and whatever object you can name—a mountain, a mouse, a fish or a fowl, a blade of grass or a puff of air—all of it is consciousness. Link

I love his book and would recommend you take a gander at it when you get a chance. I especially love his first universal truth that we all create our own reality.

I will leave you with a final quote that resonates with me about the idea that we are all connected.

The human individual, for example, is not a lone traveler amid the jungles of existence. He is a part of the world interacting in various ways with that world. Separate cultures are not closed, isolated islands. They are like great waves in the ocean of history, which work upon each other, often merging into even broader waves, often clashing with waves of a different dimension, so that the regular rhythm of the rise and fall of individual waves is broken. Like any other system, an organism or a society lives and functions as long as there is a certain interaction of the elements in these systems or of the systems themselves with other systems. Link


2 of 9 Dimensions of Wellness: Occupational

This is the second of nine installments about how I attempt to teach the whole child. Last week’s blog dealt with how I teach Emotional Wellness in Physical Education and Health and not Math, Science, or Social Studies or other areas of teaching. It also discusses how I believe it is every teacher’s duty to teach the entire child. After writing my original blog on why I teach Physical Education and Health, I received feedback from Shrehan Lynch (@misslynchpe) that there are currently nine dimensions of wellness that are being taught at the collegiate level. Armed with that feedback and the encouragement of Mel Hamada (mjhamada) this has now morphed into a nine-part blog series. I fully expect that I am derelict in my teaching of several areas of wellness. This blog series will allow me to highlight those areas I need to improve.

This week I will analyze the what, how, and why, of my student’s occupational wellness learning journey. Occupational wellness is defined as:

Occupational Wellness is the ability to achieve a balance between work and leisure time, addressing workplace stress and building relationships with co-workers. It focuses on our search for a calling and involves exploring various career options and finding where you fit. Link

You may be asking yourself how can I possibly be addressing occupational wellness at the elementary/middle school level? I would counter with School is my student’s occupation. They spend over 35 hours a week in school, they have to balance school work with leisure time, have school-based stress, and their peers are their co-workers with which they have to build relationships. School definitely encourages students to find their calling and is based almost solely on the idea of finding a future career. Going to school is my student’s occupation.

In Physical Education and Health I try to minimize the amount of work that I give students to finish outside of class. I allow them to make up any work during lunchtime or whenever a teacher is willing to give them free time. This lessens the load of work they are expected to complete outside of school which directly impacts their leisure time.

When I see my students for the first time that week I ask them what did they do outside of school that was fun or movement based. Phrasing my question in this way shows them that I value their free time and expect them to have fun and relax in their leisure time. There are some Physical Education teachers that give their kids a backpack filled with tools that will encourage them to move when they get home. This is a great way to encourage our students; however, leisure time is really up to the choosing of our students. Some find movement activities enjoyable while others want to play video games or read. I am careful not to make judgments about what they are doing. After all what we consider to be leisurely is solely up to the individual.

This brings us to the subject of stress. Stress comes in two forms, eustress, and distress. Eustress is what we consider to be good stress. This stress helps motivate us. Eustress is when our students respond to a stressor (something that causes stress) with positive feelings. I think of eustress as a challenge the students willingly embark on. This could be the parameters we set for the students during a TGFU unit or a rubric that we give out for a project in Health. The students will usually respond positively and work toward the goal. Goals do not always have to be extrinsically set. Students may create stressors themselves in order to help them attain a goal. The point is they react positively to the stressor and it motivates them to accomplish a goal or task. 

Distress is what most of us think of when we hear we hear the word stress. It causes anxiety and fear. This does not help or motivate our students. It puts them in a perpetual state of fight or flight. This distorts their thinking, causes high blood pressure, and over time can negatively affect the various body systems. It can cause depression or suicide. A local area middle school saw the negative results of distress on their students.

In the previous school year, 120 middle and high school students were recommended for mental health assessments; 40 were hospitalized. And on a survey administered by the district, students wrote things like, “I hate going to school,” and “Coming out of 12 years in this district, I have learned one thing: that a grade, a percentage or even a point is to be valued over anything else.” Link

I teach a full unit of eustress and distress in 5th-grade health. We discuss how exercise can decrease distress by releasing endorphins as well as allowing the students to refocus their attention for a while. One of the biggest ways teachers can decrease distress is making our class a place where students want to be. This means we have to understand that not everyone wants to be in our class. Some students fear moving in front of others. We have to minimize this fear, which can only happen if we understand it.

Another way to alleviate stress is to make sure we are culturally competent. If we don’t understand our student’s cultures we can increase their stress. This can show in the way we speak to them, microaggressions that may unknowingly occur, or expectations that may be inappropriate. The only way to combat that is to become culturally competent regardless of what anyone else in your department or school believes.

The final way that I address occupational wellness is by encouraging my students to find their passion. This is something we discuss in 5th-grade Health as well. The discussion centers around what their passions are and how can they get paid to pursue that passion. We also discuss multiple intelligences and how reading, math, and writing aren’t tests of their worth. They measure one part of their schooling and that is all.

I will address building relationships with their peers when we discuss interpersonal wellness.

You might be surprised by how big of a role occupational wellness has in our teaching. It is imperative that we recognize this wellness as being equally important to every other wellness. If we exclude one wellness we aren’t teaching the whole child are we?


Leading with Intention EdCampNJ 2.0: Becoming More Culturally Responsive

edcampnj-site-logo-2016Written by the Leadership Teams from EdCampNJ, EdCamp BROOKLYN and EdCamp REVOLUTION.

There is no better group to plan an event than the EdCampNJ planning committee. We have a plethora of new ideas and innovations that continue to push us forward and supports us as one of, if not, the largest EdCamp in the US. When a concern arises it is handled with relative ease. Multiple people volunteer their time and energy to make the planning process smooth and efficient. This past year an organizer, Sandra Paul, donated a Chromebook! When someone donates a Chromebook from their own pocket they are giving more of themselves than just time or even money.

The current lead organizers of EdCampNJ, Chrissy Romano, Chris Nesi, Justin Schleider and founder Billy Krakower, recognized areas for growth and improvement like every solid planning board should. One such area for growth was the lack of people of color on the organizing team. While we have not gone out of our way to exclude people we did have to ask ourselves have we gone out of our way to include people? We now can answer yes to that question. Juli-Anne Benjamin, founder of EdCampBROOKLYN, and Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price, co-founder of EdCampREVOLUTION, have agreed to help EdCampNJ forward our mission of being more culturally responsive by including voices from ALL educators. The only way to have this happen is if we stop affording limited access or silencing teachers of color.


The purpose of bringing new people to the organizing team is two-fold. The first and most important part is that these educators are brilliant and will undoubtedly bring great ideas to the group. We cannot wait to hear their ideas on how we can improve and see what they bring to the table! When we have multiple perspectives, EdCampNJ can only get better! For that reason alone we will be a better organization.

The second reason for bringing and centering new voices and perspectives to the organizing team is that this will show other people of color that they are entering a place where they will be valued and not marginalized. We can not overstate how important this is to create an inclusive environment that works alongside people of color, defies the norms of our society, and disrupts the system of oppression that people of color encounter daily. We vow and commit to doing better and resist perpetuating a system we have all grown accustomed to by default while holding ourselves accountable when we don’t.

There is more to this mission than just the appearance of people of color or about being perceived as being down with the cause. It is about realizing that there have been groups of people who have not been fairly represented. History shows that segregation and systemic racism created these conditions where white people can choose not to interact with people of color. That is no longer the case. We have to actively and intentionally reach out and center the voices of those who have been marginalized.

EdCampNJ, as an organization, has listened to what people are saying and are actively striving to include everyone into the fold. The main purpose of this blog post is to hold us accountable publicly as well as to spread the word that things are changing for the better at EdCampNJ. However, a secondary purpose of the blog is to let people know EdcampNJ is moving toward an inclusive space while intentionally centering educators of color. As organizers, we can now look in the mirror and say we are taking actionable steps to join the entire tri-state area together. This is the first step towards creating an organization that truly provides opportunities for all to learn.

Please share this post with anyone you know in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania region as well as anyone willing to make the trek to Jersey to learn and grow with other like-minded educators. We would love to hear any feedback on this goal or anything else we do. That is the only way to continue our trajectory toward greatness.

EdCampRevolution 2017

Today was an amazing day. I am feeling a sense of hope and joy that I haven’t felt for a very long time. My goal is to help change the world and I honestly think I may have just been positioned to be a part of a change that will have a huge impact. I will go more into depth with that at the end of this blog. First, let’s talk about how EdCampRevolution rocked my world!

I have been looking forward to this EdCamp for months. The reason why is that their mission aligns with mine. It is one that more conferences need to address.

We at EdCamp Revolution are holding this space for critical educators and progressive educators to come together, share ideas, and feel empowered to affect change in their place of work and communities. How do we discuss STEM, maker-spaces, the arts, health and physical education,  within the context of race, class, gender, equity,  justice, and liberation?

Here is a group of educators that is challenging the status quo in a way that I can fall in line with. After going to the conference I fell in love with them.

The first session titled, Critical Pedagogy, was facilitated by Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price (@Okaikor). For those who do not know her Okaikor is a doctoral student who is very knowledgeable about critical pedagogy as well as other social justice principles.  One definition of critical pedagogy I found states, “Critical pedagogy is a teaching method that aims to help  in challenging and actively struggling against any form of  social oppression and the related customs and beliefs.” (Link)

She did one of the best jobs in facilitating a conversation. It was interesting because she was one of the quieter people in the room when it was obvious that she had a wealth of information. That is is the true spirit of EdCamps. The room discussed the subject and Okaikor jumped in once in awhile with her substantial wealth of information. If you want to see the notes on the session click here. The major takeaway from the session is that I have to read Paulo Freire and learn more about how my students, as well as myself, can question and challenge my system and my class. The action is the key to critical pedagogy.

The second session I went to was facilitated Diana Potts, Stephanie Rivera, and Elissa Malespina. The subject was how to bring up race in your classroom. The session was awesome!! There was fire and a little edge in the room. This made the discussion come alive! My man TJ was dropping knowledge bombs on my right while Julie-Ann, the founder of EdCampBrooklyn, and I were whispering in agreement to each other on the left. There was a student in the session who gave a wonderful synopsis of why it’s important for teachers to step up their views on race and how pictures are sometimes more powerful than words.

My major takeaway from the session is that I need to continue to learn more about history. Black history, Mexican history, African history, US history so that I can fully understand how the world has gotten to this point. Without that knowledge, I am blinded to certain truths.

Now to the groans and glows of the conference! (thank Jorge for allowing me to steal the idea)

Glow: The session board was filled with great subjects! This was not a conference for those scared to discuss the hard topics.

Groan: There were two people who took a lot of the time to talk about what they were doing. Today race was discussed a lot so that may be why but I noticed both people were white. I don’t know if they had anything to do with the fact that they talked for what seemed like at least ten minutes. It is not fair to monopolize so much time when the whole room should be a part of the discussion. Time just doesn’t allow for that as well as for the fact that people don’t pay attention for that long!

Glow: There were more black and brown people there than any other education conference I have ever been to. That was an awesome site to see!

Glow: There was a boat load of food!

Glow: Lunch was short and to the point.

Groan: My kids were sick so I got there late and had to leave early.

Going back to the beginning of the blog I stated how happy I was that a major change may be occurring in NJ, NY, and CT! I had a conversation where I was asked why EdCampNJ wasn’t doing enough to support other EdCamps. It made me realize that we were in a unique position and time to unite all the local EdCamps in NJ, NY, and CT which will solve a couple of issues that have been plaguing them.

The first issue is that EdCampNJ is attended by a large number of white educators. We see this and now have a viable solution. When we unite we will have the voices of teachers of color as well as white teachers.

Another issue is that the EdCamps are all planning on their own independent of one another. This has caused EdCamps to be held on the same day. That doesn’t do anyone any good. Together we can map out a calendar and figure out the best way to spread out the EdCamps.

The final way this new coalition will help is that we can amplify everyone’s EdCamp! We are not in competition with each other. We all have the same goal of bettering our profession. The joining of EdCamp voices will allow everyone to shine brighter!

Today was a day filled with great conversations and hope. That alone was worth going to EdCampRevolution!

1 of 9 Dimensions of Wellness: Emotional

This is the first of nine installments about how I attempt to teach the whole child. Last week’s blog dealt with my Why I teach Physical Education and Health and not Math, Science, or Social Studies or other areas of teaching. It also discusses how I believe it is every teacher’s duty to teach the entire child. After writing last week’s blog, I received feedback from Shrehan Lynch (@misslynchpe) that there are currently nine dimensions of wellness that are being taught at the collegiate level. Armed with that feedback and the encouragement of Mel Hamada (mjhamada) this has now morphed into a nine-part blog series. I fully expect that I am derelict in my teaching of several areas of wellness. This blog series will allow me to highlight those areas I need to improve.

The first dimension that we need to master in order to be well is Emotional Wellness. “The emotionally well person can identify, express and manage the entire range of feelings and would consider seeking assistance to address areas of concern.” Link That is a large range to cover in pre-K to 6th-grade but I try! 

The first way I teach emotional wellness is explicitly in Kindergarten Health. We talk about emotions as well as act out what each emotion looks like. I teach emotional wellness again in 5th grade when we discuss conflict and use I statements. I statements force the child to identify their emotion. An I statement looks like this: I feel ______ when you _____ because_____. This allows the student to identify their feeling.

During my physical education class when there are low-level conflicts the students must talk to each other on the side and figure out what happened and attempt to come to a conclusion on their own. This allows the students to work on developing their emotional language. If the students are not able to do this I step in and ask one student how they were harmed. The harm may come in the form of physical or emotional harm. They will have to identify which it is and state it. I will then ask the other student how they were harmed. This gives both parties the opportunity to analyze the situation and identify how they may have been emotionally harmed.

This is also where the students are expressing their emotions as well as identifying them. They are provided an opportunity to explain what they are feeling and why. I may prod them with questions such as how did that make you feel which allows them to express their emotions as well.

Another way they can express their emotions are during circle time. This occurs after their instant activity as well as at the end of class. Circles may also be called if there is an issue that we need to discuss as a class. The beginning circle is a simple share out time. This is when they can tell me about something they have done in their lives or something they are going to do. Happiness and joy are evident in their stories. The final circle time they have the choice of saying something they are thankful about in class or reflect on their learning during the period.

The other circle that happens much more infrequently is when we have a student or students whose behavior is affecting the whole class. We will circle up and talk about how the students feel that their time is being thrown away or how that child’s actions are affecting the entire class. We make sure to tell the child that we love them but their actions are harming the class in a certain way. I took the circle approach directly from restorative justices practice. If you would like to learn more about them I would suggest you contact Ken Johnson (@kenjohnsonusa). He has written multiple books on it and trains teachers in restorative justice practices. 

The managing of the emotions is tricky. In retrospect, I usually only address anger or frustration. This is when a child reacts to a situation in a way that the school or class deems inappropriate. We speak about how to get our anger out in ways that won’t cause harm to others or ourselves. This can include grabbing the break card off of the door, getting a drink, or taking a lap around the gym to cool down. I do not speak about managing any other emotions. That may be something we can discuss on the SlowchatPE group on Voxer.

I would be remiss if I did not mention instilling a growth mindset in this blog post. Sports skills have the ability to teach you growth mindset like no other. Everyone messes up. It doesn’t matter who you are. We talk about baseball players failing to get a hit two out of every three times and still being legendary. I make sure that our language is phrased in a way that we aren’t putting ourselves down. We say things like I can’t catch yet or I can’t cross jump rope yet. That word yet is powerful. It tells our mind that we will get there eventually. Understanding that it’s ok to mess-up is natural to the area of Physical Education. 

Cooperative learning also helps us look at things positively. I now worry less about the outcome of my students and more about their journey. Together we figure out different ways to solve problems in groups. The students learn how to speak to one another when they are frustrated. I will set up scenarios where if one person does not complete the task the whole group has to start over. This can create conflict and tension. It can also teach my students how to accept making mistakes and learn from them. I have the same conversation with multiple groups about the tone of their voice and how berating or belittling a student doesn’t make them want to work harder. These are all skills an emotionally well person needs to equip themselves with when they are working with other people. Remaining positive and helping a student instead of putting them down is in the best interest of the group as well as the student. 

The final way I teach emotional wellness is allowing the students to understand when they need to seek assistance from me, the social worker, or go to their parents. In Health we talk about depression and suicide. This is a subject that I take very serious. My community, like most, has been rocked by suicide. We discuss what to do when someone tells you they are thinking about committing suicide as well as what the signs and symptoms are. This lesson and my emotional abuse lesson are two of the hardest lessons I teach all year. There is very little room for humor and most kids don’t see the need for the lesson. None of that matters if I am able to reach one student. I am willing to teach that lesson for 30 years if I believe that it can serve even one student now or in the future. 

Depression is a subject that is not easily broached with either students or adults. I know many physical educators that suffer from it who have not made the public aware. We do not have to share everything on social media but I believe that if we talked about depression a little more it would raise awareness as well as destigmatize it. Social media isn’t always about putting your best foot forward. 

Emotional Wellness is an area that Physical Education and Health can help nurture in our students. We have many opportunities to allow the students to identify their emotions and give them ways to accept and understand them. It may occur when we discuss the difference between celebrating a victory or pushing it in the face of others. It may occur when we attempt to calm a child down that is emotionally charged or feels they have been harmed. All of those instances are opportunities to discuss what the students are feeling and how to understand and deal with them.

Our Health standards address conflict from K-12 grade. How we deal with conflict is emotional wellness. A lot of subjects that are broached in Health elicit emotions. As teachers, we are charged with allowing students to express them while still remaining respectful of those with differing opinions.

I feel that I do a solid job with helping my students learn and grow emotionally. I tell them that I love them and make sure that I address their behaviors as being an issue not them. They will hopefully leave my classes with self-confidence, optimism, and self-worth. That alone may be the most important reason to teach there is.