This is the sixth of nine installments about how I attempt to teach the whole child. Last week’s blog reflected on how I teach Intellectual 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.
Physical Education has a special place for Interpersonal Wellness. It can either set the stage for a vast improvement or make a child completely vulnerable and harm them to the core. “Developing interpersonal wellness means learning good communication skills, developing the capacity for intimacy, and cultivating a support network of caring friends and or family members.” Link
We teach communication skills in a variety of ways. There are the classic blindfold games where students must take directions from their teammates as well as non-verbal games where students have to communicate without making a sound. Other times students have to communicate where they are going or what is happening during the game. Every teacher works on that communication.
The communication I tend to focus on is the way my students interact with each other socially. Physical education is an area where conflicts arise constantly. Students are constantly making contact with each other. This could be a tag game, a sporting activity, or simply running close together. This invasion is just one way that conflict can arise. I have changed my teaching strategy so that students must first speak with each other before they come speak to me about a problem. If the situation is not resolved I will step in and help out with peer mediation. This is one way that we can teach our students how to respectfully interact with each other. When students are able to speak with each other and solve problems they are able to establish and create friendships.
One of the greatest ways we work on interpersonal wellness is through the use of cooperative games. Dr. Vicky Goodyear has some great resources that I have used that can be found here. Dr. Ash Casey is a cooperative games expert and has a book entitled Cooperative Learning in Physical Education. According to Dr. Casey, “Cooperative Learning is a dynamic instructional model that can teach diverse content to students at different grade levels, with students working together in small, structured, heterogeneous groups to master subject content.”
One of my favorite activities had the students perform tasks as a group with an individual projectile. If one person couldn’t perform the task the entire team started again. Before they could start the task again I had the students get together and attempt to figure out why the group didn’t succeed. The idea was to create tasks that forced students to work together where there was no losers or competition. It also forced the students to work together. The superstar couldn’t take over. It is not about the individual success of one student on the team but the success of every student on the team. The discussion piece also allowed the group to work on communication skills.
You may have noticed that my students talk to each other a lot. Every opportunity they get to speak to each other works on their interpersonal wellness. My students and I work on how we speak to each other. We discuss the tone of voice, clear presentation of facts, and finding solutions to problems. Is there any more important skill than communication to help ensure future relationships?
Earlier in the blog, I mentioned that physical education can also harm our student’s interpersonal wellness. I remember vividly one class I had a student throw the ball off the face of another student on purpose. I have read other anecdotes of students with power exercising it by harming, either physically or verbally, LGBTQIA students, students of color, or students with disabilities just to name a few. If teachers do not step in and address this harm we are neglecting our students Interpersonal Wellness. Students will not learn how to regain their power during these situations unless we give them the tools and support to fight back. More importantly than that, if we do not address it we condone it.
My final thoughts on interpersonal wellness are that Physical Education can create the perfect atmosphere for creating and sustaining friendships. I just finished listening to Andy Vasily’s Run Your Life episode 52 with Scott Kretchmar. They talked about creating joy in the classroom. What better way to have human interaction than with joy? I personally want my students to enter my gym and have a shared positive experience. Interpersonal wellness is a huge part of that.