This blog will examine my first week of school routine. There has been a lot of growth in my professional life and I believe this routine mirrors that growth. A quick background about my job so you can put all this into context. I have been at my school for 8 years. I am the only Phys Ed teacher at the school which ranges in grades from Pre-K to grade 6. Finally, I am a white cis-gendered heterosexual male in a predominantly white institution.
The first day of school I planned on the students wearing their nicest clothes which means they some won’t be wearing sneakers. This meant that the activities I planned had to be low movement in order to have everyone participate. I didn’t want anyone sitting and I also don’t believe in coming up with a boatload of rules nor do I believe that going over the rules day 1 is a good idea. There is nothing worse than being excited for school and hearing the teacher drone on and on about rules. Can you think of anything that can suck the joy out of life quicker?
My pre-k and K are mostly new students. For these classes, the kids came in and sat in a circle. I went around to each child and asked their name. After they told me I repeated their names making sure I said it correctly. I then started at student one saying their name and continuing to the next student continuing this pattern until I arrived at the next student who had not told me their name or I had finished asking every student their name. Once this was accomplished I asked the kids to touch a wall and come back sitting in a new spot. When they came back I went around and attempted to say the name of every child without messing up. We did this 2-3 times until I learned every student’s name. This isn’t anything flashy or particularly fun for the students although they were amused watching me struggle during the process.
Every class did the same general activity called “toss 10”. You can find the resource by going to the esteemed @physednow (Jorge Rodriguez) page located here. The basic idea of the game is to toss a ball in the air and do a variety of motions before catching it. His activity was done under the cooperative games category. My children had the choice to choose a group or do the activity individually. I started every class out with a simple throw the ball in the air and catch it. I changed how many times they needed to do this consecutively in order to level up. I wanted the frustration level low and the success level high so I allowed them to pick one of the three numbers I gave them based on their ability. For example, I gave my first graders the choice of catching the ball 5, 7, or 10 times before they would advance to the next level based on how well they thought they would do. Once they learned what the new challenge was they could pick a new number to complete the level if they chose to. Some levels are easier than others. The numbers I gave them to choose from varied by age.
Some classes finished so quickly that I had them create levels to add once they finished the levels Jorge provided in his resource. I used these levels with my others classes as well. I gave the creators credit of course. The students had a variety of projectiles to use as well. This gave them some choice and bean bags are easier for some levels where balls were easier for others.
At the end of the class, the students were in groups and discussed what they believe the purpose of Physical Education is. This was the perfect time for me to tell them my philosophy as well. The dialogue touched on the difference between physical education and fitness. I told them that my job was not to create sports players. My main goal is to provide them with various movement opportunities, alone and with others, that focused on happiness and joy. There is nothing more important than having my students develop a positive association with the movement.
Back to my not addressing rules and procedures. My first graders and up have had me as a teacher before. They know the rules. We don’t have to go over them. As far as procedures I addressed them as they happened. For example, when they asked me to go to the bathroom I referred them to the class to find out what they should say in order to go. The answer is some version of, “I am going to the bathroom.” We discuss how they are old enough to know they have to go they don’t have to ask. They just have to let me know they are in there in case there is a drill or emergency.
The second procedure that comes up naturally is getting a drink. Some students may forget or have been brainwashed that they have to ask to get a drink. The procedure is to get a drink whenever I am not talking. I keep my talking time to under 5 minutes a class period so this gives them a plethora of time to get a drink. We also discuss how they don’t need permission to get a drink. I equate this to them not asking if they can cough or sneeze. If your body needs water go get it why do I have to be involved in the process?
My rules are very simple. I stole this from someone I believe on the West Coast. Respect yourself, others, and the equipment. That covers everything. If you have more than five rules it is probably too much. #justsaying
This approach is intentional. My students came in excited and left excited. The students worked on their socialization, fine motor skills, and cognition. More importantly, my students came in excited and left excited. Can you tell just how important that is to me? Maybe this will help bolster my justification of my approach:
In the new study, the researchers noted a strong temporal relationship between the school year and the frequency of the encounters for suicidal thoughts or actions; link
If you are the reflective type, which you should be, what does your beginning of the year look like? What does your approach say? Does it say come enjoy yourself while we are together or does it say don’t do this and don’t do that? Hopefully, your approach says thanks for being here let’s have fun and learn.
As always I appreciate your time.