Author Archives: slowchatpe


This week for my K-2 students I set up a game where the students had partners. One partner was to stand in a hula hoop holding half of a pool noodle. In the front, back, left and right of the hula hoop a domed cone was placed. The idea of the game was that the defenders were to tag anyone who tried to steal a domed cone from them. Their partner was simultaneously attempting to steal the domed cones from other hoops. If the stole a cone they bring it back to their hoop. If they got tagged they had to touch a wall and attack another hoop. I did not make up the game. To see my lesson plan click here.

During the game, I had a student who happens to play about 60 hours a week of Roblox get upset and stop playing. I asked him why he wasn’t playing and he told me he RageQuit.  I had to look that up. RageQuit: To stop playing a game out of an anger towards an event that transpired within the game. (Link) This idea of RageQuit is interesting. In video games, you can just turn the game off when you get mad. In PhysEd when you quit you are voiding the social contract that you made with your class. RageQuitting affects your classmates and the game.

If my students get upset they can walk on the outside of the gym at any time. That is a release that I purposefully set up. When they are walking there it shows me that there is a problem. They can then either return to the game when they are ready or come talk to me about what the issue is. If they reach that point I have missed an opportunity to step in though.

My goal as a teacher is to intervene before I have a student RageQuit. I want to notice the signs and approach the student and ask why they are frustrated. Sometimes the solution of Rock, Paper, and Scissors does wonders. Other times we work on breathing and other mindfulness techniques. We may have the conversation about big problems and little problems. Whatever the deal is the important part is that as teachers we need to intervene and de-escalate before it is time to RageQuit.

Some may call it grit, resilience, or perseverance. Whatever you call helping our students understand how to deal with their frustration and anger is a major part of our jobs. This may not be located directly in the standards or written as an objective in your plans but it may be the most important thing we teach our students. How do you deal with the anger when it arises? How can we take the feeling of frustration and allow it to dissipate? That is one piece of why teaching is an art, not a science. Each child will need different de-escalation techniques.

An example of this happened on Friday. A student with special needs was upset because I started our Movement Math class in a classroom. It was always in the gym before that. I knew he had struggled the previous day. I walked into his class and he started yelling and threw himself on the floor. I was able to discern that he was upset about the change (some students are good at change). I explained we would start in the class and roll into the gym halfway through the period. He told me he needed some time. I asked how much. He stated he needed ten minutes. I told him ten minutes was fine but if he wasn’t where he needed to be in ten there would be consequences.

I left his class and rejoined the main class that was beginning their movement math project. Ten minutes later this student rolled in ready to join us. If I had gone toe to toe on a power trip I would have ended up restraining the child. Instead, I used de-escalation and was able to get him to join for 35 of the 45 minutes avoiding the RageQuit.

My point of this blog is to let you understand that our students have a threshold of anger or frustration that they are willing to accept. If that threshold is exceeded they may go into a RageQuit. We need to understand our students and step in before this happens.



4th Grade Doesn’t Hold Back

You ever have trouble with your curriculum? Ever taught a semester and looked back and know it just didn’t work? That is how my 4th Grade Health went this year. I struggle with 4th Grade Health for some reason. My lessons are flat and just not as engaging as they should be. How do I know this? I asked. Here is just one section of the responses:


I then asked the class to brainstorm how we can make the class better. Here is what we came up with:


I run professional development on how to be engaging in the classroom and here I was ignoring what I have told countless other teachers to do!

My lessons are clearly stale. This coupled with the lack of movement is a killer. I am going to reach out to my health Voxer group and find out how they teach vitamins and minerals. The content has to be delivered in a better fashion!

It was disheartening to read their responses but on some level I knew that I need to step up my health game in 4th grade. I am glad I asked my students this question or I would have ignored a major weakness in my teaching. I now need to go back and use this information to improve my craft.

How do you get feedback on your teaching?

This is Water

I wake up tired from basketball the night before or maybe it’s my second job that brings me home around the same time the big hand hits the six and the little hand is halfway between the ten and eleven. It could be the blog I wrote that kept me up later than I had anticipated or perhaps an interview with the Voxcast went longer than expected. It doesn’t matter. The kids still need to get dressed, eat, and have their teeth brushed. Book bags need to be packed and we have to be out the door by 8:15.

I hop in the car and stop by Wawa (coffe shop). Coffee is a must. The hot liquid hits my lip and slowly I start to wake up. I walk into school haltingly. Each step forcing myself to professionally start my day. Then it happens. My eyes meet a student’s. The switch is flipped. I automatically let out a wzuuuuuup not letting them know just how tired I really am. Their face lights up. They were acknowledged. They were loved. I follow up my greeting with a fist bump or ask if they want a hug. I may question them about their weekend, their sports game, their sibling or one of a thousand other connection building questions. They answer and walk away ready to start their day knowing I care about them.

I stop in the office and sign in. I say hello to the secretaries and go behind one of them and shake her chair yelling earthquake. (That never gets old.) I pop my head in to my boss say hello and quickly make my way out before I get yelled at or asked to cover a class!

I walk by one of my favorite aids and greet her with a simple word: duty. We both laugh at the hilarity of the word and our childish humor. (I stole this from her other friend who does the same thing to her. I can appreciate good humor even if I am not the creator.) Laughter helps.

I continue down the hallway. Smiling and saying hello to every person I see whether they are young or old.  Whether I have positive or negative emotions attached to the person of child I do not let it show.

I choose to ignore the exhaustion, the worry about my brother, or the stress of my parents unhappiness with me. I force myself to be positive in the present. There will always be problems. Someone will always be unhappy with what I am doing. That’s life. I won’t let my students see my struggle. They deserve the best version I can conjure of myself.

The bell rings. The day is ready to begin.

Watch this video. It does a really good job of helping to explain my mindset. I know him calling the lady fat is wrong. The rest of the message is amazing.

This is Water-David Foster Wallace from alexander correll on Vimeo.


David vs. Goliath (Local vs. SHAPE)

This week SHAPE America had their annual conference. There were close to 3500 attendees who attended the attractive Nashville, TN destination. I would imagine the conference costs easily in the six digit figure. Keynote speakers were flown in, socials were planned, and some of the best and brightest Physical Education and Health teachers shared their immense knowledge and skills with each other. All the major companies brought their best presenters, paid for socials, and gave away free equipment to participants.  I am sure it was amazing.

During this same time, Sean Pasieka (@seanpasieka) held a Physical Education conference with 20 attendants. Attendants were asked to email their best lesson and present them to a group of 18 3rd graders who were willing participants for either the morning or afternoon.  These presenters may have never presented in front of anyone before. They may or may not have been well versed in GLO’s, standard-based grading, or what many consider best practices.  What the attendees lacked in knowledge or experience they made up with by dedicating their day to getting better. They were able to see 15 different lesson ideas, 15 different ways to interact with students, and 15 different ways to present a topic.

This final period of the day every teacher was asked to show one instant activity or tag game. This was a simple demo slam of quick hitting ideas. I loved this idea!

The irony was not lost on me that while the most coveted Physical Education conference in the United States was being held in Nashville a tiny little conference was being held in Kinnelon Nj. The dichotomy could not have been greater. They were polar opposites in terms of cost, attendants, prestige, the vetting process, social media awareness, and pomp/circumstance.

It also occurred to me that both have their place in the world of professional development. We need the big conferences to share the newest ideas, best practices, and newest research. We also need these tiny conferences to keep the fire alive. It gives newer presenters an opportunity to present as well as older ones the opportunity to continue to give back. These small teach meets, pe jams, or mini-conferences are valuable assets that are underutilized.

What are your thoughts?

Physical Activity, Fitness, Academic Achievement, Academic Performance

Dr. Aaron Beighle hit me up on Voxer to discuss my blog titled The True Argument for Physical Education. He gave me some pushback on my loose verbiage. He went on to post his thoughts here on his vlog (video blog).

I have dictated his vlog for your viewing pleasure:

I want to provide a few very brief definitions. I want to talk about the physical activity as a behavior. It’s just any physical activity or any movement we do. I think we often confuse this with fitness.  Fitness is an outcome. Fitness is how well you do on a battery of tests or an individual test but it’s not the same thing as physical activity. Physical activity if it’s done as exercise can improve fitness, but fitness and physical activity are not the same thing.

Academic achievement is just basically standardized test performance. Academic performances are behavior, attendance, attention span, there are all kinds of things that influence academic performance.

I think where we get in trouble is we start focusing on fitness and academic achievement. As a rationale for physical education existing. Which I think physical education exists because we offer something unique that no one else does. But, fitness is something that’s controlled primarily by genetics and maturation. Frankly, some people will never decide to be fit; but, they can be healthy because the health comes from being physically active. We have to keep going back to that. We want kids to be active because the data is pretty clear the data on fitness and academic achievement is correlation and not overly strong.

What is strong is the data on physical activity and academic performance.  We know attention span goes up when they are active and behavior problems go down when they are active.  Those are two often cited barriers. As physical educators, we can improve and help foster physical activity. It’s really hard to foster and promote fitness, I think we have to be very careful on that. Fitness has its place. I’m not saying that fitness doesn’t have a part of this. I think some will choose to be fit some won’t. We have to focus on physical activity because that’s where the health comes from.

You should check out the book No Sweat by Michele Segar. It’s a fabulous book that shows we have some issues with how we do fitness. We probably aren’t doing it the right way. We are not using the right motivation or helping people find meaning in physical activity.

We need to focus on physical education. It stands on its own for the potential that we have for impacting the health and physical literacy journey for students. It also has physical activity benefits so promotoing physical activity (first) and then… there is also these cognitive benefits as well that are academic benefits as well. We need to be careful about tying in fitness and saying if they do better on fitness tests they will do better academciall. Its a slippery slope and I dont know if we have all the data in yet.

Dr. Aaron Beighle

That is a brilliant bit of work right there! The argument isn’t about fitness at all. It’s about movement. This ties in brilliantly to Dr. Oconnor’s latest post titled Teaching Movement for Understanding. We have to go back to the idea of movement as fun and enjoyable. Everything stems from there. Physical Education teaches and encourages physical activity first and foremost. Are there additional benefits in academic behaviors? Absolutely! That is not something we should hang our hat on though.

With that being said, it is a bargaining chip to be used in a system that undervalues us. If we were building a boat the academic benefits would be a decorative bow on the side somewhere. We make the case that students health is more important than test scores. If we focus on that and don’t let the test score pendulum scare us we will be pointed in the right direction as a profession.

P.S. Don’t allow standardized testing in our profession either!

What can you add to this conversation? Tweet @AaronBeighle @Schleiderjustin @JustenO’connor


EdCamp After Hours

Today I went to EdCamp After Hours at Harrison High School in Nj. Bibiana Prada and Maria Fernandez were the lead organizers of the event. What separates this EdCamp from most others is that Bibiana is bringing EdCamps to urban school districts. The major change is that the EdCamp is held right after school. This allows teachers from urban districts to go right from work to the professional development. The second part of this initiative is that the hosting school provides dinner for the participants. As the great Jarrod Robinson says, “limit or remove the barriers to entry”.

The event was intimate with a little over 50 people attending. What was cool about the attendees is that it ran the gamut from administrators to social workers to teachers. Every facet of the Harrison Township School District was represented. This shows clearly that the staff is working together and supporting each other.

Over 90% of the employees had never been to an EdCamp before. Knowing this some sessions were chosen and placed on the board before the attendees arrived. This took the pressure off of the event and the newbies by having veteran facilitators take on some of the burdens.

I facilitated two of my favorite subjects social justice and movement in the classroom. The social justice session was amazing. It was a true facilitation. In attendance, there were administrators, a college professor, an ESL teacher, an affirmative action officer, and a school counselor. We discussed intersectionality, the difference between sex and gender, and the idea of taking care of the child’s basic needs before being able to teach them content. The session gave me life. The conversation was flowing and the engagement in the room was through the roof. I took away more from the session than anyone else! What a fantastic group of people to converse with.

The second session I facilitated was movement in the classroom. Coming from the #PhysEd and #Healthed world this is near and dear to my heart. I learned about karate math. This looks super cool. If anyone knows more about it hit me up! I pulled out the usual bag of kinesthetic tricks including rock, paper, scissors, least common multiple, the game jump, and four corners. As always I gave a shot out to Mike Kuczala and his Kinesthetic Classroom book.

A cool part of the night was the app smack down. We demonstrated Nearpod, NoRedInk, Seesaw, Plickers, podcasts, Twitter, and more. The attendees were all about it. We gave out swag at the end but unlike other EdCamps, it wasn’t all about the swag.

I have to say that this was one fantastic event. I had a really great conversation with a vice principal, guidance counselor, and principal about the walkout that occurred that day. We went into the pros and cons, what to do with the students that stayed in, and how the police and fire were on patrol to ensure the student safety. The people truly made the evening shine. I have been to bigger events that had no energy and even less engagement. That was not the case tonight. From the little I know about the Harrison School District it seems like a place I would love to send my children to.

Huge shoutout to Shivan and Adriana who made the night so much fun. When the organizers are enjoying themselves it sets up the whole event for success.

If there are any EdCamps near you go to one!


The Metamorphosis of a Teacher

This week’s guest post is penned by none other than THE Jorge Rodriguez. 1.jpgJorge is the captain and creator of the Voxcast, a part of the Physedagogy Team, and a Spark superhero. More importantly, I consider Jorge to be a friend and mentor. He pushes my thinking and is constantly challenging my thought process. I read this and was amazed at how clearly there is a parallel between philosophy and our teaching journeys. I hope this encourages you to reflect as it did me. Enjoy.

Friedrich Nietzsche famously said, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” To me, the implication of this statement is we should embrace challenge in our life in order to become better.  We should seek to make ourselves uncomfortable in order to find truth. If the chaos of challenge doesn’t kill us, it will make us stronger individuals; mentally, physically and spiritually. This is a profound idea.  More than what I bargained for when I started learning more about his work. However, as I reflect on my 13 years as a physical education teacher, I think about my journey and it reminds me of the “metamorphosis of man” that Nietzsche talks about in his book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Nietzsche suggests that evolution does not happen by accident, we must aspire to be more than what we are. This metamorphosis has three stages, the spirit to the camel, the camel to the lion and the lion to the child.  I believe that many teachers go through a similar change.

The spirit is the individual whose purpose is simply to get by. This could be the new teacher who struggles to deal with the complexities of the profession and seeks out a comfort zone.  This could also be the seasoned teacher that has found that comfort zone and has lived in it for years. The spirit represents the passive individual that takes little risk and generally tries to stay out of the spotlight. This teacher might do just enough to get by, reluctant to ruffle any feathers because of the fear of discomfort.  If we are to grow out of this stage as teachers, we must have the courage to rise to the challenges of our profession. We must equip ourselves with the power of knowledge by understanding the system we work in and embracing the challenges it offers.

The first transformation is from the spirit to the camel. The camel is a beast of burden. This teacher is happy to take on the weight of responsibility placed upon them by the system.  This teacher embraces the challenge and is willing to work within the confines of the school system. This teacher has a strong sense of duty and is eager to show his/her worth by working hard.  I see this teacher as someone that is married to the standards and grade level outcomes. In a traditional school system, this teacher can be a highly effective teacher. He/she works hard, teaches the content and does not challenge the system.  In many ways, this is highly desirable in a traditional setting.

The second transformation is from a camel to a lion.  This transformation requires self-reflection and questioning of the status quo.  Where the camel is comfortable working within the system, the lion seeks freedom above all things.  This teacher knows the standards well but rejects the idea of being limited by them. This teacher seeks liberation from external influences that are designed to bring value or worth.  This teacher seeks intrinsic motivation for themselves and their students. Teacher appraisal systems and student grades are not enough. Although the lion seeks liberation, the system is all this teacher knows and will tend to revert back to what is known. The challenge for the lion is creating from emptiness.  

The last transformation is from the lion to the child.  The child enters into a new beginning absent of the past.  A traditional school system may not allow for this type of transformation.  The child approaches the world uninterested in external answers or approval.  This teacher would primarily focus on play and the joy of learning for the sake of learning.  Although the child may not be easily attained, it can be something to aspire to.

In contrast, Zarathustra warns us of the last man.  The last man is seeking safety above all and lives to consume rather than create.  Zarathustra says, “One must still have chaos in oneself in order to give birth to a dancing star.”  The last man believes that order is the only way and therefore seeks standardization. In education, this is the unbalanced relationship with standardized testing.  This is the insistence in measuring all students in the same way and measuring success with compliance. This is hierarchical control under the guise of safety, where teachers and students learn not to take risks. This potential lives in all of us.  To counter this, we should live in a way that promotes self transformation through challenge.

Nietzsche suggests that evolution is not guided by accident or time, it is guided by aspiration and a will to become better.  We will not evolve as individuals if we do not aspire to be better. Time alone does not make us wise. Instead, we should aspire to be more.  We should aspire to see the world as a child, new and full of hope.

Response to this blog:

The stage of the spirit reminds me a lot of when I first started teaching and when my children were very young. ‘The spirit is the individual whose purpose is simply to get by.” Sometimes getting by is all we can muster. We battle family concerns, personal issues, economic forces, political winds and a variety of other influential occurrences.

For me, the change from the Spirit to the Camel is learning how the system works.” This teacher is happy to take on the weight of responsibility placed upon them by the system.”  I volunteered for various committees, starting holding pd, and ventured outside of Physical Education.

I turned from the Camel to the Lion once I realized the system was broken. “This transformation requires self-reflection and questioning of the status quo.” Our students were only valued as test scores and school was not enjoyable for them. My classes were run top down. My students were not finding the joy in movement because I was the only one creating the scenarios for them to move.

My last metamorphosis is the one that is occurring for me right now. I am currently moving from the Lion to the Child. “The child approaches the world uninterested in external answers or approval.” I am not looking for approval from anyone outside of my students. My evaluations carry little weight other than job security. The real feedback comes from my students. They are enjoying class more. This has created much better learning situations where everyone’s voice is valued.

I personally feel that SHAPE America is the Last Man in this philosophical identification. “The last man believes that order is the only way and therefore seeks standardization.” Our national organization is moving towards more standards, more testing, and a more nationalistic approach to teaching. It is our job to remind our state and national organizations that you work for us. We need more individual resources that will impact our lessons not more standardization of content. Create units for us that are outside of the traditional North American Eurocentric sports garbage we have been doing for years. Incorporate biking standards, skiiing standards, and swimming standards. No one is under the illusion that our students will master all of the standards that are out there. Create a boatload so we can a la carte them and create a personalized Quality Physical Education program.

The end.

Questions via Jorge Rodriguez:

  1. Nietzsche suggest that we should aspire to become more.  What should education aspire to do?
  2. What role does a HPE teacher have this evolution?
  3. Where do you see yourself as a teacher in the stages of metamorphosis?
  4. What is needed to help you evolve to the next stage?
  5. What would have to change in order to teach full of hope and joy, as a child?