7 of 9 Dimensions of Wellness: Cultural

This is the seventh of nine installments about how I attempt to teach the whole child. Last week’s blog reflected on how I teach Interpersonal 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 blog may be the most important blog in the series. Our country is in a state of flux right now. The hate and anger that has been festering in people has now risen up and showed itself to the world. Hate crimes are rising, hatecrimesnycfeb122017police are shooting unarmed People of Color at an alarming rate, and the White House is run amok with antisemitism. (link). The only positive I can draw from this is that we have the power to change the mindset of young America. We can do that by addressing Cultural Wellness in our classes.

“A culturally well person is aware of their own cultural background, as well as the diversity and richness present in other cultural backgrounds. Cultural wellness implies understanding, awareness and intrinsic respect for aspects of diversity. A culturally well person acknowledges and accepts the impact of these aspects of diversity on sexual orientation, religion, gender, racial and ethnic backgrounds, age groups, and disabilities.” (link)

Before we delve into how exactly I am teaching cultural wellness I must state that if we are not addressing this in your class that is a moral failure on our part. We no longer have the luxury of teaching children without understanding and including cultural wellness in our class. If we are ignoring cultural wellness we are harming our students. We may be using microaggressions, which are racist, without even realizing it. A microaggression is,“A statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.” (link) Unintentional racism is still racism though; just as ignorance of the law does not excuse you from the consequences of it.

I know the term racist gets white people hot under the collar. I myself was called it and it devastated me. What some people don’t understand is that our society is racist. Every time we see movies, magazines, news articles, and television shows we are bombarded with the racist messages. (link) This impacts teachers without us even knowing it. (link) I am not excusing our racism. I am just showing you that just because we don’t hate black and brown people doesn’t mean we aren’t racist. We have an implicit bias simply by living in America. I know for a fact I have implicit bias because I have taken the implicit bias test from Harvard University.

Cultural wellness is more than just racism though. Some of the ways students can be discriminated against is by, disability, nationality, ethnic or national origin
religion, belief or lack of religion/belief, sex, sexual orientation, age, being or becoming a transsexual person, being married or in a civil partnership, or being pregnant. There are probably many more groups of people that I am missing. The main point of this blog is that we can help raise the awareness that people are being discriminated against in the world. More than that there are students in your school that is being discriminated against.

I have to be honest though, my teaching of cultural wellness isn’t even close to the level it should be. I have taught for 11 years. I would say 9 of those years I wasn’t even aware of cultural wellness, either my own or my students. Once I became aware that I needed to look at how and what I taught from a cultural wellness perspective I have started to slowly implement it into my teaching.

The first way is by honoring the some of the designated months. So far I teach the history and game of netball during women’s history month. I teach chess, yes chess, during black history month. You can read more about that here. That is not enough though. I don’t do anything for any other months. I also don’t teach enough about black or women history outside of those allocated months. This is a weakness that I am attempting to remedy more and more every year I teach.

Other ways that I address cultural wellness in my class is by avoiding the term boys and girls. If that bothers you check your bias. The students are dismissed by color of clothing, birth date or the classic if you had fun line up. I will also say those who are boys or identify as boys get the equipment. That plants the seed that there are people who may not look like a boy who identifies as a boy.

The greatest impact in my class is during our circle time. This is a restorative justice practice where one person is speaking while the rest of the class works on active listening. This is a time where the students can share anything with me. They are able to tell me about their personal lives. This allows the group to get a different perspective on their classmates. Students can see their similarities and differences in a controlled and safe environment.

Health class allows me to address cultural wellness explicitly. My favorite lesson for 1st grade that I tie into racism uses the Dr. Seuss video Sneetches. I use Edpuzzle and show the video with questions embedded into it. The video will stop automatically and we can discuss the questions as a class. Click this link to see the video and the questions. Another great video to discuss race with 6th graders is the TED talk with Mellody Hobson titled Color Blind or Color-Aware. The students use Edpuzzle to individually reflect on the talk and then we discuss it as a class afterward. Click this link to see the video and questions we discuss in class.

Another great resource to discuss racism comes from the show What Would You Do? This episode shows a white man, a black man, and a white woman all the same age and dressed similarly stealing a bike from a park. The video shows different people’s reactions to them. It is a great conversation started about implicit bias and racism. If you would like to see the video with the questions I use click here.

There is so much more to say and write about cultural wellness that entire books have been written about it. One book I would highly recommend you buy is Social Justice in Physical Education: Critical Reflections and Pedagogies for Change. It is written by some heavy hitters in the Physical Education world. I would say this is my bible for how to learn more about cultural wellness in physical education.

My final thought on cultural wellness is that we need to be aware of what is going on in our town, our state, our country, and the world. Hate, fear, and prejudice is still rampant in our country and around the world. There are concentration camps where gay men are sent to (link), Our President and Vice President do not support the LGBTQIA community (link), and Roe vs. Wade is in it’s most precarious situation since its inception (link). The only way we can fight hate is by having our children become humanists. “Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.” (link) The beauty of humanism is that it doesn’t run counter to anyone’s religion nor is it anti-religion. It is simply the idea that ALL people deserve personal fulfillment and that we ALL need to work toward making the world a better place. Hopefully, I have given you something to think about. Thank you for reading my most important blog yet.

6 of 9 Dimension of Wellness: Interpersonal

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.

5 of 9 Dimension of Wellness: Intellectual

This is the fifth of nine installments about how I attempt to teach the whole child. Last week’s blog reflected on how I teach Financial 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 Intellectual Wellness. “Intellectual wellness is engaging the individual in creative and stimulating mental activities to expand their knowledge and skills and help them discover the potential for sharing their gifts with others.” Link That definition is a good start but what are the knowledge and skills of? Let’s take a look at the definition of intellect. Intellect is, “…the faculty of reasoning and understanding objectively, especially with regard to abstract or academic matters.” Link That is more in line with how I view intellectual wellness because it incorporates metacognition and growth mindset.

Now we know the what let’s take a look at the how. The content knowledge starts with terminology. My youngest students (k and 1) learn what the locomotor movements are, the areas of the basketball court, angles, animals, offense, and defense to name a few. These all occur naturally within the games and activities. As my students get older they learn about the FITT principle, rules of different sports, origins of games, and history.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. Our games and activities are filled with problem-solving and decision making. Some teachers may not even realize how much intellect we are addressing just by having the students play in structured activities. It is extremely difficult to stay within the rules and parameters of the games that we set up for our students. Not only do our students have to figure out what to do they have to rule out all the things they can’t do as well.

An easy example of this is the game of Sharks and Minnows. The goal of the game is for students to get from one side of the gym to the other without being tagged by the people in the middle. It is a game that every level of student from K-12 grade loves to play. During this simple game, the student who is attempting to cross the gym has to map out a plan of where they want to go. They have to avoid any obstacles as well as stay within the boundaries. That plan gets changed as soon as they start moving depending on where they taggers go, who is in their way, and what pathways are now available for them. They also have to figure out what angle to take in order to avoid a tagger who may be faster than them. There also may be the need to juke a defender in order to get them off balance and surpass them. All of those decisions are made without most students even consciously being aware that it is happening.

That is where metacognition happens. A knowledgeable teacher will ask the students questions that force them to think about why they did something. A simple example of this could be the teacher asking the student why did you get tagged? This forces the student to analyze their actions and decisions. That is the beauty of TGFU (teaching games for understanding) and inquiry-based teaching. We are teaching our students to think about thinking.

That is also why it is so important that I give my students time to reflect during class. I use Seesaw for my students to either write or video reflect on the class, their choices, the game or make a connection to the outside world. If the student can not connect our lesson to something outside of class that opens the door for us to discuss the why behind what we did. I want my students to ask why. They have the right to question anything we do in class.  

This brings us to the polarizing idea of Growth Mindset. At its core growth mindset is the idea that we can always get better and that when an outcome doesn’t occur in the manner that we would have preferred we look at why it didn’t. After analyzing why we didn’t achieve the desired outcome we try to figure out if we should attempt to solve the problem again in the same manner or change our approach.

That is a simplistic definition but for the purpose of this blog, it will have to suffice. Some students just give up when things don’t go their way. That is when we hear statements that have negative self-talk or the student just stops trying. I step in and explain that most people stink at anything when they first try. These students look at their peers who excels at dribbling skills and do not realize how much practice went into that level of proficiency. The intellectual wellness part of teaching is having the student figuring out how we can raise their level of skill to a place they want it to be. This may be correcting form, practicing more, or understanding that certain things we just won’t be that great at no matter how many times we attempt it.

Another part of intellectual wellness that I teach is having the students become open to new ideas. I am constantly introducing new games and activities that the students haven’t played before. This not only keeps things fresh for me but also encourages them to try new things. Imagine if we only ate the food we liked when we were eight years old! I would never know the deliciousness that is sushi. That is the same for ideas. If we are not open to learning how will we ever grow our intellect? The key here is that it has to be fun and driven by the student. Anytime we force humans to do something we run the risk of them pushing back simply due to the fact that they were forced to do it.

We can’t discuss intellectual wellness without including creativity and critical thinking. Intellectual wellness is a skill that needs to be practiced. Teachers frequently state that their students aren’t creative or critical thinkers. They want the answers handed to them. Fortune 500 companies complain that college graduates lack those skills. Link If we don’t give the students opportunities to be creative or critical how can we expect them to master those skills? I allow my students to create games and activities. Once we have played their games or mine for a round or two I ask how can we make the game better. That question allows the students to work on their creativity and critical thinking. Dr. Harvey gave me the idea to have the losing team in a game have the ability to create or change a rule that either gives the losing team an advantage or the winning team a disadvantage. That right there is a critical thinking home run.

I have written before how I allow my students to create games or activities outside of class. They share those with me via Seesaw, Google docs, or a simple drawing. They know that I reserve the right to tweak their game as I see necessary for either safely or to marry it to a grade level outcome. If you would like to read more about this idea click here.

One final area of intellectual wellness that is never addressed is a sense of humor. I attempt to show how humor can be used in a variety of ways. I make fun of myself to model how not to take yourself too serious. I make corny dad jokes in class. If you don’t know what dad jokes are click here. My favorite thing to do is yell at my students that there is no smiling or laughing in school. It is a foolproof way to get them to start laughing and smiling. The bottom line is that humor falls under intellect.  “From a psychological perspective, the humor process can be divided into four essential components: (1) a social context, (2) a cognitive-perceptual process, (3) an emotional response, and (4) the vocal-behavioral expression of laughter.” Link  If we look at the second essential component humor is thinking. A sense of humor is disarming. It helps ease tension and bring people together. Humor is an underrated tool in life. If more of us laughed at ourselves and with each other, the world would be a better place. 

Intellectual wellness is something that every teacher regardless of subject area addresses. In Physical Education some may undervalue it. Those who do not understand Physical Education may believe that we do not address it all. The truth is we address intellectual wellness in a way that is unique. We teach with and through movement. It is how our brains work best.

Peter Strick at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center of Syracuse, New York, has documented another link. His staff has traced a pathway from the cerebellum back to parts of the brain involved in memory, attention, and spatial perception. Amazingly, the part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain that processes learning.” Link

Case closed.

 

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?