What would the perfect physical education teacher do? Have you ever asked yourself this question? Who do you picture when you think of the perfect teacher? Maybe like me, you picture someone made up of a combination of all the great teachers you’ve ever met, all wrapped up into one incredible superhero package?
Years ago, I fleetingly believed I was on top of the teaching game, perhaps even on my way toward superhero status, until I humbly learned the benchmark I was measuring myself against was outdated and missing major components. My students liked me and they loved physical education, I had very few discipline issues, and when they joined other elementary school students in middle school they showed themselves to be competent athletes. All these factors led me to believe I was doing an outstanding job. What burst my bubble? What brought me to my current realization that I will never “arrive” and will always have room for improvement?
My first ah-ha moment came when I started National Board Certification. As I began studying the teaching standards and planning how I would demonstrate competency in each standard, I realized that a quality physical education program consisted of much more than I was doing. This launched a major reflecting and growing process. I hadn’t understood how high the bar was set. I was amazed that teachers were actually capable of not just accomplishing but mastering each of the standards.
If you haven’t gone through the National Board Certification process, take the challenge! Going through it caused me to compare every aspect of my teaching practices against an exemplary standard. I was forced to weed out habits, activities and lessons that didn’t purposely lead my students toward achieving grade-level outcomes. This reflection brought about more growth in my own teaching than in any course or degree program I’ve ever experienced.
You can read about the National Board Certification process here:
The standards are discussed in detail beginning on page 19 of the above-linked document.
Shortly after the National Board Certification process, I began writing a physical education blog. Writing a blog forces me to reflect on my day-to-day practices. As I teach I often ask myself,
- “Is this something I could share on my blog?”
- “Does this teaching practice reflect the teacher I really want to be?”
- “Is this lesson one I would be proud to share with the readers of my blog?”
- “If this lesson were to be recorded, would I feel good about my colleagues reviewing it?”
This reflection has had a profound effect on my teaching. When I don’t feel good about a lesson or a practice I modify and revise it until I can answer, “yes” to these criteria questions.
Additional ah-ha moments continue to come since joining the physical education social media community. I’ve come to know many amazing physical education teachers who are extremely driven and passionate about improving their craft. These professionals stretch my thinking on a wide variety of topics, and collaborating with these teachers through social media sites such as Twitter and Voxer has enriched my teaching.
It’s not uncommon for teachers today to rave about how they have improved their teaching one hundredfold since joining either Twitter or Voxer. A key reason is that none of us need to depend on our school districts or local organizations to provide quality professional development. In addition, there are many, probably hundreds of excellent physical education blogs, websites, podcasts, and webinars all easily accessible and mostly at no cost.
Being connected through social media has helped me become part of an open, welcoming, and generous professional learning community. This community is made up of teachers who each bring their own strengths and expertise. When one teacher shares an activity or questions a widely accepted practice, it challenges me to examine my own beliefs. This continuous feed of new and challenging information strengthens and shapes my own teaching beliefs, adds to my teaching tool belt, and brings new ideas and activities to my day-to-day practice.
I have also realized that even though I strive to continuously improve, I will never “arrive.” There will be lessons that are impressive causing me to stand back in amazement, but there will also be lessons where I question how I missed the mark. There will be units that gel together where students astound me with their learning, and there will be units where I run out of time, or I take too much time and students’ interests want.
Although successes greatly outweigh failures, teaching is a messy business. As my students are learning I am also learning how to best meet their individual and shared needs. So when I ask, “What would the perfect teacher do?” and picture an image of this superhero, even the face of this fictional character changes to best match the circumstances.
For me, the never-ending challenge of how to improve, how to reach students more effectively, and how to address the grade level outcomes more powerfully, keeps my brain churning. I am truly grateful to all the generous physical educators who in addition to teaching daily, share ideas, concepts, and materials, build websites, write articles, conduct interviews, create physical education apps, and conduct webinars, all to improve our profession and to benefit the lives of our students. You are truly my teaching superheroes!
This article was originally published on January 1, 2016.