Monday, November 7, 2011

My Athletics/Coaching Philosophy

Interscholastic athletics are an essential part of creating well-rounded students. Athletics give students an opportunity to learn about sportsmanship and teamwork while enhancing their level of fitness. Athletics can also help students develop socially by giving them a chance to interact with other people and by increasing their self-confidence. . I know that when I was in high school, joining the varsity swim team brought me out of my shell and was a major factor in making me the person I am today by making me more confident in myself. Athletics provide a healthy outlet for stress and frustration and help to keep students out of trouble. If a student really cares about their sport and their team, and if they have goals they want to accomplish, they’re less likely to get mixed up with drugs and alcohol, and less likely to get in trouble in school because they know that all of these things could impact their ability to participate.
            As a coach, my job goes far beyond just writing workouts for my athletes to complete. My job is to motivate my athletes to do their best and to always work hard, both on and off the field. My high school swim coach is the model of a great coach that I strive to achieve. He could always get us fired up and motivated to make it through a hard workout or a hard set. He always stressed that each and every one of his athletes was the best person they could be. When report cards came out, if you have any grades under a C, you didn’t swim in the next meet. It didn’t matter if you were the fastest kid on the team or the slowest, or if it would cost us the meet, he always stuck to his guns. In line with being the best we could be, he also insisted that all of his athletes be gentlemen and that we always show good sportsmanship. At meets, no matter what the other team was acting like, we always kept our composure and acted professionally.
            My goal as a coach is to instill these same values into all of my athletes so that I can help them be the best athletes and people that they can be.

My Physical Education Philosophy

The point of physical education is to improve the minds and bodies of our students and to teach them how to be active and healthy for their entire lives. Too often in our society is physical education viewed in a negative light. Physical education is historically a class of segregation; the “jocks” throwing red rubber balls at the “nerds.” This is the exact opposite of what PE should be. PE should be about teaching all students how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. As a physical educator, it’s my job to ensure that I pass on my love of physical activity to my students.
            An ideal physical education program would be planned out from grades K-12 so that there is no redundancy. Rather than playing basketball every winter for their entire school career, students should be taught a variety of sports and activities so that they can discover what they love and have a passion for. My ideal physical education curriculum involves teaching young students basic motor skills and movement patterns while developing their coordination. Once students start to reach the end of their elementary school careers and head into the middle school, the focus should switch to teaching a variety of competitive sports so that the students can find one they’re interested in and can join interscholastic athletics in middle school. Different competitive sports should be taught until 9th or 10th grade at which point the focus should switch to lifelong fitness activities. Since a lot of students don’t move onto compete in intercollegiate athletics, it’s important to teach them how to stay healthy and active on their own, without a coach or teacher telling them what to do.
            It is my goal to develop students who can enjoy the challenge of interscholastic athletics during their school years and can maintain a health-enhancing level of fitness when they are out of school. By developing well-rounded, extremely active students, I’ll be helping them stay healthy, live longer, and grow as human beings.

My Education Philosophy

The purpose of education is to open up the minds of the students and motivate them to learn and grow as human beings. This is accomplished through a well-rounded and well planned curriculum that exposes the students to as many new ideas and experiences as possible. By learning these new ideas and living these experiences, the students will be able to grow as individuals. It is the duty of the educators and of the school staff to construct this curriculum so that the students are motivated to learn and so that the curriculum challenges the students. This curriculum should also treat all subjects equally. Math, History, Physical Education, Science, English, etc. should all have an equal part in our schools.
            In my mind, the biggest enemy to a good education is a negative classroom climate. As a former socially awkward teenager, I can attest to the fact that the majority of “disengaged students” are only that way because they feel uncomfortable in the classroom. If a student is afraid to raise their hand to ask a question, or afraid to answer a question asked by the teacher, or afraid to participate in PE because of the other kids, then this student isn’t getting all that they can out of their education and because of this their education is going to suffer. The biggest part of creating a positive classroom climate is teaching students that everybody is different and everyone has different abilities in different subject areas. The “jocks” who make fun of the “nerd” because he can’t hit a baseball wouldn’t like it if that student made fun of them for not being able to do Calculus. The teachers need to help the students understand that even though everybody isn’t at the same ability level in every facet of life, every student is trying their hardest and rather than making fun of someone if they can’t do something, you should help them so that they can learn and improve themselves.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Incorporating Other Subjects into Physical Education

I recently started reading a book called The Physics of Superheroes and it got me thinking about how hard subjects can be made much more tolerable if you relate them to things that you're more interested in. I've always liked physics anyway, but it got me thinking about how we, as Physical Education teachers, could use our class to teach more than just throwing and catching.

A lot of the time, learning is paired with movement for younger students. Elementary schools are full of movement activities designed to help reinforce what the students are learning in class (counting, colors, etc.). The problem is that when you get to the higher levels of learning (i.e. high school), physical education class becomes all about playing sports all year long and other classes are restricted to the classroom. This form of PE caters to the more athletic students (because I've been watching 80's movies all day, we'll call these students "jocks"). On the other hand, you have students who like classes such as physics and math, who may not like PE (to stick with our theme, we'll call these students "nerds". I don't mean this in any derogatory way at all, seeing as I used to be a nerd myself) So here you have two groups of students, the jocks and the nerds. Jocks love PE and hate physics, and nerds love physics and hate PE. How can we try to get both of these students involved in a class that they hate? What if we paired the classes together? We could use PE to teach physics. This would help the jocks care more about physics, and would get the nerds to care more about physical education.
An example of an activity that we could do in a class like this would be having students throw a ball as far as they can and measuring it. We can than use this measurement to figure out how fast the students threw the ball.
This is the simplest example that I could think of and is very easy to set up and to actually do in a physical education setting. You could of course think of more complex activities in order to teach more complex ideas. And of course, this example only relates to physics, you could incorporate any other subject into PE if you're creative enough.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Responding to Different Learning Styles

As effective teachers, we need to be aware of the fact that students have different learning styles and we need to be aware of how respond to these different learning styles. This video shows that there are three different learning styles: auditory learners learn through listening, visual learners learn through seeing, and kinesthetic learners learn through doing or through activity. 
Most people have taken a learning styles inventory at some point in their school career. These are tests that ask the person taking the test a series of questions to determine their ideal learning style. Anyone who goes to Cortland remembers the VARK Learning Styles Inventory from COR 101 freshman year. VARK is just one of the most recent learning style inventories and actually breaks learning down into four different styles:

Visual-These learners learn best through visual examples (watching someone do a problem on the board, graphs, diagrams, etc.)

Aural-The same thing as auditory in the video above, these learners learn best from listening to someone else explain something. These learners may little to no notes in class

Read/Write-These learners have good reading comprehension and can remember most of what they read. They’re also good at remembering things they write down (take a lot of notes)

Kinesthetic-These learners learn through physical activity (performing a movement skill, acting out the orbit of the planets, etc.)

In order to be an effective teacher, you need to incorporate all of these learning styles into your lessons. This is why we, as pre-service physical education teachers, are taught to teach skills in a very specific way so that all learning styles are accounted for. Having relevant cues can help aural learners understand how to perform a skill. Having a poster with these cues written on it is even better because not only do you get the aural learners but you also get the reading/writing learners. If you recite your cues, as well as have them on a poster, and you have relevant pictures next to the cues on the poster, then you just took care of aural, reading/writing, and visual learners. Demonstrating the skill from different angles and at different speeds, while reciting the cues, also helps aural and visual learners. And finally, for all students, but especially kinesthetic learners, practice makes perfect.

Get a copy of the VARK Learning Styles Inventory here

The Three Domains: How Do They Impact Learning?

            In order to be effective teachers, we need to be aware of the three domains of learning and how they impact learning. The three domains of learning, which belong to Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains, are psychomotor, cognitive, and affective. The psychomotor domain involves movement skills; anything that involves the student moving in some way. The cognitive domain has to do with knowledge. This can include general knowledge, tactics and strategies for sports, movement concepts, etc. The affective domain involves social and emotional skills. Any activity in which the student is interacting with other students is part of the affective domain. The affective domain also includes things such as resource management and the enjoyment of physical activity.
            So how do these three domains impact our teaching, and more importantly our students learning? Well if you’re “in the know” when it comes to teaching physical education, then you should be familiar with the NASPE Standards for Physical Education:

Standard 1: A physically educated person demonstrates competency in motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities

Standard 2: A physically educated person demonstrates understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities

Standard 3: A physically educated person participates regularly in physical activity

Standard 4: A physically educated person achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness

Standard 5: A physically educated person exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings

Standard 6: A physically educated person values physical education for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction

So now that we know the NASPE Standards for Physical Education, and the three domains of learning, we just need to connect the two. Standards 1, 3, and 4 all have to do with actually participating in physical activity so these three standards fall under the psychomotor domain. Standard 2 has to do with the knowledge and understanding of movement concepts, strategy, etc. so this falls under the cognitive domain. Standards 5 and 6 fall under the affective domain since they have to do with social skills and values.
When teaching, it’s important to include all three of these domains in every lesson because they all impact learning in a multitude of different ways (to keep things simple, we’ll just talk about physical education for now, but these should be included in lesson plans for every subject). The psychomotor domain is obviously the domain that is paid the most attention to in most physical education settings since we want to teach our students the skills that will allow them to live a healthy lifestyle. However, living a healthy lifestyle is more than just being able to perform the skills, and the other two domains play an equally large part in teaching students about being active and healthy. The cognitive domain helps students know why they’re doing something. Anybody can tell the students “Go run laps” but as physical educators our job is to make sure the students understand how running those laps will benefit them. If you teach students the methods behind dieting and exercise, rather than just teaching them how to perform certain exercises, it will ultimately make them more physically educated people which will allow them to take care of themselves and achieve lifelong fitness. The cognitive domain can also impact learning because once a student understands the benefits of certain physical activities, they may be more likely to actively participate in those activities. So now when the teacher says “Go run laps” the student knows that running laps will improve their cardiovascular fitness as well as help them burn more calories which will allow them to get into better shape and ultimately live a healthier lifestyle.
The affective domain impacts learning in a physical education setting because students need to be socially adept and comfortable around their peers in order to learn the psychomotor skills being taught. Everybody who’s ever gone through any PE program has seen the students who don’t participate and just kind of stand around for the entire class. These students aren’t learning any of the skills being taught and will have a hard time living a healthy lifestyle if they don’t know these skills. They’ll also probably fail the class which will only hurt them more in terms of graduating and going to college. It may seem like these students just don’t care, but coming from someone who used to be one of those students, it’s more a matter of being afraid of embarrassing themselves in front of their peers. If a student feels like they’re going to be made fun of if they try to catch a ball and fail, then it’s easier to just not try to catch the ball. And sadly, most of the time a student who messes something up in PE class will be ridiculed by the other, “more athletic” students. I mentioned in my last blog post that during my EDU 256 experience I had the chance to interview an outstanding English teacher and I received a lot of great advice from her. Perhaps some of the best advice I got from her had to do with making the learning environment safe. I observed one of her classes in which the students were acting out Shakespeare and noticed that all of the students were actively involved and enjoying themselves. I was shocked because when I was in high school, the last thing I would want to do is speak in front of a group of people. After the class I asked her how she managed to get everyone so involved and so comfortable with being in front of the class. She said that at the beginning of the year, there are always some students who are intimidated about acting in front of the class, but she makes it clear that it is 100% required and that they won’t pass without participating. She also makes sure to institute a very strict “no bullying” policy that involves being respectful of all students in the class. She said that “if you make the learning environment safe, so that the students know they won’t get made fun of for anything, then it’s amazing how quickly they all get involved and start having a good time.”
It’s extremely important to incorporate all three domains of learning into every lesson if you want you’re students to learn as much as possible. To be a truly great teacher, you need to understand how each of the three domains impacts learning and how to use each of the three domains to improve your class. This is where I think I can make the best contribution to PE. As someone who was never very good at the standard sports of basketball, baseball, soccer, etc. I can make up for it with my knowledge of sports and my knowledge of what it feels like to be that awkward, unathletic kid in class. Too many physical education teachers are ex-jocks who believe that everyone should be able to throw a football and hit a baseball as well as they can. While these skills may be important to be able to do, it’s more important that the students know how to live a healthy lifestyle and enjoy living a healthy lifestyle.