An Interesting Phys Ed
Interest dictates pretty much everything. It is the neck that turns the head and keeps curious eyes fixed. At its most illuminating and significant, it attracts the onlooker into their own inner workings. Believe that you are both interesting and influential, and self study becomes a captivating practice of wonder and involvement.
The three rotating questions used to help draw kids within were:
1. Do you have a physical goal or interest?
2. How do you know if you’ve improved, and
3. Are you able to keep the activity engaging?
What they reveal, in corresponding sequence, is the relationship they have with their body, their capacity to break down games or tasks into smaller pieces and measures, and their confidence in creating and adapting to change. In a field and subject matter plagued by assumption and assessed by compliance, participation does not indicate learning. Simply ask a student how or why something happened and note the bewilderment you get.
The entire premise of PE is to learn by doing. But without pausing to reflect, nothing really gets ‘captured’. It becomes a fleeting act, lost in the moment and unable to be accessed for future application. This becomes evident when the same mistakes or missteps get repeated over and over. (Quick teaching aside: when one person can’t seem to get it, the student needs different input. When multitudes show/ask the same question, the teacher needs a different output.)
Effective analysis must be internalized by the user, but in order to achieve this they must care about what they’re doing. The element of choice plays a significant role in fostering this. The freedom to make decisions creates a sense of ownership. It redistributes power and control toward the students and away from the teacher. We invest in things we feel are ours.
Cycling back to question one, if a kid is interested in something they generally want to get better at it. Interest is either a known entity or a peculiar surprise. The gusto (or lackof) that a student engages with an activity displays their comfort and competence in knowing what to do in a certain situation. Success, I have found, is secondary the the chance to display effort. They either try with aplomb or hang back and observe. Idleness, for the most part, is an attempt to understand their role in a surrounding activity they feel disconnected from.
Unfortunately, avoidance and invisibility is a far more practiced and researched skill in Phys Ed than exploration. A large group system playing the same game created the need. A grading structure based on attendance and ‘not causing disruption’ reinforced this behavior. We are failing at delivering an autonomous environment. People inherently want to be successful but what they want most is to be good at what they choose.
When examining effort, we must take a step back and look at interest. How many of us give our all toward something we don’t care about?
The ability to individualize education hinges on big ideas applied to whatever context the student can attach it to. Making connections must begin with relational perspective, and the teacher cannot possibly know all of the places a child is coming from. We must take into account what one has (or has not) been exposed to. The role of a guide is to involve students in the process of broadening their thinking and experience.
If a kid has no physical interests or pursuits I often ask them about anything they like. Then I offer a link between that outside thing and the way their mind and body work together. It positions them as the center of their learning and reinforces that they, not the class or curriculum, are what I am most interested in. Furthermore, apathy is less of a character trait and more of a defense mechanism. Resistance is softened by supporting their interests and giving their likes the attention you would your own.
Treat something as good and worthwhile and it will become valuable.
Put an emphasis on mobility or control or going slow, and thread why it will be helpful to performance/ health, and they will consider it. Keep the portions small, however, and continue the samplings. You want them to remain open and responsive to tastings. Tiny immersions that are served with time and space and trust will show you what they’ve absorbed and are curious about. They can make what they want of it but are also given some specific challenges/ investigations to explore. The activity can be self-dictated or follow-along, and having two tracts minimizes most paralysis.
Both the weird and familiar can be treated with the same level of novelty. They attract certain types at certain points of readiness. The weird becomes familiar with consistency. Likewise, the familiar becomes weird when experience does not match expectation. Reflecting on the outcome is the common denominator toward the next steps to be taken. Structure and stability is an interest for many, and each class has their own optimal formulas and ratios. They are constantly in flux and must be continually evaluated and fine-tuned.
There are a multitude of variables to consider when working with a group of people. The space they inhabit (and their carving out of it), peer habits and influence, collective energy (and lack thereof), and secret, unseen stressors. Folks not getting along, or being in the vicinity of someone who has wronged/ worry them, and school and family pressures all fall into this latter category. Our younger generation is plagued by anxiety, and teaching them to relax might be our most necessary offering.
Like any skill that is not yet grasped, it needs to be broken down into its parts. In most instances, the student simply needs to be shown what to pay attention to. The learning-feedback loop becomes auto-regulated once initiated. For sleeping practice, this is my voice guiding them toward their breath and out of their head. I give them an internal focus to experience and explore. They manipulate and experiment, and ‘turning off’ becomes a process instead of a “can or can’t” state.
Test-Retests reveal progress. It could be the return to a game in its original form, a repeated task and the note of ease in which is was accomplished, how long it takes for a body to settle down, or how deep into the interest one can go. Anything and everything is an assessment, and developing the student’s competence to break down and build up arms them with a never-ending, question-laden method of intrigue.
One’s ability to pinpoint and problem solve and is paramount to connecting what they are doing with how they are doing it. It determines whether or not they can find a path towards improvement and/or coordinate an actionable curiosity. Skills and talents without purpose become meaningless, and the joy of the learner is to continue to amuse themselves with all that there is to know. Steered internal, the study of the self can be the most interesting of all.