Typically, when I write, I try to give an overview of a completed loop of learning: this is where I started, this is where I went, and this is what I found. As a public educator in the midst the COVID pandemic, however, I thought perhaps more current, in progress thoughts might help others in the field plot out a different course which is necessary under different circumstances. Attempting to make physical education business as usual when NOTHING is usual would be a mistake. It will cause nothing but frustration and falseness and pretend, and we already struggle with reality. So why not make existing in reality the class?
PE is so often about getting there. Literally and figuratively, it’s about getting kids to move and working their bodies. In the higher ranks, it becomes more about glorifying suffering and sacrifice — I choose to struggle today to prepare for tomorrow’s victory. But what if nobody knows when that glorious tomorrow will come? What if it’s already been postponed six months? Where does the effort and motivation to do come from then, and, even when it exists, who are they relying on to give them the instructions?
This assessment and acknowledgement of the internal state is where we are starting from. Can we be honest? Can we feel? What is this busy brain constantly thinking about? Maybe instead of being experts at distraction, we can get our fired up brain to work for us..
The initial point of interest was anxiety and depression, found through survey and conversation. Instead of shallowly asking how are you and then switching gears as quickly as possible to ‘get on to the content’ planned for the day, we simply stick with how are you and ask kids to reflect on it in twelve different ways. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you certainly don’t know what you repress/ push away, so let’s talk about these things.
The class works like this: I create a google form that asks them questions, then I show them their answers and we have a conversation about what that might mean. Since we are all new to each other, they let me talk the most and I try to give them the time and space to process what I’ve said and reflected back at them. Sometimes, though, those with enough practice and self-awareness reveal what they have to say, either in chat or verbal form. ALL of these times, I am blown away by their access and insight into self:
Why are we doing this in PE class? Because divorcing the brain from body produces disastrous results. Because training thinking is the greatest need. Because more access to brain means more access to body. We are already good at severing and disassociating. We must find a way to feel and express.
Fitness is only one aspect of health, but by far the most heralded (specifically in a class made to glorify it AND offer up a singular path towards its achievement). It is a destination never reached and always chased. Grounding yourself in the present and really digging into what you find there, seems like a logical place to start. As the world continues to crumble around us, the invitation to sit and study home makes it less a place you want to escape from, and more a place to sanctify, secure, and stay — it is a here that we all have.
Posting this two weeks into the course, right before our first graded open answer quiz. I plan on writing updates every three weeks or so. The intent of the next block is to start bridging the mental with physical, and actually providing strategies for kids to sleep better (another spoken need) and pay attention to/ search within their own body. I also hope to further lay out this ‘create with’ process during my talk at the Embodiment Conference, which is scheduled for Saturday, October 17th, 8am PDT.