Hello everyone and thank you for taking a look at my reflections for the 2018-2019 school year. It has been a bit of a chaotic/struggling year (hence the lack of content-driven posts) and I am very excited to share what is in store in the near future. Before I address that, I wanted to reflect on the journey that this year presented, the struggles that were faced, the growth that was experienced and the opportunities that are coming in the near future.
This year as a K-12 Physical Education Program Coordinator I wanted to set the foundations of building a movement culture at Universal American School. This culture would focus on building meaningful experiences in Physical Education that would instill the value of physical activity, the skills needed to be active, the critical understanding and social development and skills to be active for life. This statement would be the cornerstone of what we wanted to develop throughout the year and the foundation of many products that we developed to grow this vision of movement culture.
The first area we looked at developing was our assessment practices as a group and how we can apply this concept of a movement culture to our assessment practices while maintaining a strong connection to the SHAPE standards. After some unpacking, modeling, wordsmithing, more unpacking and reflections we eventually created an assessment framework that took the FIVE SHAPE standards and organized them into FOUR domains of Physical Literacy Development. We wanted to have the standards in a place that made a meaningful connection to instruction and help focus our planning of the units throughout the year. These domains were called “The Value of Physical Activity”, “Movement Development”, “Critical Understanding” and “Social/Leadership Development”. Here is an example of the criteria that we established in each domain to guide student development, offer feedback for growth and focus instructional strategies.
In every unit, we would always focus on developing The Value of Physical Activity and select a remaining domain that would make a meaningful connection to the unit we were exploring. This offered the opportunity to have meaningful and focused assessments connected to multiple standards that are outlined in the SHAPE Standards. Meaningful and efficient based on demonstrating values and enduring understandings and not just participation and effort.
Another product that was developed midway through the year was a tool to guide the professional development of Physical Education teachers. In past evaluations, many of us found the feedback to be general and the observations subjective based off of how the admin interpreted physical education classes. To make this process more valuable to us we established key practices that should be seen in every lesson, specific tasks that would demonstrate the level of mastery and connect it all to the four domains of physical literacy development. What we came up with was the Features of Quality Physical Education Domains and Pedagogy which would guide reflective conversations, observations and feedback for professional growth.
With both of these projects, it required a shift in traditional thinking. This proved to be one of the biggest challenges that we faced. The move away from focusing on WHAT we are doing and developing the WHY and the HOW was not accepted by everyone. We had a department that had brand new first-year teachers, teachers in their third or fourth years, veteran teachers and a teacher who has taught for many years but their first year in Physical Education. A lot of differing experiences, expectations, and ideas behind what quality physical education looks like. This diverse group dynamic actually proved to be a very powerful tool when it came to ensuring that the purpose and value of physical education is a constant focus for the group.
Another struggle is that our school’s structure made it very difficult to meet and align our K-12 philosophy and programming. Each division was given their own agendas that had to be met while we as a department tried to rally together to work on creating this movement culture. Even the idea of having all the K-12 educators in the program to meet in a central location was tricky to navigate. Having all three divisions of the schools program aligned on this vision was key to its development and had to be done. In the end, we did advocate and receive a common planning time and collaboration space where all the divisions could work together which was new!
One word that does stick with me about my struggles this year is deflation. At some point in one’s career, you are bound to have that moment where sequences of events have taken place to make you question your true value and if it aligns with how you see your own worth (professionally speaking). As a school, things took place that continued to have me question the value that I place in improving physical education to meet the needs of the 21st-century learner. Priorities have changed, visions were adjusted and many changes came from an institutional level that had myself continually question the true value of the goals I had set out. It was such a strange thing to experience, and I am hoping that is not the case with all international schools. Surely, one situation does not dictate the directions of everyone else right?
With the feeling of deflation and the removal from key school cultural pieces, I had to continue to find ways to value my work and support those around me. One area that I felt was a huge area of growth was allowing vulnerability to be present in my profession. Coming from a farmland upbringing, being vulnerable is not an everyday occurrence and was not easy for me. It took purpose and some creative facilitation to let this concept of vulnerability turn into a leadership tool that could connect everyone in the department.
Another area of growth was the application of student voice and building of resiliency within my students. A part of the “hidden curriculum” in education is something we all attempt to teach without being officially told to do so. With this in mind, I wanted to focus on using student voice (not student noise) to help build student ownership within the learning experience by focusing specific parts of my planning to address this area of development. Some feedback I received was that students felt more comfortable to attempt new ideas, fail and feel supported by their learning community which I was not expecting. This unexpected concept of resiliency with student voice does have me asking some further questions which I want to explore with my students next year in Macao.
The final lesson I learned from the 2018-2019 school year is remember WHY you do what you do. No one likes the feeling of not being valued in their school, but it’s our students who’s opinions matter the most. They are the ones who see an educator in action more than administration and colleagues. Granted, they lack the professional lens to observe us through, they do however give great feedback on how an educator performs the science behind teaching and the art of developing human connections.
For our year end assembly our tradition has been for staff and students to say goodbye to those who are leaving the school. Staff have their pictures put up and the leadership team runs through a Jimmy Fallon Thank You Notes skit. Some of its good, some of its awkward, but it’s an attempt to send of the individual behind the name. Many students usually do not attend this assembly (this year was maybe 1/5th the student population) but the noise that was created by these students when my Thank You Card came up was shocking and impressive. The cheers from these students reminded me something that’s important to remember, that I made a difference to them.
As the assembly came to a close, it was ended with an open mic opportunity for students to share their thoughts of gratitude. Usually this is filled with “I would like to thank my friends for getting me through this year”, but another surprising event took place. One of my volleyball student-athletes stepped up and in specific detailed how I helped develop him into the man he is today. Not sure if this started a trend with the students, but as the open mic continued I was reminded more of the impact I had on the learning community and it wasn’t until a colleague made the comment “someone sure left a mark” that I was reminded of the passion and the reason why I am in this profession.
A few thank you cards and gifts from students as we wrapped up our time at UAS.
2018-2019 Final Lesson
Ultimately, this reflection brought me to an unintended conclusion: don’t lose sight of why you do what you do. Things happen to cloud your vision, have you question yourself and your purpose, but if you have a solid understanding of your driving purpose you can over come anything. With this reminder and growth from the 2018-2019 school year I am now more excited than ever for my new role at The International School of Macao and as a education consultant for KDSL Global. Who knows, maybe this new found sense of passion is just what I needed to start sharing some of the new projects I have been working on? That would mean more posts for you!!!
Have a great summer everyone and take time to remember or redefine your why.