Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Great Experience + Ideas for Track Meet Time!

So I've had the privilege of working with a temporary contract (both about 2 1/2 months) at two great schools. I've had great support from the teachers and administration at these schools and of course I've had great support from schools that I have filled in as a supply teacher for but had no previous time in the school.

But there are those moments and today I shall write about one of those moments, that expose those true feelings about education that make a teacher want to let out a whoop.

This is a true story - I've withheld the name of the school and student.

Setting the picture I give you a bright creative boy, small for his age, but in my opinion ahead of his class in creativity and artistic talent. He could draw really well, so well that on a unit exam I had him draw out an answer on his adapted test. As I said he was small for his class but he was also not as athletic as some of his other classmates. It was track time and we were doing high jump in the gymnasium instead of outside because the field was too soggy. I had gone over technique for high jump and we all practiced it without jumping. I even provided a demo - and I'll admit I was hesitant inside because high jump was not my strong point in when I was the student but I made the jump. For all this student's efforts he just couldn't get the jump and knocked down the bar. His timing was off a bit and so was his technique. We worked through the steps of running and jumping together. How to jump off the one foot, where to make the jump even. Still couldn't do it. The bar is a little bit higher now, and his Dad is watching from the window at the door to the gym and the student goes over to say hi to Dad - it is the last period of the day. Student returns to the line and again doesn't get over the bar but almost, the improvement was there and I remind him of how to jump with the one leg. Back in line he goes and the bar goes a little bit higher. I've got 25 other students to keep an eye on but I made sure to watch his next attempt. He made it! All in one PE class and next PE class he was able to make the jump too! I did give him a high five and congratulated him for his continuing efforts. It was one of those moments that I truly felt I had not only helped a student but that I made a difference.

I know improvement doesn't usually happen that fast, so it is important to keep a level head when struggling students continue to struggle. All we can do is keep providing them a safe space to make mistakes so that they can learn from them. Provide encouragement and of course provide positive lessons and different ways of looking at problems.

Now as I mentioned earlier I wasn't exactly the model track and field student. In fact all I ever got was the dreaded white ribbon of participation. To borrow a phrase "Good Grief!" I would have preferred no ribbon. Sure I wasn't the only one to get the participation ribbon, but all it meant was, you didn't come in 1st-5th so here's a ribbon for coming out. Nice. I should have just stayed in class, or at home. So I asked my PE curriculum teacher what I could do about track meets. I have yet to be able to implement these ideas at a school but thought I would share!

Add events that are team! -

1) Tug of War. -Sure one team will end of first and one second but I would have been a lot happier going home with at least a second place ribbon.

2) Highland Games - I was youth member of Scouts Canada at the time but I was volunteering at the 2001 Canadian Jamboree in PEI at the Highland Games event. Doing something like sheaf toss, or even a caber toss using a small spar work well as individual events. We also had a team event carrying heavy suitcases in a figure 8. It was timed and wore a figure 8 path in the grass by the end of the week.

3) Other team events or paired events. Think of summer camp, two legged race, wheelbarrow race.

4) On a hot day a game of mission impossible is good too! Set water balloons on the ground in a small area ( maybe size of sand pit but can be smaller for younger grades) student must be directed by another student through the maze of balloons without breaking any - the blindfolded student must not feel with their feet and instead - smash their foot down as they step. Add obstacles for added difficulty!

5) For students who just are not interested or don't want to participate anyway - give them jobs! Have them be journalists, photographers, timers, work the rake, or assist with the running of events so that they don't stay home.

Hope these ideas help and let me know if you put use an idea. I would like to know how it went!

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