The outpouring of dedicated physical educators we’ve seen across the country over the last few weeks is nothing short of astounding! Teachers are sharing more than ever before…Offering lessons, links, videos, packets, letters home, and more. And it is all being done in an effort to support the physical education community as we enter a vast and uncharted territory…PE at HOME!
The current landscape of school closures, social distancing or stay at home orders, and a general sense of uncertainty have left many in physical education scrambling to help students stay active and meet the distance learning requirements of their schools and districts, all while balancing their own new work from home situation.
As teachers plan for or begin implementation of a distance learning approach for PE, no single answer or approach is perfect. However, thinking through the following 5 questions may help guide your perspective and planning for distance learning for students and families:
#1 – What is your goal?
Is the goal different now that students are at home compared to in school gyms? Is it to get kids to exercise daily? Is it to provide quality movement opportunities? What is the best way to reach that goal? Does a packet with health concepts and components of fitness provide movement opportunities? How important are state or national standards?
#2 – How can you establish normalcy in this new environment?
If you hope to convey some type of normalcy in your students’ lives during this time, what strategies can help accomplish this? Are the activities or tasks you are sending home staples in your regular face-to-face classes? Are there components of your regular face-to-face classes that can be replicated at home? How many times a week do students see you? How are you communicating with your students? What is it about?
#3 – What is your assessment/grading plan?
Are you assessing anything during this time? Will it be a valid or reliable assessment? Is it going to be for a grade? Are you comfortable grading something you didn’t see in person? Are you comfortable grading paperwork vs. movement? Have you conveyed your assessment/grading plan or thoughts to fellow teachers? Administration? Students? Families? If required to grade, what are some strategies to make it as reliable as possible given the circumstances?
#4 – What is your accessibility situation?
How are students going to receive instruction? Is everyone going get instruction through the same avenues? How are you supporting students without internet? Can you? How are you balancing worksheets or videos with live instruction? How do you find that balance? Can you give the same “lessons” and achieve the same learning objectives through a variety of instructional strategies? How are you going to choose?
#5 – Is this adding stress?
Is what you are asking students to do adding stress to their lives? Will they have to worry about grades? Will they have to worry about not having internet? Will they have to worry about parent/guardian signatures? Will parents stress because they are already asked to stay home, miss work, and possibly be asked to be a math, science, English, history, music, art, AND physical education teacher? How can you keep these things in mind and provide balance as you send tasks or movement resources home and simultaneously ensure those resources meet district E-Learning policies?
One of the many benefits physical educators can bring during these times is to encourage movement, both for individual students and whole families, as a means to be happy, relieve stress, and stay and be healthy and well. Families and students need a support system in a time where cellphones and screens are going to be used more than ever; they need the physical educator’s voice and valuable contributions to support family time and opportunities for movement. Sharing strategies and activities with parents showcasing how to incorporate movement throughout the day is an invaluable tool.
Physical education has potential to be a diamond in the rough during this challenging time. No doubt, many families are being reminded daily just how key movement is in supporting their child’s focus and productivity during the day and on other academic tasks. Thus, the role of the PE teacher may be to send resources home, offer distance learning opportunities for movement, provide advice, and more.
So to all the PE teachers reading this, as you work through distance learning plans, assessment decisions, and more, keep we’d encourage you to keep the following in mind: In a time uncertainty, with health and well-being top of mind for everyone, and where separation and isolation are so crucial, movement has the power to bring joy, provide stress relief, instill healthy habits, and bring families together.