The PE Teachers Rant

So, I have been wanting to create this poster for sometime now. Being a Physical Education teacher is often filled with frustration because of the stereotypes that are associated with our awesome profession. Boooo stereotypes!!

If you are not from the greatest nation in the world, you might not get the beauty of the rant. If you happen to be a Canadian who was watching TV in the early 2000’s you would have seen, in my opinion, one of the most patriotic Canadian commercials out there. It truly speaks out against stereotypes that Canadians face, in a polite manner.

So after watching that great commercial, you may appreciate my PE Teachers Rant in a different light (and probably scream and yell at certain parts of the rant). Enjoy and feel free to share! Who knows, maybe one day I will make a video of it!!

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What is Your Purpose?

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I know what you are thinking, when did health and physical educators become so philosophical? Don’t they just roll out a ball and watch kids play while they finish their morning coffee and check sports scores? I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but that age-old stereotype is long gone and doesn’t have a place in high quality educational practices. Gone are the days of “gym class” (I HATE THAT TERM), bad moustaches sported by “gym” teachers in short shorts (but it is fun to dress up like them) and the days of skill specific instruction and assessment.

 

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Circa 2014-Did this guy ruin your PE experience?

To be honest, I got the idea for the What is Your Purpose series from one of my good friends and inspirations Dr. Doug Gleddie (@doug_gleddie and purposefulmovement.net) who is an associate professor at the University of Alberta *GO GOLDEN BEARS!!!!*. Recently he gave an awesome webinar on ConnectedPE and a powerful message was delivered, what is your moral purpose? This really got me thinking about about a few things and got me thinking, why do I do what I do and what motivates me to keep doing what I am doing? So let’s find out!

WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?

 

When thinking about it, it boils down to the fact that I want to give back what was given to me and I want to be that positive change in someones life. I purposefully avoided use specific terms and singling out students or athletes because being an positive change is bigger than that. I know what it is like to be looking for that anchor of positivity and for someone to show me my true potential and what I am capable of. I have been eternally grateful for those who have taken on that role throughout my life and helped me become the person I am today and everyone deserves to have that positive impact.

Everyday I walk into my school (not just my classes) and think “what am I going to do today that will make someone better than what they were yesterday?”. This could be as simple as having a meaningful conversation with a colleague (if you know me, you know that I when I go for a 5 minute walk to do something it ends up being a 20 minute event because I stopped to talk to someone), taking time out of my lunch to talk to a student about what is going on outside of school or simply giving a shout out to someone on social media. People have taken their time out of their day to make me a better person so this is just me paying it forward.

Good thing working in education fits with this behaviour! I’m pretty sure that is why my boss was mad at me at my first job working at Wendy’s, I would take the time to see how people are doing and that cut into filling orders as fast as we can.

I identify myself as a SCHOOL TEACHER and not just a CLASSROOM TEACHER because there is a lot more to being an excellent and positive educator than the lessons and curriculum you deliver in your lessons. It is creating that school environment that is warm, welcoming and encourages each other to seek personal excellence no matter what it looks like. To me, being an educator is not a career, it is a lifestyle I choose to enjoy not matter what.

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It is this mindset that really captures why I do what I do

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO KEEP DOING WHAT YOU DO?

I’m going to just say it, it’s not the money or the “holidays” that motivates me. Some of my closest friends have tried year after year to leave education and make the transition into corporate business (“you would make double what you are making with half the effort” and “you could sell ice to an eskimo, apply for my company” were common arguments had over drinks) but for me its not about that. Sure, money is nice to have but what really motivates me to stay the course are the people I make a difference to.

One of my favorite things in life is running into people outside of the school. In a city like Dubai where the population is around 2.5 million I am always running into students outside of the school. It makes my heart grow when I hear a old KG2 student scream “HI MR. FERGUSON” as loud as they can in a crowded mall and dragging their parents over so that they can give me a fist bump and a hug, when parents would stop me in the grocery store to ask how our daughter is doing and tell me how much their child loves phys ed, or when a high school student works out at the same gym I do and talks about their fitness journey with me during lunch, and when my athletes come to me everyday to say how much they miss volleyball and they can’t wait until June when we do our Sauna Sessions (yes, it is that hot out in June). I’m 99% sure that all of these run ins drive my wife crazy because I could sit there and talk with them and completely forget what I was actually doing at the mall in the first place.

It’s those things that remind me on a daily basis why I choose to become an educator and continue to do what I do.

So here is my sales pitch, if you would like to be featured in the What is Your Purpose series please contact me. This isn’t just exclusive to educators, please share with me your thoughts on what is your purpose.

Have a great week everyone! Until next time!

Reflecting on: #wellness 

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Well, its that time of year again. Exams are right around the corner and it’s an excellent time for me to take a step back and really reflect on student wellness. It’s the perfect time to see where we are at and what support that we need to provide for our students.

Why during exams you may ask? Well it is one of the few times where students have a lot of freedom to implement choices on their own terms without a teacher providing a structured environment. After all, isn’t true learning evident when someone performs the desired skill or behaviour on their own?

One question I ask students is “what do you do to cover your wellness needs?”, and the responses I get concerns me. Most of the time it is “my parents do this…” and “my parents do that…” or “my nanny does this…” (it’s a Dubai thing. We even have a nanny and she’s awesome!!) and very rarely it’s a response when they actually tell me how they take responsibility for their wellbeing and understand its importance. Personally, I feel that we, as a society, do not spend enough time, effort and resources on the proper development and wellness education that our students should have. Many academics focus on getting exemplary marks in the sciences or math because that is what students believe post secondary schools only look at when they are choosing the students to come to their school. Sure, being able to solve a quadratic equation is pretty impressive, but will it help you maintain a long and healthy life?

When reflecting on the effectiveness of a wellness, I am always brought back to a pre-conference I was a part of with pre-service teachers who were bright and eager to jump into the education profession. The conversation focused on how to create a culture of wellness in your school community and the soon-to-be teachers had a lot of great questions, but the number one question is what foundations do you need to make sure that its successful. Through our discussions we came to the conclusion that a successful program needs a solid foundation of understanding what is wellness from all staff (not just the PE department) , resources to help develop an in-depth understanding, wellness champions to communicate the message and importance of wellness, students who are able to share their voice and be part of the change, support from administration and finally a method to evaluate the effectiveness of the program.

I know what you are thinking, I’m going to go through each of these qualities of a wellness program and provide advice on how to develop them, but I can’t. Each school community will be at different places and there are way too many elements and moving parts that are specific to a school. These are more concepts to develop and guide your thinking and reflection. What I can provide is some questions to help guide you in evaluating your schools quality of wellness:

How happy are your students? How do they handle stress levels? Is there an understanding of what makes a healthy lifestyle? Are our students making opportunities to be physically active?

Do you/staff know what wellness is? Where can you see elements of this understanding in your school community at this time?

How do our current school practices and policies support the development of wellness within our school community?

Who is communicating the importance of wellness to our school community? Who can we get to encourage/guide us along our wellness journey?

For me, the question of how happy are your students should always be the starting point. Get information directly from the source. Once you know where your students are at, its easy to take the first steps to developing student wellness within your school community.

Until next time, happy reflecting everyone!

Leadership Lessons I Learned From Becoming a Parent

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As Health and Physical Education professionals, each and every one of us hold a very important leadership role for our students. If you are really lucky, this leadership role may also transfer to your staff and your school community (if you read that with a tone of sarcasm then I know what you are thinking!). Regardless of your position, years of experience or teaching assignment, each and everyone of us has students looking towards you to give them the tools they need to be healthy and active individuals.

Recently I have had the most influential life event that anyone can have, I became a parent. This experience has really put things into perspective as a parent and as a professional. Randomly during a midnight feeding I came across the realization that “hey,  being an effective parent is a lot like being an effective leader!” and at the time I thought it was just sleep deprivation kicking in. As the weeks passed, I began to see more connections and thought that maybe I was on to something…

ITS A TEAM EFFORT

“Many hands make light work” or “if you want to travel far, travel with others” always comes to mind when thinking about leadership. As a leader you are the navigator and your group trusts you to guide them to their destination. As a parent I want my daughter to be live up to her potential and never settle for anything less than excellent and my parental team knows this vision and agrees with it.

Sometimes decisions have to be made but accomplished as a team, but this team effort revolves around trust. Your team (it could be your PE team, students, leadership team) needs to trust that you will make the best decisions to help move everyone towards their goal and you need to trust that everyone will do everything in their ability to make it happen. To some this is a scary concept, to let go of control and trust in your teammates, but it will benefit you in the long run.

UTILIZE YOUR STRENGTHS TO COMPENSATE FOR YOUR WEAKNESSES

I’m going to be honest, baby poop makes me gag!! I have had a few close calls with Baby Ferg reacting with a giggle (this is probably just a reaction at this point but at times I think she really is laughing AT me), but I sure can get her to sleep fast by rocking and dancing her around the house. Knowing this, my wife and I split up some of the duties that clearly the other one is better at. This definitely makes the whole parenting process smoother and enjoyable!

As a leader, we need to create roles for those on our team that will utilize the strengths that individuals have while developing their weaknesses. Not only will they feel valued but the confidence to taking on a new challenge will be developed as they experience continued success. One day I will be able to change a poopy diaper without gagging!!

BE VISIABLE

As a parent, I want my child to look back at her memories and realize “man, my goofball dad was always there!”. Being a constant figure or support and mentorship is my ultimate goal as a parent and a leader.

It is more than easy enough to get caught up in your office doing paper work, planning, and a million other things, but people need to see you out there. “Randomly” bumping into people in the hallways, or any other environment where they do not expect you to be at, is a great way to develop an effective working and learning relationship. It is also a great way to develop that other important element: trust. Let them know who you are and let them see you out there!! Just walking into a classroom to observe best practices or to see what the students are learning about is a great way to develop that strong, enduring relationship.

DO THE DIRTY WORK

Ryan Reynolds has been putting out some great “father of the year” worthy advice (you should just google “Ryan Reynolds father advice” and get ready to laugh), but one piece that sticks with me the most is do the dirty work. Change a diaper or two (even if you almost throw up), wake up in the middle of the night and help out, get in there and do those fatherly things that might not seem glamorous. Same concept applies to being an effective leader.

Leaders shouldn’t be afraid to jump in the front line, roll up their sleeves and do the dirty work. It’s another great way to continue to develop that relationship and trust with your team but it is also a great way to keep up with what is going on. Ideas and methods change over time and sometimes leaders get disconnected and lose their up-to-date edge.

LOVE EVERY SECOND OF IT

Parenting isn’t easy. It’s hard work and is 24/7. I can see how that would get to a person and bring down their mood, but you are doing it for an excellent reason. No matter how tired or frustrated I am, I always put my best foot forward and continue in that direction. My wife thinks I am crazy for being so energetic in the mornings after three midnight feedings, I just don’t want to be that grumpy guy no people avoid throughout the day.

No matter what, leaders need to be positive and show that they love what they are doing. Your display of passion, or lack of display, will have a direct influence on those who are following your lead. Many PE teachers are seeking help getting students engaged and excited about the material, first step is that you need to be engaged and excited and genuinely display it. DON’T BE A FAKE, student’s and staff can see through that easily.

At this time, that is all I have! Im pretty sure that inspiration will come again when I am changing a diaper or up for the 17th time in the middle of the night! Stay tuned!

 

Change: A Terrifying Word

Want to see highly educated professionals suddenly become afraid, just say “we are changing…” in a meeting. I have always found this reaction interesting. Why do teachers find change so intimidating? Why do emotions run so high when change is coming down the pipes? Is it because people see change as a chance of failure and not an opportunity for growth?

These questions have always been in the back of my mind and have always intrigued me. Ultimately, we need to change to become better. Our students depend on us being innovative with new strategies and up to date with research and promising practices. I have always seen change as an opportunity to grow as a professional but also personally as well. Stepping out of that comfort zone and embracing change is the only way to reach excellence, which I am 99% sure that is what everyone wants. We all want to be excellent at what we do.

So how do you implement change? No matter what the change might be (losing that weight you put on over Christmas or redirecting the culture and climate of a school/program) you need to have two key qualities: the VISION to see the ultimate destination and plan for it and the PATIENCE  to stay the course and to follow that vision of change. One does not work without the other.

The Vision

I’m a huge fan of backwards by design planning, you need to have a clear image of what you want to achieve and have a way to evaluate the process. You need to think big but plan small because change does take time. It’s almost like building a house, you need to have the foundation in place before building the walls, have strong supports to place the roof on and only then can you start on the finish touches on the interior.

To help with the building of the foundation, you need to have a team who share your vision and understand the blue prints. Without this, there will be confusion among your team and confusion leads to frustration. Professional need to know and understand why the change is happening, how it will happen and what the ultimate end result will be. They also need to be a key contributor to the planning process and given a sense of ownership in the process. When there is that clear understanding and that sense of ownership, continuing with your vision of change suddenly becomes much easier.

…and Patience

We would all love it if change can happen over night. The reality is that for sustainable change to happen you need to acknowledge that it is a long process with successes and failure along the way. Maybe this is why change is such a terrifying concept, you are opening up to experience failure and most people are not okay with that. Surrounding yourself with these “movers” who share your vision and embrace the process is crucial to creating sustainable change. This could be your #fitfam at the gym or a team of selected individuals who are in it for the long haul.

Part of patience is being ready to experience setbacks in the process. Change, just like learning, rarely happens on the first try. You have to be willing and open to experiencing these setback and ready to reflect on them. Patience is KEY at this point because this could take a bit of time and potentially increase your timeline for change. The reflection piece is crucial because its an opportunity to take a look and evaluate why things have happened and how it can be improved on in the future.

I know what you are thinking, that this is an over simplification of bringing change. My response is why does change have to be complex and complicated. Keeping things simple is a great way to keep focused on what you actually want to change. When things are complex we tend to lose sight of that vision and our ultimate goal.

 

A Year in Review: 2016


Well, here it is. As 2016 winds down and 2017 is gearing up and getting ready to go, this is an excellent opportunity to sit back and reflect on a very busy 2016. 

When I think about my professional goals and development I can only think of one word that can describe it: change. For as long as I can remember I can’t think of a year I didn’t embrace some sort of change, to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself to become a better person and an educator. 2016 definitely was a year where I was always outside of my comfort zone. 

Little bit of invasion games to develop some fundamental movement skills


At the beginning of 2016 I was teaching KG2-G1 Physical Education. This was quite the adventure in my career as I have never taught lower elementary before!! It was at this time where I was sinking my teeth into the the Primary Years Program (PYP) philosophy and the Personal Social and Physical Education (PSPE) curriculum behind the IB program. One area I was struggling with was applying the PYP and PSPE curricular approaches into my unit planning. Through my exploration of the curriculum I had a light bulb moment, “why was this not always a part of my planning framework?!” Before the concepts behind the PSPE were always part of my teaching practice but it was the hidden curriculum, implied outcomes that were never stated by any set curriculum. This lightbulb moment definitely changed the way which I would approach my unit and lesson planning and the program development task I would face later this year. More on that later…

So thank you KG2s and Grade 1s for all the hugs (usually accompanied with a running headbut to the hips or groin if I didn’t catch them in time), teaching me that I am no match for a swarm of small children who want to tickle you to the ground, and that there is always inspiration for growth every day. 


Another change I wanted to see was in my implementation of technology in my teaching practice. Before I was pretty tech savvy with implementing tech where I can but I knew there is a better way. For the 2016-2017 school year I set the goal to go completely paperless; no hand outs, no physical notes, no handwritten tests. Obviously there had to be premeditated thought into this and if the students I had didn’t already go through a laptop must have on their school supply list, I definitely would not have made this transition. So I took a leap of faith and I can sum up this experience in a short statement: FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!!!


Using platforms like google classroom and taking the time to stumble through its integration has definitely changed the learning environment in the classroom. Before I thought my classes were collaborative, but now the student-collaboration is through the roof. The sharing and peer work is happening almost naturally without any input or direction from me! It’s almost kind of scary in a awesome way!

I’ve also noticed my efficiency in my assessment practice has definitely increased. It’s easy to check in on student learning and do formative checks now that all their work is housed in one place and not a scattered binder. Parent conferences are now a breeze as we all can go through the students work and have quality discussions on their learning journey and the implication of assessment as learning is now a real life event and easily  applied to the daily learning regiment because parents are now an active part of the assessment process! Providing specific feedback to students is simple by adding comments directly to their assignments highlighting the areas that are awesome or that need improvement. Overall it has just made my life easier!!

But with any change, there are growing pains. When planning to transition to a paperless classroom I tried to anticipate these changes. I thoughts that wifi connectivity or access to a device would be an issue but I was wrong! Turns out that this transition rattled a few professional cages. Some colleagues I work with were not to open to my transition and it made for some great dialog in staff meetings and in the hallway. Sometimes we forget how personal the teaching profession is and that other professionals become apprehensive when they feel that their practice is being questioned or feel judged. I found these opportunities to navigate these feelings around my transition quite engaging and enjoyable. Definitely had to pull out some Learning Coach strategies for these learning opportunities and watching the reception of my tech strategy change over the first semester was awesome. Hopefully this could start a change within the school, who knows what could happen!


The final change I wanted to make this year was getting connected in the international teaching realm. This is a whole new professional world and at first I found it strangely isolated considering how easy it is to jump on a plane and go to a new place or to shoot someone an email. But it’s the face to face time and conversations that I missed! Luckily I had the opportunity to be part of the ConnectedPE community and started to actually use twitter!! I quickly realized that I wasn’t alone and there were many conversations to be had through #pechat and other conversations happening on twitter! Sure, you’re limited to 140 characters but the conversations that have been had and the sharing available is amazing!! I highly recommend taking a look at the ConnectedPE community where you will find some webinars put on by some of the best professionals out there. I’m still not too sure how I ended up on there!!

Well, there it is folks. My first official blog post! Hopefully you have found it useful and a bit entertaining. If you have any questions about the planning framework, integration of “paperless classroom” or the ConnectedPE community please feel free to contact me via email or twitter.

Have a great Christmas and an amazing start to 2017!