Reform Manifesto for School Physical Education
Authored by HKIN 369 Class, May 5th, 1994
Guidelines to Counteract the Poor Quality Physical Education Witnessed and Experienced in Schools by Course Members and Instructor:
- Choice should be given to students in many areas of their program in order that they may learn through the process of making wise and unwise choices over time. Teaching styles which contain more choices for the student can be very productive.
- Fun and enjoyment should be a main by-product of participation. If students enjoy what they are doing they will be more likely to continue to pursue an activity. How can we have fun, learn and be accepted in the educational community?
- Challenge – we need to challenge students to improve, to do their best. This does not equate with competition nor with any kind of negativism, quite the contrary. It is what Haus Seyle calls the “stress of life” – the necessary goals, challenges and healthy stressors which allow us to grow. See an early study of mine called “Education Through Challenge and Adventure”.
- Comfort – or security is one of the basic needs of life that Abraham Maslow enunciates. Our concern must be how we can cause students to feel comfortable in our learning environment.
- “Freedom to Learn” is an interesting term, it implies liberation of some sort. “Freedom to Fail” is a direct corollary. Freedom, liberation, empowerment are noble concepts that become clichés unless we facilitate them in our work with students. People interested in freedom might like to read what A.S. Neil says about freedom and responsibility. His work is eminently readable.
- New experiences were cited as being essential to a good physical education program. We need to make a distinction here between encountering new and legitimate things and novelty; as we said in the movie “Six Degrees of Separation”, we need to move from anecdote to authentic experience. There is so much that we can do to enrish our lives and those whome we teach. The introduction and acceptance of new experience relies greatly on the trust which has been established between teacher and learner.
- Support and feedback are entitlements of students. The literature on teaching is clear that we must provide specific constructive and corrective feedback to our students. It is not simply a case of giving praise. The texts have lots to say about this. Support is related but different. To me it is what Don Hellison has called “Love” – that concept we feel so awkward in discussing. It shouldn’t be so difficult. It really means an irrational concern for our students which causes us to keep going back to the well with them no matter how many times they screw up. I hope people will look at Hellson’s work to decipher this further.
- Non-competitive programs were suggested by some in the class as being important for us to foster. This is a very difficult thing to develop and promote particularly given our competitive sports backgrounds and the corporate world we now live in. Cooperation is a much-used phrase in education and physical education, but to move from the word (anecdote perhaps) to significant experience is quite another matter. Works by Johnson and Johnson, Terry Orlick and Frederick Rand Rogers are very helpful.
- Individualization – how can we match learning experiences with the needs of children and adults? We set our programs in advance of knowing our students; even after we know them in some superficial manner we proceed to “program” them according to our intentions and understanding of the world rather than in keeping with their visions and lives. If we are ever to really progress with helping people to learn we need to stop treating students as some kind of mass object and instead make them subjects of their own learning and existence. See works by Paulo Freire and Martin Buber if you want to learn more of this.
- Goal Setting is important in our teaching. Students should set short-term immediate goals on a daily basis. This is directly related to the matter of choice. Practice at setting realistic goals becomes a precursor to setting and achieving broader objectives. Let’s try to model this in our work together and with the children we will be teaching.
- Motivation – how can we motivate students to learn? Charisma is a rather fleeting characteristic and external rewards (behaviorism) has its limits. What are the means by which we can cause students to become internally motivated to learn and gain competence? What a challenge!
- Flexibility was said by our group to be important again, what does this mean? Is it anarchy, laissez-faire behavior, or permissiveness on the part of the teacher? Or is it something else? How flexible are we in our teaching? Why should we be flexible? There are some indices which look at this – we should hold a mirror up to ourselves in this regard.
- Inclusion versus exclusion – what a wonderful sentiment, how difficult to achieve. A wonderful teacher from Ohio by the name of Ambrose Brazelton came to B.C. and coaxed eloquent on the need for “inclusion”. He continually cried out that, “There mist be another way!” I wonder if we can find it? With our problems of poverty, racism, gender inequity, and the dominant patterns of socialization that work against inclusion what can we do to foster it?
- Planning and organization are seen as necessary to good programs. Amen! Why is it we tend to plan in isolation? Why do we as teachers fail to participate in much comprehensive curricular, unit or lesson planning once we are out in the field. If you doubt me in this respect, have a look at most teachers’ plans – are they not simply a few words in a day book? Have you seen serious planning going on in the schools you are familiar with? I have seen some good planning, however, most of it has been for school teams and the elite performer. Can we change this?
- Energy and focus were also given as characteristics of good teaching and good programs. I’m not sure that much needs to be said here except that we should be introspective and reflective about our own teaching to see first how energetic and focused we are in what we do and how we attempt to foster these qualities in those with whom we work.
- Be Yourself – you will recall that Harry Hubbel cautioned us to be ourselves in our teaching rather than to try to be something we are not. He has pointed out some of the hazards of playing the role of teacher in someone else’s image. Again, see what Hellison and the others say about authenticity and teaching. Whatever we do we need to show empathy, to really listen to our students, to act upon what we hear and to model what we espouse. Beyond that we need to be real and human to our students; to practice what Martin Buber calls the “I-Thou” relationship.
So… this is a summary of the points which we proclaimed were essential to quality physical education programs during the first week of our class. Our task, our challenge is to see if we can turn this rhetoric interaction; to make explicit what we know is valid. The exciting thing is that our little reform manifesto arose with the group rather than being something that was preconceived by me – for better or worse it is authentic. It is as good a set of guidelines as I have seen concerning learning. The text books contains no better. We now have to see how our words and our actions intersect, whether or not we can exercise the “praxis” which Paulo Freire cites. My hunch is that together we can achieve much of the reform we have called for.