Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why a Philosophy?

What is the purpose of a philosophy? Is it something we learn? Are we born with our own, or does it manifest itself within our teaching? All of these are important questions that as educators we need to be thinking about. Not only in Physical Education, but all subjects. As leaders of students, we must have something that creates a basis of why we do what we do. Having a philosophy doesn't necessarily mean that you have a twenty page dissertation to describe what your beliefs about teaching are. It could be summed up in one sentence if you prefer. That is the great thing about your beliefs, because they are yours! You don't necessarily learn your philosophy, but instead it is something that grows and changes with the more knowledge and experience you gain. 

My philosophy is likely to be different from yours, my professors, or your peers in some way, but that isn't what is important. What is important is how you demonstrate and stand behind your philosophy. Because if you believe that students need to learn more about lifetime activities, and yet you teach nothing but the traditional six, you are being a hypocrite and not being true to yourself. I am a firm believer in taking a stand and fighting for what you believe in, regardless of who is with you or against you as long as your reasons are justifiable and true in intention. This doesn’t mean that everyone’s philosophy is necessarily right either. However, it doesn’t matter who’s is right or wrong, what matters is whether or not the impact on student learning is both positive and enjoyable. While I know that my philosophy is likely different than my future co-workers, I know that I will stay true to my beliefs and not be pressured into changing my ideals.

Field Experience Day 9 3rd Grade 4/19/12

Skill Themes and Student Abilities

Working on our volleyball skills again today was a challenge due to the way I had the skill progressions planned. I had planned that the children would self toss the ball and then forearm pass it up and catch it. After discussing the progressions after the lesson, I came to the conclusion that I should have moved around the order in which I chose progressions. This was a great wake up call, because it had me start thinking in a different manner. While we already know that students need guidance with learning new skills, sometimes we forget the smaller details that can have a large impact on our success or failure. 

That being said I didn't take into account the automatic movements that I already possess when I was coming up with the activity. I didn't even think that the motion of tossing a ball up and putting the hands in the proper position would be difficult, but it was. The students struggled with getting their hands back into position to bump the ball, and in hind sight I would have rather them done this activity with a partner throwing the ball to them. Yet another learning point that I will take away from this experience.

Field Experience Kindergarten Day 9 4/19/12

Reflection of Lesson

Today was my final day working with the Kindergarten class in the gym, and was also our first day starting the volleyball unit. With the volleyball unit, the host teacher has split the class periods to focus on fitness as well. This works well, because while the students are still gaining exposure to the volleyball skill themes, they are also learning about fitness and its benefits. I really liked the idea of splitting up the class time to incorporate fitness, because the students only have PE once a week, so this gives them the opportunity to cover more material then they might have had the two not been combined.

We did the fitness portion of the class utilizing 4 stations set up in each quadrant of the gym, separated by the crossing volleyball nets. This allowed for easy to understand transitions as well as maintaining visibility of the students at all times. One thing that I would have changed would be to not have had the students using the jump ropes, because very few of the students were actually able to do the skill properly, and it wasn't feasible to have a teacher there correcting every group of students.

With the volleyball portion, we focused on the overhand smash, because it worked on the students hand eye coordination as well as being a valuable skill in volleyball. To make the skills easier to perform, we had the students use beach balls rather than an actual volleyball. This made the balls much more manageable and the students were able to perform the cues as well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Field Experience Day 8 3rd Grade 4/17/12

Management Strategies

In the lesson today with the 3rd graders, the gym was split into four distinct quadrants by two crossing nets that spanned the entire gym. This naturally set the class into a stations setting, and the lesson was based accordingly. The quadrant setup allowed me to easily manage the class within their stations, because I was able to quickly and easily see what was going on throughout the lesson. I was able to monitor behavior and participation as well as give individual feedback quite easily and efficiently.

I think that stations are a great way to manage a classroom, because it allows students to work on their task without having the entire class watching them. It also breaks up the class into many different activities adding in a variety of tasks. This is the same style of classroom management that I used and plan to use again to complete my assessments. Having success in the lesson furthered my belief that stations can be effective when utilized properly. 

Field Experience Day 8 1st Grade 4/17/12

Skill themes and student abilities

Today I worked with a different group of students due to state testing changes in the schedule. This was a good thing though, because it allowed me the opportunity to work with a 1st grade class, and see the differences in abilities of a different age group. While their skills weren’t far and above that of the Kindergarten class that I normally work with, there were distinct differences. For instance, their coordination levels were developed more, and they were able to move with more ease and fluidity as opposed to the Kindergarteners.

One thing that was similar was that there was little differentiation between the skill themes worked on. The teacher explained to me that he doesn’t differentiate the skill themes between the two groups, but instead he simply looks for more proficiency of the student’s movements. I wasn’t sure how to feel about this, because while their skill levels weren’t drastically different, I did expect there to be differentiation between the two lessons.

Rituals & Rountines

The routines of a Physical Education class vary from teacher to teacher and school to school, and it is a critical element that teachers must pay close attention to. If the routine at the start of your class is for students to leisurely get dressed and then come out and stand around talking, what tone is that setting for the rest of the class? Does it send home the message that we are here to move and learn, or is it fitting the mold that PE is a social hour/recess? Far too long, has this been the case that teachers allow their students to waste precious time that could be spent warming up or participating in an instant activity.

Creating a routine that sets up the mindset that we are here to move is so important, because many Physical Education classes are so short to begin with. We need to make an effort to maximize any time that we have. It isn’t enough to just have something for the students to be doing when they come out, but it must be relevant and interesting. We want our students to be excited to come out and get moving right away.

Aside from preventing wasted time, we must have rituals that promote cohesion and positivity. Having students create squad or group warm-ups is a great way to build leadership roles and other important character virtues. We use these rituals to aid in the management of the class, because when the students have responsibility and clear guidelines, there is less room for interpretation and a decrease in off task behavior. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Comparing Inequality

When we are comparing school based solely on their test scores, is the objective, subjective, or just silly. In my opinion it is silly and taken out of context to such an extent that we become blinded by testing results. Do we take into account that student who wants to do well and succeed academically, yet when they go home they are taking care of their three siblings while their parents are at work trying to provide for them. What about that student who lives in constant fear due to a violent or dangerous neighborhood. How are they supposed to be compared to the student who lives in a wealthy socioeconomic area who has no worries or fears about any of these other issues? This is simply the tip of the iceberg of how a student’s personal life directly affects their ability to concentrate academically. While it isn’t impossible for a student growing up in a lower socioeconomic status to become successful, it surely takes a lot more effort.     VS.     
If you take the social aspects of socioeconomic status out of the picture, our schools are very comparable and competitive right? Not even close. Schools in areas surrounded by poverty and low socioeconomic status are in turn going to reflect their communities. They are going to receive less money from property taxes because, if the median home price is 60k in one school district as opposed to the one across the lake where the median price is 200k. These schools are burdened even more by the fact that when hiring perspective teachers, the wealthier district is they are more likely going to pay more to start than the state minimums. This often means that the more desirable teachers are going to choose a job that pays 10k+ more a year over the one that starts teachers out at the state minimum. While this doesn’t mean that there aren’t good teachers in these lower economic districts, they are however more likely to leave their position to move to a district where pay is increased and budgets are less restrictive.
As much as we would like to think that we aren’t in this career for the money, everyone needs to make a living that is able to support their families. If this means that you have to change districts to make more money to support your own family, you are likely to do so. As a father, I know that I would do anything I can to give the best possible life to my children, and if that means moving jobs than so be it. This is the un-ideal situation that many teachers are faced with. There comes a point when money is the deciding factor and ultimately you have to do what is best for your own family.
Making sacrifices like these are what hurts struggling districts even more. They already bring in less money from taxes and yet are then penalized by the state when their test scores don’t meet a certain expectation. Since school taxes are based off of property value, the math is simple; a house that costs 200k is going to pay more to their district than a house worth 60k. Less money means poorer building conditions, less supplies, older technology, and less/older equipment. While there are grants to offset some of these deficiencies, they can’t possibly make up for it annually. With all of this in mind, how can we ethically compare two schools of drastically different socioeconomic statuses and expect them to perform equally? We can’t, and until congress can come up with a better plan, schools are going to continue to struggle, and the weak are only going to continue to be pushed to their breaking point.

Show me the money!

Money is what makes the world go round. While this statement is sad it is also true, and without the proper funding schools struggle to create and even maintain basic functioning abilities. Especially in today's economic climate we see a steady and constant downturn of the funding given to schools. Over the past five years almost all schools have seen a steady decline in the amount of federal and state funding. School boards have been face to face with creating budgets that are not only filled with difficult decisions, but they are forced to decide how many teachers we will be losing, what programs are worth more than others, and finally which ones can be cut.

So when you ask, why is important for teachers to know where the money is coming from, I can only ask, why wouldn't they want to know. The budget directly effects the materials they will be able to get, the amount of students in their classes, and even more critically their salary and benefits. Teachers are already seen by most as a vastly underpaid profession, and yet they play a major role in the futures of our youth. As teachers and future teachers, we need to make it a point to find out as much information about the budgets as we can so we can be informed consumers.

Each year a school board passes a budget to be voted on by their local community who essentially will pay a school tax that directly affects the budget of their local schools. If as consumers you have no idea what is going into the budget, all you see is the increase in the amount of money you will be paying on top of your property taxes. To many people, they already feel that their taxes are too high, making it difficult to justify paying even more. They have an even more difficult time ponying up more money when they don't have any children going through the public school system. They don't understand that a 3% increase on their taxes could potentially save 20+ jobs in their district. All they see is that they will pay another couple hundred dollars. They don't have anything physical to attach the extra fees to.

As teachers we need to be able to explain where the money comes from and what it is going towards, because the old answer of "it is going towards your child's education" won't cut it anymore. More than that, you need to know where the rest of the money is coming from, because if you aren't informed enough to give an educated answer, how are you going to talk to your community members and express to them the importance of this tax. Having my wife as a teacher has given me greater insight into both sides of the issue that most never get to see. I know what it is like to pay high taxes and see a steady increase each year, and yet I also hear about schools laying off dozens of teachers, and even worse closing schools. I also have a more in depth look into what the school budget involves rather than just buying books and paying salaries. Teachers are being forced to take pay freezes in their contracts simply because funding has been cut in half from where it was years ago. So as times get worse and costs go up, pay stays the same. This increased pressure in their personal financial situations should be reason enough to gain as much knowledge about the issue as possible. Otherwise everyone can keep burying their heads in the sand and hope for the best and complain about the rest.

Field Experience Day 7 3rd Grade 3/29/12

Assessments of Student Learning

Today the 3rd grade class was beginning their bowling unit as well, and we started the lesson with the students learning the cues and rules of the bowling activity we had planned. Today was also the day we had decided to perform the preassessment for our up coming volleyball unit. We decided to have a seperate station set up off to the side where I would be evaluating one student at a time on their vollying skills.

I decided to do the preassessment this way, so that I would have time to evaluate the data from the preassessment and plan my lessons accordingly. I decided to pull students asside while the others worked on the bowling activity, because it was very unintrusive of the other lesson going on and didn't disrupt any of the other students. We worked as a team to have one teacher lead the other activity making sure that students were staying on task, and giving feedback while I worked on the assessments. I also chose to bring students to the assessing station, because they didn't feel pressure from the other students watching and they were in a more controlled environment. Overall I think that it went well, but I would have liked to move them through the evaluation a little quicker, but behavior issues slowed up the process. I do feel that this was a good way to do the assessment however, because I feel that doing the evaluation prior to the lesson will allow me to plan the upcoming lessons more effectively.

Field Experience Day 7 Kindergarten 3/29/12

Students with Special Needs
Beginning our bowling unit today started with the group learning about how to set up the pins for the bowling activity. All the pin spots are designated with spots marked on each lane, and the ball returns are located in between every other lane. We then moved quickly into the students practicing bowling and gripping the balls. While this was easier for some than others, for the most part everyone was able to successfully bowl the ball down the lane knocking down pins.
In this group we do have a student with Autism, and he struggled with this activity. He was very fixated on the pins getting knocked down and it was difficult for him to leave them alone. He constantly wanted to run up and simply kick them over. He also was uninterested in setting them back up. This was frustrating for his group members that he was working with, because they were constantly waiting to set everything back up. Eventually, another teacher came in and worked one on one with him to try to focus his attention on being productive rather than destructive. Once this teacher came in he was able to focus much more on the task rather than knocking everything over. I feel that if this other teacher had not been there, the lesson wouldn’t have worked out as well. A lot of our attention and efforts were concentrated on keeping him on task prior to this, leaving a lot of the other students without the guidance that they needed. I gained a better grasp on the need for modifications for students that need more attention.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Anxiety Types

When discussing anxiety, you will often read about trait as well as state anxiety. These are two very different types of anxiety that have very different effects on those who suffer from severe forms of anxiety. As humans we all have a natural reaction to certain situations which create anxiety naturally through preprogrammed reactions deep within our brains. Since I am learning about anxiety as I go, I first needed to understand the difference between the two types, because they are always the key feature of most articles. First an example of what each is.

Trait anxiety is a sense of fear or being over-concerned with things that are not of any threat. People with trait anxiety will live constantly with a sense of uneasiness about everything. They will have an inappropriate reaction to common situations such as walking onto a train or dealing with crowed areas or loud noises. They may feel like they are being threatened by these inanimate things and in some cases come to an almost debilitating state where they are frozen by fear or anxiety.

State anxiety is a rushing feeling of anxiety that most of us will face when given a certain situation. Everyone’s reactions are going to be different, but it is to what degree we react to the situation that is important. An example of when you might feel this, would be if a child ran out in front of you car. You would instantly feel a rush of emotions and adrenaline. This feeling will subside in a matter of time, and while this is normal, some people struggle to come back down from this heightened state which is a cause for concern.

This article looks at the correlations between state as well as trait anxiety and physical activity. It states the correlations between those engaging in physical activity and their barriers that they build when preparing to enter a new activity. It shows that anxiety elevated with those individuals who suffered from anxiety, which is to be expected because they are entering something that can potentially contain risks of injury. The article does state that state anxiety had a much more profound impact on activity, and that it should be considered when physicians are prescribing activity to their patients.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fighting Anxiety

We all have a good handle on why exercise and leading an active lifestyle is beneficial to our lives. But are there more benefits that we are not fully realizing? Since many of us already lead an active lifestyle, we are reaping these awesome benefits, but what about that person who isn't active? What if they are a person that struggles with trait anxiety as well? Well, this article's findings lead us to believe that there are more benefits than the ones we already know about. This article states that it's control group who did 10 weeks of step aerobics/dance vs the group that didn't had increased physical effects, but more interestingly they had a reduction in anxiety. This is interesting because it shows the mental benefits of exercise as well.