Every September 150 children join my school in Year 7. In terms of Physical Education you can split them into two distinct groups: those who value movement and those that don’t. For those that do value movement everything you provide in lessons is a treat. For those that don’t everything is a struggle. The second group is getting bigger every year making it harder to teach. It is impossible to learn if we don’t want to learn. Children have to see that the time they are investing in gaining skills and knowledge is valuable. Ulrich Boser in Learn Better makes the following point “We all see the world through the frame of meaning. We engage in activities that we believe have value.” Boser goes on to say that people need to find their own relevance in a subject in order to be driven to learn in that subject. Just telling children that movement is important in not enough. Neither is seeing movement solely through a narrow lens of fitness. We need to expand both our own and our pupil’s notions of what movement can offer in their lives. Then provide opportunities to find personal meaning themselves.

Physical literacy seems to be gaining traction as a concept. Physical literacy can be described as the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life. Whilst this may potentially provide PE Teachers a framework to offer a holistic curriculum beyond just fitness I don’t think it offers much value and meaning to children. Why should they engage in physical activities in the first place? Margret Whitehead in Chapter 4 of the book Physical Literacy: Throughout the lifecourse provides an answer. “Physical literacy can be described as a disposition characterised by motivation to capitalise on innate movement potential to make a significant contribution to the quality of life.” It is highlighted part that seems to be missing from much of the discussion surrounding Physical Literacy and Physical Education.

This is why I am drawn to James McAllister’s definition of the physically educated person. In The ‘Physically Educated’ Person: Physical education in the philosophy of Reid, Peters and Aristotle, McAllister defines the physically educated person as someone “who has learned to arrange their lives in such a way that habitual movement they freely engage in makes a distinctive contribution to their wider flourishing.” It is either through movement making a significant contribution to the quality of life or to their wider flourishing that can potentially provide the value and meaning needed for children to learn within PE. McAllister uses Haruki Murakami, the acclaimed Japanese novelist, as an example of this. Murakami wrote What I talk about when I talk about running, a memoir of how he has found personal meaning and value in running. Of the personal lessons he has learned by putting his body in motion and how they have helped him in his life.

Therefore the idea of ‘flourishing‘ can help us expand the notions of what movement can offer. Flourishing is a state of being rather than a feeling or experience.  It comes from engaging in activities that both express and produce the actualization of one’s potential. By seeing daily movement as a powerful activity that can help us to become better versions of ourselves. Building a personal resource for living well that combines high levels of physical well-being, emotional well-being, psychological well-being, and social well-being. If we as teachers approach PE from the wider perspective of flourishing then just fitness or gaining sport skills then perhaps we can provide some value and meaning to those children who see none. Perhaps like joy and delight providing this meaning maybe beyond us. Perhaps it will only be found once the child has left school. However let us at least try to sow the seeds of a wider, deeper and richer idea what movement has to offer children in their lives.

Simply put:

Daily movement helps us to flourish and realise our potential 

Physical Education can provide the tools needed to move daily on our own terms

A physical educated person is someone who has learned to arrange their lives in such a way, that daily movement that they freely engage with, makes a distinctive contribution to their wider flourishing


One thought on “Flourishing

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