The big picture.

 

A Senior Leader comes across three students moving on the field. The Senior Leader asks the first one, “What are you doing?”

The first responds, “I am becoming fitter”

The Senior Leader then asks the second one, “What are you doing?”

The second responds, “I am becoming healthier.”

They are doing the same “movement.” Which of the two is finding more delight and meaning?

The Senior Leader then asks the third one, “What are you doing?”

The third responds, “I am building a better version of myself.”

 

Scanning and noticing are two different ways to make sense of what is happening in front of us. Scanning is used for the details and noticing for the big picture. But what is that big picture? For me it is a rough map to a possible destination. An outline of what PE can offer and as PE Teachers we are the guides to that destination. The difficulty for PE is that it can serve multiple big pictures. For some that destination might be fitness, for others it might be health or wellbeing. As a younger teacher I really never had a clear and coherent big picture in my mind when I was teaching. That meant I only focused on the details. The details are important, but if we get caught up in them we can get lost. Ending up guiding our students to a completely different place, one that we did not imagine at all. Or even worse, to no place at all, ending in a wasted journey together.

Over the last few years I have been thinking hard about the big picture. It is always shifting, changes and adaptations emerging from what I read, what I observe and the interactions with those I’m guiding on the journey. However it is now at a point I feel I can share and hopefully evolve with help from others who are acting as guides:

Benefits: The start of the big picture is movement and the multiple benefits that movement can bestow on people. Helping those on the journey to understand those benefits, beyond the well worn paths of the economic utility of health and fitness. Something deeper, more relevant and ultimately a way of being. Movement can offer something meaningful to everyone. As guides we need to help them explore these paths. The educational benefits claimed for physical education and school sport: an academic review

Tools: It is not our responsibility to make fitter children and cure the obesity epidemic. It is to provide the tools and the means for children to continue exploring the benefits movement have to offer beyond our time together on their journey. To empower them to seek out different paths of movement, of their own choice, and to feel both competent and confident to do that. Deliberate preparation as the most appropriate foundation for lifelong physical activity

Learning: At the heart of PE must be learning, but more than an accumulation of sports techniques to meet a standard. Their journey of using movement to benefit them will be difficult, either with us as a guide or without us. There will always be obstacles to overcome on anyone’s movement journey. Not all of them will be solved with sports techniques, but also with knowledge, meaning, social skills and emotional control. 4 Learning Domains of PE – Referenced

Meaning: Long journeys can be tough. Life long journeys even more so. It helps to ensure they are meaningful. One way as guides we can help with meaning is to notice what is happening at that moment in time through the multiple lenses of competency, challenge, social interaction, relevance and fun. The more we can ensure the moments we are guiding have all five, the more we can make their journey more meaningful. Meaningful Experiences in Physical Education and Youth Sport: A Review of the Literature

Flourishing: The map leads to a destination. What does this destination look like for me? Hopefully one where individuals freely and habitually use daily movement, in whatever form is meaningful to them, to flourish. We all have multiple journeys and destinations in our life. Mine include teacher, partner, son, brother. I believe my movement journey helps all the other journeys to flourish. That movement as a way of life, a way of being, helps me become a better person. The ‘Physically Educated’ Person: Physical education in the philosophy of Reid, Peters and Aristotle

Agency: PE can be influential. At its best it can empower, at its worse it can destroy. We are forced as guides on children’s movement journeys, and in turn we bring many constraints that are enforced on us as guides. Therefore to ensure we empower we need to where possible give them a sense of agency on the journey. We can do this through play with purpose, through problems to solve, time to explore and freedom to seek multiple paths. Exercise, physical activity, and self-determination theory: A systematic review

As guides on children’s movement journeys we will be faced with decisions every step of the way. Details are not enough to help make informed judgements, we must have a big picture of a final destination in mind. The big picture that encapsulates the destination I’m trying to guide children to is Better movers, Better people. What’s yours?

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6 thoughts on “The big picture.

  1. This seems like a tremendous culmination of your thinking and practice over a longer period. I feel grateful because the areas you create resonate with me and what I believe I am trying to practice in my classes with children. During a recent set of meetings at my school regarding standards for health and PE I was extremely conscious of my resistance to the process of what feels like dissecting what I do into discrete pieces, increasing my alienation from the documents I am expected to follow to achieve the best learning outcomes for students. This is a personal professional weakness and I’m dealing with it.
    That said, I am relieved to see how your model of “Better Movers, Better People” captures the whole of what we seek to accomplish on the micro and macro levels. That feels comforting. It affirms what I “know” when I am working with kids. I am constantly adapting my plans to accommodate the needs in the room. Even if I have selected the destination and informed my students, when and how we arrive is still very much subject to who we are, what we knew before, what we learned that was new and how we function as a group, among a host of other factors. Your model holds the space for this tension and messiness that is part of the process of teaching and learning.Thank you for writing and sharing your reflections. They are extremely valuable and rewarding.

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    1. Hi Sherri. Thanks for your comments and feedback. I think you hit upon the head that what we do (teach children movement) is a complex and dynamic business. Having a clear purpose and set of principles (beyond a list of criteria to achieve) helps us to navigate the ‘messiness’ as you put it. I don’t think we will ever get in right 100% of the time, but through rational decision making and reflection based on our principles we can get better and be less wrong!

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  2. When I look at your big picture I see shared responsibility. The teacher is not the center the student is. Love that you focus on their agency to accomplish that. We often focus too much on learning and leave out the other pieces of the picture. I would also add that the map does not lead to a destination. It only leads to more journeys. This year I am attempting to focus more on the benefits of movement than I ever have before. Specifically, I am attempting to have my students understand that movement together has a lot of benefits. Love your blog and appreciate how you constantly push me to redefine my purpose.

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    1. Justin I really appreciate your support, comments and feedback over the past three years. Your reflection of your lived experience as a PE teacher has in turned helped me to make sense of mine. I’m slowly beginning to see a direction and a set of principles I want to work to daily to give my students the best shot at using movement as a way of flourishing and having a happy life.

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