"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world"
Nelson Mandela

Monday, February 3, 2014

Philosophy, Philosophy That is the Question

2014 Colorado Teacher of the Year Journey Philosophy

I have the daily privilege of guiding students down the path of success, and at the same time, I continue to learn and grow myself.  I don’t believe that an effective teacher can show up every day and not be invested in at least one child.  Even though my time with each student may be brief, I make sure that every student I come in contact with learns something they will use in the future.  This could include how to respect others, be a leader, be a follower, work in groups, deal with frustration, anger and success, and develop tolerance, and responsibility.   I am a believer that teachers are instructors, but we also are called upon to be doctors, counselors, mediators, suppliers and accountants, among other things. As teachers we need patience, non-stop energy, and passion.  All together, this is a demanding profession, also the most rewarding.  There are days that I get to go hiking with my students up a mountain behind our school and I say to myself, “I cannot believe someone is paying me to do this job”.

Physical education is extremely important because it guides students into a healthy lifestyle, which affects them physically, mentally/emotionally and socially.  I truly believe that if people do not engage in an active lifestyle they will struggle mentally.  The brain’s functioning is directly affected by the fitness of the body.  In order for the brain to work at its fullest capacity one needs to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.  Exercise improves learning on three levels according to Dr. John Ratey author of Spark, “first, it optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness attention, and motivation; second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells form stem cells in the hippocampus. “  For example a lot of my students who are physically skilled struggle with core academics.    I had a parent approach my principal and discuss the impact that physical movement had on her two sons.  When they were in physical education class she saw an increase in obtaining knowledge in other classes, they were able to succeed more and struggle less.  Over the years I have shifted away from teaching competitive sports and concentrated on individual fitness by introducing “lifelong sports” like hiking, strength conditioning, aerobics, yoga, and running.  These are activities students are more likely to do as adults and will help them be healthy and happy in the future.  The purpose of education is to teach students the knowledge and skills that make them college and career ready, I take this a step further and teach students skills that they will use to enrich the rest of their lives.   

I believe all classes should be taught with the highest rigor.  Even though my students walk into my gym with different skill levels, I expect my students to work their hardest and show personal growth in their fitness.  Ability is not the issue, work ethic is.  Every student is successful in my class.  All students show personal growth in their fitness.  Students keep track of their fitness and continually work towards goals they have set for themselves.  Even if a student does not meet their goal they all show growth in two or more areas of fitness. Growth is the goal not a skill level one has to achieve.

In addition to showing us what they can do physically, I believe my students should be able to verbally communicate their strengths and growth areas in fitness and to write their own personal health/fitness goals and strive to achieve them. This ensures our student’s show critical thinking in connection to their mental/emotional needs and their personal health and this will help them after they leave me because this is vital information to continue a healthy lifestyle.  I believe physical education is a progression from each grade level that continues beyond the classroom.  My students track their growth in their personal fitness from 6th to 8th grade and are also assessed on the Colorado standards including content vocabulary. By 8th grade all students can create written fitness plans that will benefit them in high school, college and throughout their lives.

I also believe the relationships we create with our students are an integral part of their education.  I work with kids at every level, physically and mentally.  Physical activity allows students to deal with frustration, stress, anger, sadness, incompetence, failure, happiness, elation and success.  I guide my students through their growth areas and strengths, and I find that a significant bond is formed between me and my students.  I remind students that all parts of school are important and I tell them that my class is just one aspect of their education.   I discuss with them that in order to be successful not only do they have to train their bodies but they must train their minds.  If they want to go on in life playing sports they have to understand the balance between being a student and an athlete.  Both aspects of their education are equally important.

Teaching is very rewarding to me because I know that I am preparing my students to be successful in their academic and non-academic futures.  I also cherish seeing that smile of accomplishment when a student accomplishes a goal. One of my favorite experiences as a teacher is when my students have to run the mile and those who struggle push themselves and reach the goal I have set for them.  For some, this is a big challenge.  Watching the students who have completed the mile go back out on the track and support those that have not finished, with encouraging words, always brings tears to my eyes.  These are the times that I take a moment to relish the fact that all of these students are amazing people and I can say that without a doubt I have found the career I am meant to be pursuing.

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