My Favorite Unit

It’s finally here, the unit that I look forward to each and every year.  Drum roll, please….


The 6th grade standard for dance is line dance.  Not only is it one of my favorite types of dances, it is one that I think my 6th graders learn to love. And to top it off, it really is a skill that they can use throughout their entire life.  We all can think of at least one social event that we attended where we found ourselves dancing along to the Cha Cha Slide, the Cupid Shuffle, the Macarena, the Electric Slide, or the Wobble.

I am not a good dancer at all but this is by far my favorite unit to teach.  The first day, I always spend the time teaching by modeling and dancing along with the students.  I believe that it helps them loosen up and lets them watch me mess up but also lets them see that I can have fun and not take myself too seriously.  I can quickly figure out who are the dancers and who are timid to get started.  It’s a great opportunity to get involved with my students.  My calves are always incredibly sore after day one, but it’s worth it.

Once I’ve taught them the Cha Cha Slide, the Cupid Shuffle, and the Electric Slide, I put the learning int the hands of my students and do a jigsaw of the Wobble.  I have pre-determined teams, that are broken down further so that one person from each team to learn a step of the Wobble before returning to their original group to teach their steps to the group.  Then each group practices the dance before the entire class dances together.

And this year I have big plans for the Wobble.  I will share that once it happens.

After my students have begun collaborating and communicating, they add creativity and critical thinking by using what they have learned so far to design their own line dance.  After a few days of planning and practicing, they present their dances to the class as their final assessment.

I am always so amazed at the engagement of this unit.  And the best part, is when these 6th graders become 7th graders and the Wobble comes on at lunch or during a school dance, I always see my students get up and dance.  That’s fitness for life!

So even if you are not a dancer, you HAVE to find a way to make sure your students are exposed to the dance standard.  I guarantee that it will be worth it.



My Podcast Guest Debut

Social media has been a recent addition to my professional development arsenal.  I have been enjoying listening to a variety of teacher podcasts.  My current favorite podcasts are The PE Geek Podcast, SHAPE America Podcast, Google Teacher Tribe Podcast, and the Ditch that Textbook Podcast.  The first two are specific to PE, but the last two are some great tech podcasts for teachers in any subject.  The PE Geek Podcast and the SHAPE America Podcast were the first podcasts that I started listening to and have found so much inspiration from.  Listening to these podcasts has given me a million ideas for my classroom.

One of the most influential things I have gotten from listening to podcasts over the past few years is the need to connect with other teachers on Twitter.  I had a classroom Twitter account that I sometimes used, but I wasn’t active on it by any means.  So I decided to make my use of and time on Twitter much more frequent.  I started searching for some of the names I’ve heard on podcasts and from there Twitter would give me suggestions for others to follow.  In addition to following people, I started sharing my knowledge, which has been great for me as well.  It’s so awesome to know that I am part of this great PLN that is supportive and willing to share our knowledge with each other.  Plus, it’s FREE professional development!  If you’re a teacher and aren’t using Twitter for professional development, you’re missing out!

A couple weeks ago, I saw a tweet from Jarrod Robinson, the voice behind The PE Geek Podcast and creator of a bunch of apps for PE teachers.  The tweet was asking for guest speakers on his podcast who would be willing to share their experience using tech in PE.  I quickly signed up for a time to be interviewed and anxiously waited a week for my time.  I was nervous that I would be awkward but also excited for such a great opportunity.  I’ve listened to podcasts for 3 years and always wondered what it would be like to be a guest.  I’ve learned so much and thought it would be incredible to help others.

The experience was fantastic.  Jarrod was extremely professional, yet I felt like I was talking to a friend.  We talked for almost 45 minutes about technology tools that I use for assessment, management, and organization.  When the recording was over, the anxiousness set it.  I wondered what my voice would sound like, would it be annoying, nasally, or would I sound unintelligent?  I wondered if anything would get cut from the recording.  I wondered if anyone would listen and hoped that if people did, that they found it helpful.  The podcast was posted a couple days later and as I listened, all of my fears were put at ease.  My only regret is that I didn’t get to share more and there was one thought that I didn’t get to finish, which makes me wonder if people think I’m a little strange.  Oh well!

I hope that I can have more opportunities like this one, to share my experiences with technology and my best practices that create a positive learning environment for my students.

I have to give a huge shoutout to Jarrod Robinson for the opportunity.

If you want to listen to my podcast, it can be found on your Apple device in Apple Podcasts, look for “The PE Geek Podcast” or HERE as episode #102 Crowd Funding Tech in PE

Twitter Links:

And be sure to follow me on Twitter

The Struggle Is Real but Worth It

Beginning a Physical Education teaching career right now is very challenging.  We are in a state of education where all subjects are being held accountable for what students know and are able to do when they leave our class every day.  This is such a wonderful burden to bear, especially for a PE teacher and I’m sure my elective teacher friends are feeling the same pressure.

Physical Education classes are changing, but this change is for the best.  I am only about 20 years removed from middle school, but I can tell you that PE now is nothing like PE when I was a kid.  I hated PE. I remember playing capture the flag, dodgeball, and running the mile.  I was athletic and loved to be active, but PE was torture for me.  I can recall writing notes and forging my parents’ signatures to get out of PE, which is part of what drives me to be a PE teacher.  I want to make PE fun for all my students, but I also want my students to actually learn something about their body, how to make healthy choices, and understand how our bodies move.  None of this was taught when I was in school.

The current struggle of PE teachers is not teaching our content and inspiring our students, it’s educating the parents, classroom teachers, and administrators that our subject holds value and should be taken seriously.  I am extremely lucky to have an administrative team that supports our department completely.  We also have an amazing staff that consistently tell me how impressed they are what we have done with our PE program in such a short time.  My 6th grade students quickly figure out that they will be learning more than just how to play various sports, that they will be asked to demonstrate their learning and by the time they are 7th graders, they’re on board 100%.

But the parent pushback is tough to combat.  Some parents get it and love what they are seeing, but I hear quite often, “Why can’t you just make my kid run and play dodgeball?”  or “My kid is athletic, why don’t they have an A in PE?” It baffles my mind that parents would be okay with this.  I’m not a parent, but don’t you want your kid to go to school to be challenged mentally in all of their classes?

I’ll compare this thinking to Math.  If you’re a kid who is naturally good at math, class would be boring if you weren’t challenged with more difficult problems to solve on a consistent basis.  What about if you only solved math problems from a textbook or worksheet and never got to see how math applies to real life situations and can be used to solve real-life problems?  Not only would you be bored, you may never realize how fun math can be or maybe think about pursuing a math-related career.  Sure, you might get an easy A, but what do you have to show for it if you didn’t actually learn anything or be challenged to achieve that A?  What if you are that kid that struggles with math, now think about the scenarios I just mentioned.  You would be consistently frustrated if you were always given information the same way.  But if every day when you walked into math class, you knew that your teacher was going to apply math to more real applications, make math a game, or approach the learning with different methods, you would most likely have a much different perspective on math.  Sure, the subject might still be challenging, but most likely you wouldn’t dread being in class every day and would most likely be able to achieve decent grades.

So let’s go back to PE.  The concept of Physical Literacy that we are trying to teach, helps us to reach every student in our class regardless of ability, previous PE experiences, preconceived notions, or impacts their parents may have.  It makes PE more fun for our students and more fun for us to teach.  We need to continue to drive our profession forward by finding new and innovative ways to educate our students.  We need to share what we are doing with parents, staff, and admin through blogging, using social media or class newsletters, and inviting these people to observe our classes.  We have to stick to our guns, do what we do best, and not let parents, staff, or admin lessen the importance of Physical Education in schools.  The more teachers who begin to teach to the whole child and every child, the better we make our profession.

I recently heard the saying, “Over a 30-year career, I want to teach the same lesson 30 different ways, rather than the same lesson 30 different times.”  This has stuck with me.  We need to consistently reflect and innovate the lessons we teach.  If we become complacent, it will show in our teaching and our students won’t enjoy our class which could affect them for life.

Another great quote, this one from Michael Metzler’s book Instructional Models in Physical Education is, “Teaching physical education poorly is the easiest teacher job in any school; teaching physical education well is the hardest teaching job in any school.”

One of my fitness inspirations, Candace Moore, recently released a podcast on how to stay motivated.  In her podcast, she talks about knowing your “why”.  If you know why you started teaching in the first place and consistently remind yourself, it can drive you and help you focus on the bigger picture when you are faced with challenges or aren’t feeling motivated.

So don’t be complacent.  Work hard to make PE the class that every student looks forward to on a daily basis.  Make it impossible for parents, staff, and admin not to get on board with what you are doing in your class because you inspire and challenge students both physically and mentally.  Reflect on every lesson, seek out professional development opportunities, go to conferences, reinvent your teaching style if you have to.  But don’t let anyone stand in your way of teaching PE the way it should be taught.

The Un-realized Power of a PE Teacher

I experienced my first every 6th grade Camp this week.  It is a 5 day outdoor school that supplements the science curriculum for 6th graders.  In addition to education, it is a week full of social and personal education for our students.  But the purpose of this post is not to talk about the value of our young generations learning first hand the beauty and complexity of nature, it is about what I learned on night three.

Walking through the camp office around 7pm, getting ready to head out on the night hike, I found myself in a role that I never really considered was part of the job description.  Two female students had been in a physical altercation.  Both students were visibly upset, both students set to go home that night, both students in need of love and support.  My “work wife”, I’ll call her,”T”, gave me a look that said, “I need your help”, so into the room I went.  She was sitting with a student who I recognized but who was not directly one of my own 25o 6th graders.  This poor girl was crying hysterically, to the point that she was struggling to breathe and her hands were so stiff they were seemed frozen.  Before I became a PE teacher, I was a professional massage therapist and a Reiki healer, so my inner healer stepped up to the plate.  T and I sat with the student, I’ll call her, “D”, and did everything we could to help her get her breathing under control.

T talked to D and reminded her that she know what a strong, good young lady she is and that this behavior was uncharacteristic.  Although she did point out that her behavior in class lately had been increasingly aggressive.  While T talked, I healed, sending love and strength to D, trying to calm her breathing and relax her tense hands.  After some time, D finally broke down and we both realized that our students are going though way more than we can even imagine.  D started confiding in us that her parents had recently began thinking about separating and that D had heard and seen them fighting on more than one occasion.  D had been bottling up emotions of fear and blame for months while feeling like she could not tell anyone.  Her grades have been suffering and her relationships with friends began to suffer but she felt like it was not her place to share her worries and anxiety with anyone.  This poor 11 year old felt like it was her duty to keep her parents and her family together, and that this fight at camp will further put a strain on her parents’ relationship.  She felt like there was no one at school or at home to talk to.  T and I insisted that she can confide in us any time and that the school counselor is there to help her as well.  We couldn’t fathom the pain she must be feeling by not realizing the resources she has available to her.

We kept reminding D that the fact that her parents were open and honest with the current state of their family, meant that they deeply love her and are working towards keeping the family together and working through their differences.  D was worried that her parents would be upset with her for ruining camp and to be honest, we were too.  We had no idea what her parents’ reaction would be when they came to pick her up later.  We feared the worst but hoped for the best, knowing that her parents were in the car almost immediately after receiving the principle’s phone call.

As we waited with D for her parents to arrive, she continued to cry and we continued to console.  When her parents walked in through the door, D immediately ran to her dad, who embraced her lovingly and kissed her head.  T and I both lost it and started crying.  We had hoped that her parents would be loving and compassionate but it was more than we imagined.  They were incredibly sweet, they let her know that there would be consequences for her actions but that they love her deeply.

Her father stepped with us outside to talk about the incident and he also revealed to us that perhaps D’s recent behavior was a reaction to her parents’ fighting and her sensing instability.  We agreed and encouraged him to seek help for her and the family.  I also suggested to allow D to participate in the after-school wrestling program so she can learn a productive outlet for her aggression, to which her father agreed was a great idea.  Her mom hugged us and her dad graciously embraced our hands, both of them thanking us for taking care of D and for believing in her.  When they drove away, T and I felt the weight of D on our shoulders and quickly realized how important the role of a teacher can be.

There are 2 sides to this story, there was another student involved in the fight.  She is one of my students, some one who is known around campus as a bully and is always involved in the “girl drama” at school.  I’ll refer to her as, “A”.  While talking with D, T and I realized that A was all alone and probably feeling awful having to hear us consoling D.  I went to try to talk to her, when I turned to face her, her face was stone cold and there was extreme anger in her eyes, unlike anything I had ever seen.  She wasn’t crying.  I tried to talk to her so she could explain what she was feeling, but she yelled at me and told me she did not want to talk to anyone.  I let her know that I care about her and that it was okay if she did not feel like talking, but it broke my heart that a 6th grader could have such anger and not be willing to accept help.  Also, we found out that her mom seemed to be in no hurry to come pick her up and console her.  My heart broke for A, realizing that her home life must be very different than D’s.

For T and I both, we were so grateful we were able to be at camp and be there to help D.  As PE teachers, we see every single female student that walks in the locker room.  Even if they are not on our rosters, we feel a responsibility to take care of them and be a support.  For me, I teach half of the entire 6th grade class.  I always knew I had a lot of students, but this week gave me more insight and ownership of my teaching duties.  I realized that my job is much more than teaching the PE standards and developing live lessons.  I have a responsibility to be a source of comfort and guidance for my students and that I may be the only adult in their life that they feel comfortable confiding in. However, I don’t see this as a burden, I see it as a blessing.  I am grateful that I have the potential to continue as a healer while being a teacher.  I have a new appreciation for my large class sizes, knowing that I have the potential to reach so many more students than a typical classroom teacher.

Those 2 Dreaded Words: “Pink Slip”

This year is my second year of teaching.  After my first year I felt like I had finally found what I was placed on this earth to do and that I found what I am truly great at.  And then 6 months into my second year, we were notified that due to budget cuts handed down from Gov. Jerry Brown, all temporary teachers will be getting a pink slip. Noooooooooooo!  I finally found my place and my groove and it could all be taken away in one swift pass of a piece of paper.

Getting a pink slip is the nice way of saying that your services are no longer needed, in other words, “You’re fired!”  Don’t get me wrong,  I understand that it is much more complex than that.  But take the perspective of a first or second year teacher.

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics found that 17% of new teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years.  Every teacher fresh out of the credential program is well aware of this statistic.  It is drilled into us that although teaching is amazingly rewarding, teaching is also very hard.  Parents are tough, kids are tough, admin is tough, testing standards are tough, and the long hours with little pay are tough.

Every year, thousands of teachers in California receive the dreaded pink slip.  I can bet you that this contributes to the amount of great teachers that leave the field due to lack of available jobs. This information is not encouraging to new teachers who are faced with the facts that there’s a good chance they will be interviewing for a job every summer.  Every Spring, they receive a pink slip and have to pack up their classroom, or in a PE teacher’s case, their locker room office, turn in their keys, and hope that their school will hire them back.  But we also have to be realistic in knowing that until you sign your contract for the upcoming school year, your job is not confirmed, which means you need to be interviewing and hoping you can land somewhere.

This year, in San Diego Unified, 137 Elementary PE teachers will be laid off.  This number sickens me.  That means 137 PE teachers will be left with a million questions and no students to teach.  The district continues to stand firm on their belief that students will not be effected by layoffs, but I can’t understand how the district finds this to be true.

Physical Education is no longer a glorified recess time.  We have state and national standards to follow.  There are more and more studies emerging confirming the direct positive correlation of Physical Education and success of students in the classroom.  It is unrealistic to expect a multiple subject teacher to also follow the standards for PE when they have so much pressure to have their students successful on testing.  There needs to be dedicated PE teachers who can help students develop motor skills, communication skills, social skills, and life skills.

And being a PE teacher at a middle or high school can be even worse.  Because we do not technically have a classroom, our class sizes are usually double those of teachers who teach Math, Science, Language Arts, Social Studies, etc.  We have to have immaculate classroom management skills and immense creativity with large class sizes, limited facilities and small budgets for equipment.

So as a PE teacher, the idea of getting a pink slip is scary.  Thoughts go through our head like, “If I am lucky enough to keep my job, will my class sizes grow to difficult to manage numbers?”, “Will I be stepping into a new school, part of an old team, feeling like a first year teacher again?” and many other scary thoughts.

PE is often one of the first subjects to take cuts.  It is important that you are constantly advocating for your program and for the great things you are doing for your students.  Just being a great PE teacher is not enough.  Parents, PTSA, Admin, and the District all need to know what you are doing for your students.  At the end of the day, you cannot know whether or not you will have a job after receiving a pink slip, but you can make yourself valuable to your school and your district.  If you remain in your position at your school, all of your hard work will have paid off and you can continue to make a difference.  If you do lose your job, you will have some amazing skills to take with you on your interviews over the summer.

As of this moment, I am in limbo with many of my peer and colleagues.  I know I will be receiving a pink slip, but I also feel confident in my value to my school and my district.  My best advice to anyone suffering from the same stress as me is to have faith in your skills but to also make sure you are looking out for yourself.  Keep being the amazing teacher you  are every single day, and don’t let getting a pink slip every year discourage you from leaving the profession.  If you went into teaching to be a guiding light to your students, stay true to your purpose and don’t let politics get in the way of helping your kids.  It doesn’t matter which school you are at, it matters that you are in a position to teach your students to be their best selves.