Category Archives: education

Support PE in Schools (good for health and learning)

This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Imagine you are 11. Your body is being possessed. One minute, you are a kid, wanting your
stuffed animal at bedtime. The next minute, you are listening to the news and worrying about Russians taking over our elections. Your body, it’s antsy. It is changing fast. Your life is full of activities, confusing social dynamics, and people telling you what to do, and when.

Then you get to PE.

PE, for many kids, is the release valve. It is where they can move their bodies and shake off the math lesson, the cruel joke, or the latest test. PE can also be where they gain confidence, learn how to take care of their bodies, and where they learn how to play with other kids.

image from http://wenatchee.innersync.com/col/

As a teacher, I saw how different students acted on days with and without a PE class. Aside from the occasional post PE argument about who won, students came back to class with bodies and minds ready to settle back into learning.  The days with no PE, or the worst, indoor recess?

No so much.

A brain needs movement breaks. With a packed curriculum, standardized testing,  and increasing pressures, this can be hard for the teacher to provide. That is why recess and PE classes are so critical.

Research shows kids need 60 minutes of physical activity per day and PE programs help our kids get to this minimum for their health and wellbeing. PE addresses the needs of the whole child, positively impacting their physical, mental, and emotional health.

Here’s the problem: Only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools provide daily PE or its equivalent for the entire school year. How does that impact student learning, wellbeing, and their overall health?  According to a report by University of Texas School of Public Health, kids need PE to be treated like a core subject like math or literacy: Continue reading

Post election strategies for teachers

post-election-teacher

from @christienold on Twitter

Many teachers have wondered how exactly they would respond to the results of the presidential election. They have wondered how they can both support students feeling vulnerable and unsure, while not appearing partisan in their roles as educators. Teachers hold together the fabric of our society through their interactions during challenging times. Here are some of the ways that teachers around the U.S. are helping students through a changing political and social landscape.

choose-kindPromoting Kindness: The election has been hard on all of us. Students pick up on this and feel when their teachers are stressed and upset. Many students will be confused, tired, and unclear about what the election results mean for their lives. Teachers can meet this by circling back to a focus on kindness, compassion and acceptance for all students in their classrooms and school communities. Here are some resources:

kindness

Choose Kind. This is an online movement based on the book Wonder by RJ Palicio. There are many resources here for inspiring students to show and share kindness.

For younger students who might being feeling vulnerable, #kidltsafetypins on Twitter is featuring kids’ favorite picture books with safety pins to show that illustrators and authors of children’s literature stand for protecting all kids from discrimination and harm.  I love this one from Peter Reynolds.

Turning Apathy into Action: Educator Jason Findley encourages educators to focus on what they can control and encourage students to do the same. He says (via Twitter): Continue reading

Aspirational Audacity with Jonathan Kozol

kozol-speakingAlmost 20 years ago, when I was working at an outdoor education center with student groups from New York City, my brother gave me a book. It was called Amazing Grace, by Jonathon Kozol. In this book I learned what many of my students at the center were experiencing– lives filled with challenges I could have never known. They suffered struggles with poverty, violence, the consequences of the AIDS epidemic , and schools that were crumbling, served by inexperienced teachers. They were in environments where it was almost impossible to prosper. A few miles away, mostly white students were in modern, well lit schools with experienced teachers and plenty of resources. This stunning and outrageous American truth dropped on my shoulders and has never left.

Since reading that book I went on to earn my Master’s in Education and to read his other books, including Savage Inequalities. I became a teacher in Vermont and his words reminded me to look out for students who might not have the same privileges as others in my class and to work to create inclusive communities for students.  I knew that a large part of my job was advocating for students and creating an environment where they could learn and grow no matter what challenges they faced.

When I wrote my first education book, Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus, I dove again into Kozol’s work, which had not lessened in its intensity, power, and compelling nature. I read (and placed about 1,000 sticky notes in) The Shame of a Nation and Letters to a Young Teacher.  His words have been fuel for my work as a teacher and writer.

jonathan-kozolToday, I had the honor to meet him at the Rowland Foundation’s annual conference and hear his thoughts on equity in education. Here are a few:

“The most important factor for success in schools is not something external. It is the creativity and professional autonomy we grant our teachers.”

Continue reading