Only two weeks ago now saw me walking through the doors of a primary school with whom we had done no previous work. I was greeted warmly by the staff and shown which 2 classes I would be teaching for that half term. I would be delivering a block of work with these classes with the target of training up the class teacher and increasing their confidence levels to deliver such blocks of work in the future. I was excited, I love working with new schools who don’t know me as it gives me the opportunity to really put my own stamp on it and show off my enthusiasm and passion for the subject.
It was lunch time, and two children merrily skipped by me on the corridor, before stopping and asking if I was their new PE teacher.
“Yes, yes I am. My name is Mr Ellis what are your na…?”
But before I could finish I was met with a prompt reply back,
“Do you shout when you teach like our old one?”
Before I could respond, both children then proceeded to head towards the playground to enjoy what was left of their break. Minutes later the children began re-entering the school signalling the end of lunch time, at which point I was greeted with another child who (noticing my sporty clothes) asked if I would shout when I teach them. Fast forward three hours when I had finished the after school tchoukball club. A grandfather came to pick up his granddaughter. I managed to eaves drop into him asking her,
“Is this the PE teacher that shouts at you and your class?”
The girl told him that I wasn’t but I responded by asking him if everything was ok. He informed me that his granddaughter had lost interest in PE and sport because her old ‘PE teacher’ shouted and told them off a lot.
I don’t really know what sort of modern day teaching standards we expect, but I’m sure ‘said previous teacher’ certainly wasn’t helping the current ‘couch potato’ epidemic that many children seem to have today. It is common knowledge that obesity levels amongst children are rising, and even more common knowledge the significant role physical activity and high quality physical education plays in reducing this. I had sudden thoughts of the film ‘Kes’ and a teacher who yells and says things just to make themselves feel better.
Needless to say this is not my style of teaching and the feedback from children, staff and parents after just one afternoon spoke for itself.
After both lessons I was inundated with thanks from the children. Staff telling me it’s the best PE they have had in years. I was slightly confused. I was just doing my job. Teaching as I do day in and day out. Looking to enthuse the children so they enjoy PE and hopefully gain a lifelong love for being active. So, looking back, what exactly did I do that their previous teacher did not…
- Have high expectations – I start every new class by setting out my expectations. There are 2 key ones that I insist on. Good body language at all times (especially when somebody is speaking) and Hands up if they wish to speak.
- Positive reinforcement (by the bucket load) – I try to praise anybody who I see doing this immediately e.g. “Superb body language Katie, I love how you are showing me good eye contact”. My aim is to try and praise at least 3 children within the first 30 seconds of the lesson. Often, the rest follow this lead and try their best to be next. They crave positive attention.
- Bring the feel good factor – After individual/paired or team work I have the children high fiving congratulating each other on how they have done. Acknowledging effort and performance. This continues throughout the lesson right till the moment they leave. Ensuring they return to the classroom having had a positive experience in a supportive environment.
- Be enthusiastic – I LOVE what I do! As a result the children see this. They feed off of my enthusiasm and passion for PE. As a result they smile and enjoy it too!
- Praise, praise praise and more PRAISE! This is so important I’m writing it again. I never let my expectations drop! Always positively reinforcing somebody who is meeting my high standards telling them how impressed I am. If somebody is not, I will address this but seek to praise them for something good as soon as possible afterwards.
Three weeks in, and the children are having a blast. The teachers love the work and we have even been referred to another local village school to begin delivering CPD there as well.
As a teacher, you really have to LOVE WHAT YOU DO! This makes a world of difference. The moment that passion dwindles, perhaps it is time to hang up teaching as it may be doing more harm to the children than good. That is how I felt. That is exactly why I left mainstream classroom teaching, and the benefit on myself and the children I teach has been remarkable!