I have always believed in the importance of physical education (PE). Movement and physical activity have been an integral part of my own life since I was a child. As I grew up, went to school, tried to figure out my life and eventually settled on a career in education, PE was always at the forefront. The year 2015 marks my 22nd year in the field and after nine career “adjustments” over this time span (new positions, new schools, new degrees), two constants have emerged: PE and working with children and youth. Over the length of my career, I have developed a fundamental belief in the absolute, critical, elemental, life-changing and life-giving need for human movement. Forme, there are two critical elements that form the core of my teaching philosophy for physical education.
1. Movement for the sake of movement. Movement can stand on it’s own – it has inherent worth and efficacy all by its lonesome. Ann Thelen stated, “People perceive in order to move and move in order to perceive. What, then, is movement but a form of perception, a way of knowing the world as well as acting on it?” (1995). Movement is essential to who we are as human beings and is absolutely critical to growth and development across the lifespan. The health and academic benefits are a great bonus, but are really just an extension of how movement is part of our human identity and helps us negotiate the treacherous terrain of life. Therefore, education should not be considered “whole-child” unless it includes education of the physical. Physical literacy is a concept that has gained momentum recently in Canada and globally. The definition is based on the United Nations renewed literacy definition, “Literacy is crucial to the acquisition, by every child, youth and adult, of essential life skills that enable them to address the challenges they can face in life,..” (UN, 2002).
2. The intrinsic JOY of movement. As Scott Kretchmar writes, “When movement is experienced as joy, it adorns our lives, makes our days go better, and gives us something to look forward to. When movement is joyful and meaningful, it may even inspire us to do things we never thought possible” (2008, p. 162). The fact is, kids (and adults!) are motivated by joy and will work/play extremely hard to find it. As a bonus, they’ll also get all the health and academic benefits. If you want to see an example of this ethic in action, go visit a skate park. There you’ll see people finding joy in learning - intrinsic motivation at it’s best and not a trophy or rubric in sight.
Quite often, students will approach me and express their apprehension about taking a class on PE pedagogy. Their fears may be grounded in a negative experience, a misguided perception or a stereotype – it really doesn’t matter. My teaching philosophy allows me meet them where they are, provide joyful movement experiences and, help them establish an identity as a teacher of PE.
“I was really dreading the idea of having to teach PE. All of that changed this semester! The things you taught us were real life, things we can actually use and it was so much fun (so different from past classes)”