12 year ago I started teaching in Hengrove, South Bristol. To be honest as it was my NQT year I guess I just wanted to get through it in one piece. It was a real experience and showed me how much sport meant to children as a way of building self esteem, confidence and companionship. I had trained under Jan English in the University Wales Institute Cardiff (UWIC). The teaching I learnt there was that students should be doing the work, it was more than having great sports teams but about every child having a role. If there is one thing that has stuck with me throughout it is exactly that. PE is for all children. Now some may disagree with my philosophy, some may argue it is about having the next sports stars and developing them, some may argue it is about the grades they achieve at GCSE or any other qualification. For me though it is hoping that you inspire every child to find a love for something active and that they continue to do it long after the GCSE has been handed out.
PE offers children the chance to see a range of activities, gives children fundamental skills to be able to take part and provides the confidence for them to work with others, to cope with failure and to solve problems. So what if they are not very good, that they can’t be on the school team or that they don’t get grade A-C in a test. If they are active in and outside school, hopefully they are healthy, and who knows what they may become good at sporting wise when they get past 16! If they hate sport in school you can bet they won’t do much of it once they leave.
After that first year i moved on to City Academy Bristol. A school that had become an Academy and with it a new building. We were blessed in PE to have the first part of that new build and an opportunity to inspire children with amazing facilities. My philosophy stayed the same. Get children hooked on sport so they will want to take part later in life.
So reflecting on 11 years
Did I teach the correct rules of every sport we played? To be honest no. Softball in the summer was usually a mix of rules, part Baseball, part softball, part made up. Why? I was teaching children that could just as easily mess about, disengage, cause problems or a whole list of other things. I wanted them to have fun, I wanted them to see that a made up game was a s much fun as the Premier League they watched on TV (but had no chance of taking part in) Did it work? I like to think that those days playing the games showed children that they could be active, play a game, learn basic skills of throwing, catching and striking, without any one person saying they were the best at the sport, after all it wasn’t an actual sport.
I remember trying to encourage boys to play hockey one year, not an easy task in such a football mad school. Team teaching a session with Mark Saunders we worked hard with this group of Year 11 students, a tough group with some very strong characters. But we did it. We made it fun, we taught them basic rules and skills, to the point that they could play the game, that was what we wanted to achieve. If they enjoyed it, they could learn more, if they hated it taught in a less engaging way, they would always hate that sport. I remember one lesson when we were looking at scoring, usually in a game session there is one team that takes a lead and it impacts on the other team, they may rise to the challenge but with this group they tended to give up. Someone asked what the score was with 5 minutes left of the lesson and Mark and I (with our usual sarcasm) decided to spice things up a little. “in the last 5 minutes each goal is worth double if you are on an even score and triple if you are on an uneven score. In the final minute all goals count as 5” Totally made up but the impact was huge. These Y11’s have never worked so hard in any lesson. They were constantly discussing tactics, working out what they could do to win the game. It made a huge difference. (we did tell them at the end we were not entirely telling the truth but they didn’t care, they had fun)
There are many other stories like this, ways to engage boys in gymnastics, getting the less confident to become real dynamic leaders, simple stories of individuals leaving that school saying they never thought they would but they enjoyed sport again.
Not all of my teaching was like this but I like to think I was not always driven by grades, OFSTED, or levels, but instead focused on the one thing that underpins all good teachers, reacting to what children need.