What would the perfect teacher do? Have you ever asked yourself this question? Who do you picture when you think of the perfect teacher? Perhaps like me you picture a teacher made up of a combination of all the great teachers you know, all wrapped up into one incredible super hero.
Years ago, I was under the misbelief I was right on top of the teaching game, perhaps even on my way toward a superhero cape, until I humbly learned the benchmark I was measuring myself against was outdated and missing major components. My students liked me, they loved physical education, I had very few discipline issues, and when they joined other elementary school students in middle school they demonstrated competency in athletics. All these factors led me to the illusion I was doing an outstanding job. What burst my bubble? What brought me to my current realization that I will never “arrive” and will always have room for improvement?
My first ah-ha moment came when I started National Board Certification. As I began by studying the teaching standards and planning how I would demonstrate competency in each standard, I realized how much more made up a quality physical education program. This launched a major stretching and growing process. I hadn’t understood how high the bar was set. I was astonished that teachers were actually capable of not just accomplishing but mastering each of the standards. If you haven’t gone through the National Board Certification process, take the challenge! Going through caused me to measure every detail of my teaching practices against an exemplary standard. I was forced to weed out habits, activities and lessons that didn’t purposefully lead my students toward achieving grade level outcomes. This reflection brought about more growth in my own teaching than any course or degree program I had yet to experience.
You can read about the National Board Certification process here. http://boardcertifiedteachers.org/sites/default/files/ECYA-PE.pdf The standards are discussed in detail beginning on page 19 of the above linked document.
Shortly after the National Board Certification process I began writing a physical education blog. Writing a blog forces me to reflect on my day to day practices. As I teach I often ask myself,
- “Is this something I could share on my blog?”
- “Does this teaching practice reflect the teacher I really want to be?”
- “Is this lesson one I would be proud to share with the readers of my blog?”
- “If this lesson were to be recorded, would I feel good about my colleagues reviewing it?”
This reflection has had a profound effect on my teaching. When I don’t feel good about a lesson or a practice I modify and revise until I can answer yes to these criteria questions.
Additional ah-ha moments continue to come since joining the physical education social media community. I’ve come to know many physical education teachers who are extremely driven and passionate about improving their craft. These professionals stretch my thinking in a wide variety of topics and collaborating with these teachers through social media sites such as Twitter and Voxer have enriched my teaching. You’ve probably heard people rave on about how they have improved their teaching one hundred fold since joining either Twitter or Voxer. One reason being we are no longer dependent on our school districts or local organizations for providing quality professional development. In addition there are many, probably hundreds, exceptional physical education blogs, websites, podcasts and webinars all easily accessible.
Being connected through social media has facilitated my becoming part of an open generous professional learning community. This community is made up of teachers who each bring their own strengths and expertise. When one teacher shares an activity or questions a widely accepted practice, I then examine my own beliefs surrounding what was shared. This continual feed of new and challenging information strengthens and bends my own teaching beliefs, adds to my teaching tool belt, and brings new ideas and activities to my day to day practice.
I have also realized that even though I strive to continuously to improve, I will never “arrive.” There will be lessons that are stellar, making me stand back in amazement, but there will also be lessons where I am questioning how I missed the mark. There will be units that gel together where students astound me with their learning, and there will be units where I run out of time, or I take too much time and students’ interests wane. Although the successes greatly outway the failures, teaching is messy. As my students are learning I am also learning how to best meet their individual and corporate needs. So when I ask “what would the perfect teacher do?” and picture the many teachers who make up this superhero, even the face of this fictional character changes to best match the circumstances.
For me, the never ending contemplation of how to improve, reach students more effectively, address the grade level outcomes more powerfully, keeps my brain churning. I am grateful to all the generous physical educators who in addition to teaching daily, build websites, write articles, conduct interviews, create physical education apps, conduct webinars, for the improvement of our profession. In addition those who willingly share ideas, concepts, materials with the generous goal of improving the physical education experience for all students. You are truly the teaching superheroes!