6. What task do you find most difficult as a teacher? Please share with us why?
a. Professionally, in general, I think that one of the most difficult things I experience as a teacher is working with people who either don’t know what I do or don’t value what I do. I think that so much emphasis is placed on core subjects (rightly so) but the same importance is not placed on physical education. I find myself always explaining to other people (teachers, parents, etc) why physical education is important and that what students learn in my class doesn’t just get them to the end game of completing high school, but can keep them healthy throughout their lives.
b. More personally, I find that having new ideas and things I want to start but only having one of me and only so much time during the day is the hardest part. I am extremely lucky to work in a district that has been very supportive of my ideas and allows me to start classes like Unified PE without any push-back. The principals I work with, my director of special education and district level administration have all been supportive of the new approaches and programs which is wonderful, but when I drive around from school to school all day it makes it difficult to be in one place long enough to make a large difference.
7. What are your classroom management strategies?
a. My classroom management strategies vary based on the population I am working with. Many times, with the younger classes I will bring the token boards or reinforcers from the classroom into my class so that there is more consistency. I am very lucky that my students really enjoy being in my class. I have the benefit of teaching content that allows kids to move, have fun and be silly which means they tend to have good behavior because they like the class.
b. I do provide some structure in the class that helps with my students who do better with routines. For example, my students always start and end class the same way (sitting in poly spots while I greet them with high-5’s or provide instruction for the class. During instruction, I find that the less words I use the better; which allows for more practice time. I also visually demonstrate everything for my students because so many of my students do better if they can see what to do instead of hearing a long list of instructions. I use a lot of visuals in my class such as station signs that will have a short description and a picture of what they are supposed to do at each station. All of these strategies help my classes run smoother because it reduces frustration levels with the students and allows them to be more successful.
8. How will you work towards quality communication and dialogue with the parents?
a. Having a good dialogue with parents is key. Since we are all members of the IEP team, everyone’s voice should be heard. Whether it’s sending home a parent input form before a triennial assessment, always being available via email or having an open conversation during an IEP meeting, I always like to hear what the parent concerns are and what their goal is for their child. I also hope that the parents I work with have a good understanding about what my goals are for their child in my program. I have the very unique opportunity to be the only Adapted Physical Education Specialist in my district which means that a student who starts with me as a preschooler will still have me when they are in high school. I love that I get the opportunity to be a part of my student's entire education. My hope is that when students transition to new schools or new programs, my being a constant on the IEP team helps to ease the parent’s minds a bit more. I also love that this coming school year, my group of high school seniors were students in the preschool program when I did my student teaching. I have literally been able to watch them grow up! How amazing is that?! After working with parents for that many years, our comfort with each other and understanding our goals for the students has improved so much and a strong working relationship forms.
b. I also began to realize that many of my students aren’t able to go home and tell their parents what they did in APE class. A few years ago, I decided to start an Instagram account for my Adapted PE class. I post pictures several times a week to show what the students are doing in class so that the parents can be in the loop. I have received some really good feedback from parents about the Instagram account and that it helps them feel like they know more about what we do in class and they love seeing their kids on the site having fun while they learn.
9. How do you promote your PE program in the community?
a. My Instagram account is probably the biggest way that I promote my program in the local community. I use certain hashtags and tag other schools and community programs when appropriate to share information wider than my parent followers.
b. I also have recently presented sessions at the National Adapted Physical Education Conference and the CAHPERD conference which helps spread the word about what I’m doing with Unified PE and Unified Sports to other members of my profession. This has been a good outlet for myself to learn from others. Also, as a result of my presenting at conferences, other APE teachers have come to observe my programs in the hopes of bringing it to their schools.
10. How do you assess your student's progress and your teaching in physical education?
a. Data, data, data! Each of my students have individual gross motor goals as a part of their IEP and for each goal, I do data tracking. Any time we work on a skill that is related to their goals, I whip out my data-sheet for that student and track how they are doing. I carry around a huge binder everywhere I go so that I am ready any time to take current data on their progress.
b. Some of my students have consultation services for Adapted PE where they are not pulled out for my class but are working towards goals in the General PE class with my support. I prepare GoogleForms for the General PE teachers to complete each month so that I can stay up to date on how those students are performing in their class.
c. I assess my own teaching based on the type of progress my students are making towards their goals. When students aren’t progressing, I see that as a cue that I need to reevaluate my teaching style or approach. I am constantly working on how I can be creative in my approaches to teaching various skills as none of my students learn the same and there’s always more than one way to teach a skill.