By: Tracy Sharlow, 2016 National Adapted Physical Education SHAPE America® Teacher of the Year
One day, my son Grant, who was a teacher assistant in an ABA classroom for which I was the APE teacher, came home and shared the terrible day he had with his students. The students had been engaged in intense behaviors and it had been impossible to teach them that day. Since I also teach these students, I thought I would try to infuse some humor into the moment; I laughed and stated that I was lucky the students loved me because they were always so good in APE. He looked at me and said, “Stop Mom, they don’t love you; they love what you give them.” I hesitated, gathered my thoughts, and agreed with him that they are kids and kids love to play. Grant then smiled and stated that there was much more to what I gave my students than that.
Wow, this was a definitive “aha” moment for me. As a teacher who routinely reviewed and analyzed my daily lesson plans to determine the effect they had on student learning outcomes, I realized that maybe I was being too tough on myself. Perhaps I need to redirect my thoughts and self-reflect on things I am doing right instead of wrong. This exchange with my son made me aware that it is important to our continual growth as teachers that we take the time to self-reflect on our positive attributes.
We need to celebrate our success as teachers and leaders as much as we need to celebrate our students’ success. It is important to our overall wellness and psyche; it could also be a potential deterrent to “teacher burnout.” Therefore, here are some of the important realities that upon self-reflection, I found myself to have been incorporating all along for overall student success in APE.
- Alignment of my program with SHAPE America® National Standards is essential to my purpose.
- Following Least Restrictive Placement guidelines enhance student safety and success.
- Authentic relationships are the foundation of engaged learning.
- There is no relationship without good communication.
- My relationships grew through connecting with students AND staff through PLAY, and this bonding creates success!
- A trusted, safe, predictable environment is needed to create a good relationship.
- Teaching to all learning styles helps reduce student anxiety, and therefore, increases student learning.
- Attainable expectations for student learning outcomes are needed to establish trust and create a positive environment; the students need to realize that they can accomplish goals.
- Focus on students’ individual needs is imperative to their safety and success.
- Behavior Management Programs are so important for student engagement. They should be:
- Celebrate success and make the learning environment FUN for students AND staff.
- Collaborate and be a productive engaged member of the Special Educational Team.
- Be a life-long learner- APE is complicated and teachers need to keep learning how to best meet their students’ individual needs.
- Attend professional development opportunities in both PE and Special Ed.
- Join webinars and social media sites specific to PE and APE.
- Once again, be a part of that Special Education Team that services the students.
- Listen and learn from your students- they are your best teachers.
- Advocate always for both your students and your program.
- Humor is my friend- it can be used as a re-directive, a way to decrease anxiety, and a conduit of joy.
- I consider my students and staff as my work family. We are a team!
Setting the tone for success in APE is much more than creating great lesson plans. A teacher could have the best lesson plan in the world, but if they do not have students engaged in the learning process, the lesson is lost. I challenge each of you to take the time to self-reflect, give yourself a hug, and celebrate your own successes. Enjoy, as we definitively have the best job in the world!
Teach, Celebrate and Play On!
Look for the Teacher Approved icon to shop for products recommended by award-winning and nationally recognized physical education teachers. The physical education instructor’s opinions are solely their own and do not officially represent the views of SHAPE America.