Thank You

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I have just returned from the SHAPE America conference in Boston. A conference at which I had the chance to meet with, and learn from, some of the best educators in the #healthed and #physed world. Some I had previously met in person at conferences across the country, some were valued members of my PLN with whom I had engaged and collaborated with over the past few years, and some were professionals that I met for the first time. As we got to know each other while sitting in on the scheduled sessions, or at coffee and an informal chat, or during one of Justin Schleider‘s impromptu Paddle Zlam gatherings it became apparent that we shared some things in common.

Firstly, it was apparent that we all had a desire and a passion to drive our teaching forward and seek out the best in pedagogy and ideas to take back to our students and co-workers. If you ever wanted to immerse yourself in a world of positive thinking educators you really should consider attending the next national conference in Nashville.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we all acknowledged that we were only able to attend because of the support from others. Some of us attended with the full support of our administrators, (me included – thank you New Trier High School) and some didn’t – one of the district health teachers of the year told me that her school was NOT assisting her with the cost of the flight, accommodation or even the cost of her own subs. However, while we were off on our Boston experience we all left loved ones behind, who remained at home to look after the house, the kids, the pets etc. I witnessed a few conversations similar to those that I have had while away from the family. It’s tough to check in with my wife at home when I’m on a conference high and want to share all of the cool things that I’m experiencing when on the other end of the phone my wife is tired and trying to stop my 3 year old from destroying my 5 year olds Lego creations. There have been some brutally honest blog posts recently from the Physedagogy members and the discussion of work/life balance seems to have come to the fore recently. At an awards dinner this week Past President of AAHPERD Irene Cucina said that being a part of a teacher’s life can be very difficult as we are often guilty of bringing our work lives home with us, and I warned more than a few future professionals at the conference that teaching is a 24/7 occupation.

As we return to school this week I urge you to thank those around you who have supported you in your desire to become the teacher that you are today. I acknowledge that in my desire to better my teaching I have at times made sacrifices that have impacted my friends and family. I can find it difficult to switch off (one last tweet darling and I’ll be with you) or be present when with my two sons (shhh, I can’t hear this Voxer message).

If you have just returned from the Boston conference, write your administrator a thank you letter. Let them know what it means to you to be allowed to attend, share what you learned, and tell them how this will impact your teaching and the experience of your students.

Irrespective of whether you have just returned from the Boston conference, tell those closest to you what their support means to you. Show your appreciation in a way that lets them know that you value their support and acknowledge that they have played an important role in your professional growth.

This week I was reduced to tears as I emotionally accepted the 2017  National Health Teacher of the Year award from SHAPE America. In my short acceptance speech I mentioned that in my first presentation of the week Victoria Otto led a yoga activity accompanied by “Where is the Love” from The Black Eyed Peas and shared that since I arrived in America in 2008 I had received nothing but love from the teaching community. To those reading this blog post, and to the members of my valued PLN from whom I draw daily inspiration I thank you all for the role that you have played in making my move to America a successful one and for helping me become the teacher I always hoped I could be.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Other #slowchathealth blog posts you might like:

The Power of Compliments

The T-shirt Project



Crushing #SHAPEBoston

If you’re heading to #SHAPEBoston in March, you’ll want to get the most out of your time there. Wether you’re attending all five days or driving in for a day or two, it’s important that you maximize your conference experience to ensure that you, and ultimately your students benefit from all that is on offer in the City of Champions.

Last year’s #SHAPEMinneapolis blew me away by the sheer size, the expertise of the presenters, the exhibitor hall, and the large number of teachers from my PLN in attendance and it took me a few hours to get my bearings. So with that said, I reached out to my PLN this week, and so too did Bob Knipe, to ask the following question:


Get Organized: Many teachers suggested that the key to a successful conference was to ensure that you are organized. Be warned – this years conference will be paperless and you’ll have to print out your own schedule if you prefer holding paper. There will be no conference brochure printed out for you and you will have to rely on the SHAPE America App (iPhone download here) (iPad download here) (Android download here). There have been reports of the app being a bit ‘buggy’ so remember to refresh it regularly to ensure that it is up to date. Then you can use the app to search for presenters and add them to your favorites. Great organizational advice from teachers included:

@ClearlyCrystal: Pick out your sessions before you go, use the app & Network!

@BullisKari: Have multiple sessions picked out in case 1st isn’t what u thought it would be ur backup is planned ahead.

Network, Network, Network: Many teachers sang the praises of the networking opportunities on offer in Boston with Dave Gusitsch stating ” In addition to networking, know that just about everyone there is invested in moving quality forward! Ride the wave!

I remember being nervous of meeting some of the great educators with whom I had spent the past few years collaborating with on social media but once I had introduced myself it was obvious that we all shared the same goals and were passionate about teaching.

@yogaforpe: Don’t be shy, talk to people.  You never know the wealth/experience sitting next to you!

@misshartl: Network! Chat with the presenters and other educators in the sessions & at the socials. You will make some powerful connections!

@fit2Bsmart: Folks attend to learn & be inspired. introduce yourself, network & share. Attend Rock This Party (Thursday) GET ON TWITTER, A MUST!

@kniper1 Attendees need to meet new people to get the most out of the conference. Broaden your

@bartletthealth: Introduce yourself to the presenters whose workshops you attend. It might seem intimidating, but someday that might be you!

@MrOrencoPE: Don’t be intimidated or “star struck” by all the celebrities (i.e. all the amazing PE teachers)

Collate Your Notes: Consider how you will take notes while at the conference. Remember, if you have the app then you will be able to access presenter notes through that. My note taking is old school and I keep track of them in a Moleskine journal, others like to sketchnote but also look out for any crowd-sourced note taking that might get organized. I’ve seen that done before, and it’s a pretty impressive example of how our PE & Health community are great at coming together. But once you’ve made those notes…how will you act upon them? What will you do to #StokeTheFire when you return to school? When I present I tend to share a wealth of ideas and preface them by suggesting that it’s best to consider just one or two to try first. Here’s more advice from some experienced conference goers:

@bdevore7: Make a running list of things to try when you get back to school. Slowly work through them so you don’t get overwhelmed.

@MrHorne101: Have a way to organize the ideas you will want to try in your classes, but also make connections with presenters, teachers, etc.

@GHSaysRockChalk: I take pictures of things I want to remember & take all my notes in a notebook. I love paper and pens!

Look After Yourself: That advice was first given to me by Victoria Otto who suggested that it’s important to make sure that you stay rested during the conference. As tempting as it might be to behave like a kid in a candy shop and want to experience everything…you’ll soon burn out if you don’t carve out time for yourself and stay nourished. I’ll be in town from Monday to Sunday and involved with 3 presentations, so I know that I’ll need to plan my time in order to remain rested for each day ahead. Last year Sarah Gietschier-Hartman recommended keeping your backpack light, pack snacks and bring a water bottle. All great advice.

Socialize: Forget what I just said! Burn the candle at both ends and maximize your time in Boston. In fact, skip sleep if you need to. How often will you be surrounded by such a high calibre group of educators? Some of the best conversations and collaborative discussions will happen away from the conference center.

Make sure that you are engaged on Twitter and following the hashtags related to the conference: #SHAPEBoston and #SHAPECountdown.

You should also join the conversation on Voxer, which is already very engaging and will become more vocal as the conference commences. Look out for the social events – some are invite only, some are open to all but all will be a great opportunity to meet teachers from across the country. As mentioned above by Susan Flynn, try and make your way to the legendary Rock This Party event at Howl at the Moon. I missed it last year…and of course it was the night that everyone was talking about!

Quick Fire Tips:

  • Check out the keynote sessions on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday!
  • Make time to visit some Boston tourist sites. It’s a great city, so get out and see it.
  • Be seen in green! It’s St. Patricks Day while the conference is in session.
  • Represent! Bring clothing that represents your school, your state, or your basketball team – March Madness anyone??
  • Thank whoever made it possible for you to attend the conference. Administrators? Your family?

If you liked this blog post you might also like the following #slowchathealth posts:

Why Attend #SHAPEBoston and Anatomy of the Trip.

See you in Boston!

Story Cubes

If you liked my Question Matrix blog post (the most popular blog post I’ve written) then you’ll appreciate this one too!

Inspired by Rory’s Story Cubes and a desire to check for student understanding in a variety of ways, I created my own #healthed story cubes and used them at the end of last semester.

9 cubes, 6 sides on each cube meant I had to identify 54 words to represent on the cubes. I chose verbs, emotions, topics and ‘other’ icons. Icons were chosen to represent words such as:

Comprehend, promote, prevent, analyze, demonstrate, access, communicate, enhance, avoid, reduce, practice, happy, sad, confused, gender, relationships, bullying, online, advocacy, goals, mental health, social health, emotional health, physical health, nutrition, hydration, sleep, muscles, reproductive health, media.

FullSizeRender-1.jpgI printed out a template and pasted the icons on to the template. The template can be found at You can print these out, or switch out the icons if you wish. After careful cutting, scoring and glueing you will have 9 cardboard cubes.

You can now use these in a variety of ways in class.

1: Roll all 9 cubes. Choose an image to start your story/narrative and then continue, linking each of the 9 face up images.

2: Think of a health theme or topic. Roll the 9 cubes and try to weave them into the chosen title or theme.

3: Divide the cubes between a group of students. First player rolls the cube to start the story/narrative. The next player in the group rolls their cube and builds upon the story. You can stop after 9 rolls, or keep the rotation going if the students can confidently continue with the activity.

Here’s one example of how this looked/sounded in my class. It’s definitely a work in progress, but given a few attempts the stories improved and were more health literate.

Why not get students to suggest other icons, or create their own cube as an extension activity? If you use this idea, or the question matrix activity in class, I’d love to hear how it went. Did you adapt it to suit the needs of your students? Did you improve upon it?

Question Matrix Activity

I ‘created’ an activity for my health classes this week that came from me being inspired by a number of resources that I had seen from my PLN over the past year or so. It was an interesting activity for me to trace the origins of this idea.

Whenever I see something useful on Twitter I pin it to my growing number of Pinterest boards using the Chrome Pinterest save button. This image of a question matrix used to elicit deeper questioning and responses has been preying on my mind for a while:


Although I had been planning on incorporating this image into my teaching, I couldn’t work out how I was going to do so. Then I saw this tweet from @RTwithDrOffutt in which she posed questions to students that were written on a ball. I had seen something like this in team building exercises or name games.

Putting the two together, and probably unconsciously inspired by this blog post that I read a few years ago from the awesome Ross McGill I bought a ball from 5 Below and wrote the words from the matrix left column in the the bright colored squares and the words from the top row in the yellow squares. See below:

This is how I used the ball at the end of our sexual health topic. I tossed the ball for a student to catch. They had to choose the ‘colored word’ and a ‘yellow word’ nearest their thumbs. They wrote those down and tossed he ball to the next student. They then formulated a question based upon their words.

The students read their words out aloud and in turn answered them. I collated some of the better questions and put them into this matrix here:


I think for a first attempt it was successful. The students enjoyed the kinesthetic element to it and that they were forced to be creative with their questioning. I plan on doing this activity again after future topics and hope that with practice the students will be able to create more searching questions.

This activity could be done before a unit starts and students create questions that they then seek to answer at the end of the unit.

I also like the idea of my 4th period creating questions for my 5th period class to answer and vice versa. Or perhaps students could create questions in advance of me delivering a topic and I address their questions through my instruction.

How might you consider using the question matrix, the ball activity, or both? Instead of a ball, would these work? Please share any ideas that you have.

Why Attend #SHAPEBoston?

We are just weeks away from the biggest conference of the year and I am getting very excited for #SHAPEBoston, which will be the second time that I have attended the SHAPE America National Convention. So what is it about the National Convention that I think is so great?

Let me share with you my top 5 reasons for attending the conference in Boston!

1.Investing In Yourself:  How often do you get to invest in YOU? With all of the other things that pull on your time, the desire to deliver the best lessons to your students, plus the pull of friends, family and other commitments…getting away from it all and surrounding yourself with professional development opportunities is so rewarding. Aside from earning contact hours or CEU credits, how about the location? Boston. During the St. Patricks Day festivities. I have to admit, having not visited Beantown, or should that be Titletown, was a big reason for me wanting to attend the conference this year. How apt that in the City of Champions you will have the opportunity to become a champion for physical activity/healthy lifestyles in your school. Get the latest information on SHAPE America’s national commitment, 50 Million Strong by 2029, aimed at ensuring that all of America’s students develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to enjoy healthy, meaningful physical activity.

Check out what teachers said about their time at #SHAPEMinneapolis in this inspiring episode from the Global Voxcast Podcast

2.Becoming Inspired By New Ideas: I will be presenting at the conference with Andy Horne and our session will contain many new ideas that have worked for us in the health classroom. We hope that our session will be inspirational and encourage teachers to try just one or two ideas that they can adapt for the needs of their students. It will be difficult not to be overwhelmed by the amount of inspiration and so the fact that all resources are shared with attendees via the website or awesome app means that you can immerse yourself in the sessions without having to take copious notes. With each thought provoking session being research and evidence based you can’t help but be inspired.

Matt Pomeroy & Collin Brooks recorded live podcasts during #SHAPEMinneapolis, hear the thoughts from last year’s attendees.

3.Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone:  Learning in a new environment is invigorating. It’s almost too easy nowadays to access free professional development by listening to a podcast on a treadmill, or reading a blog post during a planning period at school. Being at a conference and immersing yourself in each session gets you out of that comfort zone and makes the whole experience more enjoyable and easier to remember. I’m not a dancer but always participate in Dance Teacher of the Year’s Mackenzie Mushel-Ellis‘ dance sessions and one of my favorite sessions from #SHAPEMinneapolis was playing Tapu-Ae for the first time in Seth Martin and Sarah Gietschier Hartman‘s Teaching World Games for Understanding presentation. Learning in a new space can be daunting and a first time attendee might be blown away by the size of the conference, the number of people, and the immensity of the vendor expo but the experience of a national conference is unforgettable.

4.The Networking Opportunities: Being present, in the same location, with so many passionate educators can not be beat. The buzz and energy in the room is second to none. Without the restriction of 140 characters, or the Voxer app there is nothing better than meeting teachers face to face, hearing their stories and trading ideas. I maintain that the best take aways from a conference don’t come from the scheduled sessions, but from conversations in an elevator, in the Uber to a social event, or grabbing a bite to eat with teachers from across the country. I look forward to meeting and greeting members of my PLN for the first time, many of whom I have communicated and collaborated over the past year, not with a polite handshake, but with a hug. #SHAPEBoston will be a great way to develop new relationships and form new friendships.

5.Improving Your Program: There can be no better opportunity to get ideas, learn skills, and find new ways to motivate and empower your students. Additionally, check out the sessions from Carly Wright on advocating for your program under the new federal education law, ESSA and learn how to ensure health and physical education are included in your state and district ESSA implementation plan. Learn about the Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart programs.  Teachers of the Year, experienced presenters, and dynamic educators will offer sessions on standards-based instruction and assessments that will help your students develop physical and health literacy skills. Your students have diverse needs and #SHAPEBoston will inspire you to try something new with them as soon as you return back to school.


Tap the Voxer image to join the #SHAPEBoston group

Other blog posts you might like:

Anatomy of the Trip

We Sent A Teacher!

Shameless plug! Will you be seen in green at #SHAPEBoston? If so, consider purchasing an item from the #sendateacher initiative at The profit from every purchase goes towards sending a teacher to next years #SHAPENashville conference. Check out the stories of the TWO teachers who will be receiving this years funds.

I’m working on a playlist populated mostly by Boston artistes. It’s a collaborative playlist so add a song or two if you think it belongs.








We Sent A Teacher!


Last summer I launched the #sendateacher initiative to raise money that would be used to support sending a teacher to the SHAPE America national conference in Boston in March. Through the sales of clothing, designed by health and PE teachers, from the #sendateacher website, 100% of the profits would go towards the goal of raising $1000.

The initiative was more successful than I could ever imagine! Through the kind support of teachers across America and beyond, teachers have purchased t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies, or have donated money via the Pay Pal button, and we successfully reached our goal amount in just 6 months! For that, I am eternally grateful to all who raised awareness, bought the items and tweeted images.


With #SHAPEBoston just a few months away, any further money raised will be rolled over to support sending a teacher to #SHAPENashville in 2018…and we are already 20% towards that goal.

Having worked closely with the Health and Wellness Department of Boston Public Schools I can now announce the names of the TWO teachers who will receive #sendateacher support!

Leah.jpgLeah Lipschitz is a first year high school Wellness teacher at The Community Academy of Science and Health (C.A.S.H) where she teaches wellness classes that combine elements of both physical education and wellness. Additionally she is the assistant girls varsity basketball coach and one of two wellness champions at C.A.S.H. Leah also started an extracurricular program called the Girls Club for Empowerment and Wellness (G.C.E.W.) and is one of two site coordinators for Sole Train, a non-competitive, after-school running/walking club.

I have heard amazing things about the SHAPE conference from several friends who are P.E. teachers who have attended in the past.   I am so excited about the potential to attend as I am certain that participating in workshops, talking to other wellness educators, being exposed to new and different ideas/equipment and involving myself in everything else that the conference has to offer would help me grow exponentially as an educator, coach, mentor and individual.  I know, undoubtedly, that attending the SHAPE conference would be an amazing experience. – Leah

Without #sendateacher support Leah would not be able to attend the national conference due to a limited professional development budget at her school. Her school has given her permission to attend multiple days and as such she will be hoping to take away new ideas, standards-based activities and ways to create an environment in which all of her students can feel successful.

FullSizeRender-3.jpgNikki McMaster is in her second year of teaching physical education at Blackstone Innovation School, a Boston Public elementary school. Nikki is a MAHPERD member and has volunteered at the conference. She was awarded their ‘Outstanding Future Professional’ award in 2014 and now serves as the VP for Physical Education. After winning the MAHPERD award Nikki was awarded the SHAPE America Eastern District ‘Outstanding Future Professional’ award..but unfortunately due to a lack of financial support she was not able to attend the national convention that year to receive the award.

I would love to attend this convention in order to bring new, innovative ideas back to my team. Some sessions I would be looking to attend would be behavior management, unit planning and social and emotional learning in physical education. I have already taken a look at the schedule and there are numerous sessions that caught my eye such as: Planning Elementary School Lessons using National Standards and Grade level out comes at 2:30 on Friday and Exercise and Emotional Regulation with Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder on Thursday at 12:45. – Nikki

Again, Nikki’s school has granted her multiple days release from school and so with the #sendateacher support she will be able to attend her first national conference.

Please continue supporting the initiative by visiting and checking out the latest designs. If you own one of the items it would be great if you could share an image of you wearing it on social media. Remember, 100% of the profits go towards helping a teacher attend the national conference. This year, #SHAPEBoston will be over St. Patrick’s day, so remember to pack something GREEN!




Respect Recess


Last week SHAPE America  released an awesome document and set of resources that provide step-by-step guidance and evidence-based strategies to support school recess for all K-12 students and enhance active school environments. This great advocacy document, prepared in collaboration with the CDC and other partners can be used by teachers, administrators and other stakeholders to ensure that schools create environments that allow students to be active, in ways that they choose, while taking a break from academic work during the school day.

This is a milestone in our quest to increase children’s physical activity levels. Daily recess, monitored by well-trained staff or volunteers, can optimize a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. Recess contributes to the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity for students and helps them apply the knowledge and skills they learn in an effective health and physical education program. In addition, recess supports 50 Million Strong, SHAPE America’s commitment to empower all kids to lead active and healthy lives. – SHAPE America Chief Executive Officer E. Paul Roetert, Ph.D.

As health teachers we know that recess allows students to take some of the health skills that we teach in the classroom and practice and apply them in real life settings. Recess gives students the opportunity to practice health enhancing behaviors in the larger setting of recess, a setting in which all students are free to interact irrespective of academic needs, functional limitations or physical disabilities.

Although the physical nature of free play during recess increases the level of activity that students can get during the day, it is the social and emotional skills that can be developed at this time that many health educators will be interested in. I asked some educators in the #Healthed Voxer group what their views were on increased student access to recess.

I’m interested in the emotional and social aspect of what recess does for kids each day. This is the only time of the day where a child’s time is their own, their choice, their ability to have free time, free play, free choice, and the positive effect on their social and emotional health. They’re developing friendships and resolving conflicts, and navigating their world through free play – Judy LoBianco

Judy acknowledges that recess can help our students practice social skills such as cooperation, following rules, problem-solving, negotiation, sharing, communication and conflict resolution. In the Voxer chat I also heard from our National Health Teacher of the Year, Melanie Lynch who saw ways in which health teachers might be able to help make the recess environment more engaging.

This is the only time that is their own. They may find that it’s important to work on relationships that day rather than to play hopscotch, or whatever activity is going on. We as health educators should offer up recess challenges, scavenger hunts etc. We tend to do more of that kind of stuff in the classroom. Think of this as a big brain burst only we finally have the space that we always wish we had in our classrooms – Melanie Lynch

All educators should be in support of these recess strategies as we know that active students are more likely to positively engage in classroom activities, and that being active can enhance cognitive performance. Additionally, a well-organized recess plan can also reduce bullying and exclusionary behavior thus helping our students feel safe and more engaged in school. This in turn can lead to higher levels of school connectedness, contributing to a positive school climate.

As health and wellness educators it is important that we support and spread the word about this document and the importance of recess. We should be discussing this with other teachers, administrators, students and parents so that they too can be vocal and advocate with us.

Q1. What are the strengths of your existing #recess provision? #slowchathealth

Q2. In what ways has your school created a #recess environment that supports physical activity? #slowchathealth

Q3. How do you involve students in the planning and leading of #recess? #slowchathealth

Q4. What data, if any, do you track during #recess? #slowchathealth

Q5. Give a shout out to a stakeholder who has supported your #recess program! #slowchathealth

Health in Action

As #healthed teachers it is of the utmost importance that we tailor our teaching to encourage critical thinking and give students the opportunity to shape their health-enhancing choices and attitudes. This in turn allows our students to make healthy decisions and engage in health-enhancing behaviors outside of the four walls of the classroom. Our role in this is so much more effective when we receive the support of other stake holders within the school community, adding to our voice and re-enforcing our healthy message.

With final exams coming up for my students, here are ways in which we allow students to apply our message to their day-to-day lives and provide them with the opportunity to practice their health-enhancing skills.


One of our clubs at school, Peer Helping, wanted to encourage their peers to prepare effectively for the finals and so I helped them create this series of four posters that you can download here. The QR codes direct you to additional resources, including scholarly raps from Andy Horne.



Obviously playing off of the Game of Thrones slogan “Winter is Coming” (It feels like -12, perfect White Walker weather as I type) the posters remind students that eating breakfast, staying hydrated, reducing stress levels and getting sufficient sleep have all been proven to improve academic and sporting performance – what student doesn’t want that? These posters have been enlarged and are on display outside of our locker rooms, a part of the building that ALL students visit daily (thank you Illinois and your 4 years of mandatory physical education!).

Open Gym

Another poster on display, and actively promoted by our physical education department and shared by our advisers is this one below.


We offer open gym sessions throughout the duration of the exams and students are free to come into a number of gym spaces and workout, shoot hoops etc under the supervision of teachers who sign up to be present. A small stipend is offered to those teachers as an added incentive. Note that the posters give further information regarding the link between being active and brain functioning. This is also something that is now included in the Illinois Physical Education standards.

For further resources regarding the link between exercise and the brain, including shareable images, literature and advocacy documents check out this Pinterest Board.

Support From Parents

On the first day of the final exams a group of parent volunteers, in conjunction with the Parents Association, arrange for, and distribute healthy breakfast snacks to the students. Again reinforcing the message coming from health teachers, teachers and coaches that appropriate nutrition can improve memory, improve attention, improve behavior and increase test scores.


Obviously there are many ways in which the health message from our classrooms is supported within the building but I am comforted by the fact that during the final exams I am able to show that other teachers, parents, and my State AHPERD stand alongside me as I encourage my students to make health-enhancing choices.

*At my school, we don’t have a final exam for health. Does yours?*

Q1. How is your #healthed message visible outside of your classroom? #slowchathealth

Q2. At school who are the biggest supporters of your healthed message? #slowchathealth

Q3. Download the “Finals Are Coming” posters here:




Last week I revealed that my #oneword for 2017 will be collaboration, following on from provocation, advocacy, and resilience. I collated some resources on the one word concept and apparently I’ve chosen an active word because I’m in a season of growing. This makes sense to me as I still feel like this year is on track to be my most successful year in my 21 years or so in education.

I chose collaboration because I still feel like there are more opportunities for me to grow as a teacher by working with other excellent educators, and I think it will be a great way to get to know the leaders in my field by creating something with them.

We can not accomplish all that we need to do without working together – Bill Richardson

My aim with collaboration is twofold. I want to seek out and find opportunities for me to work with other educators and I also want to create opportunities that will allow my students to collaborate with their peers. If you check out the infographic below you’ll see that I also plan on collaborating in three different areas.

Within my school: Although I get to collaborate with some great teachers within my health department I can definitely improve upon this, particularly when it comes to creating assessments. I also want to collaborate with teachers outside of my own discipline and plan to do so when I research and present a session on ‘Race & Health’ at our whole school seminar day in February. I can definitely benefit from brainstorming with teachers from the English and Social Studies department. It has also been my aim to provide opportunities for my students to create with their peers in other health classes. I think with some good planning, some shared Google documents and creative use of technology I should be able to get my period 4 students collaborating with my period 5 and period 7 students.

Collaborate with people you can learn from – Pharrell Williams

Across the USA: My PLN is widespread and contains outstanding educators, many of whom I haven’t met. Collaborating with these teachers will allow me to grow as a professional. Already I’ve identified writing projects with Justin Bell and Tammy Wynard, and plan to collaborate with the other TOY’s that I meet at #SHAPEBoston in March. Also at the National convention I will get to meet Justin Schleider with whom I will be presenting a session on social justice. I recently signed up for Shape America’s Mentor Match and the next obvious progression in my relationship with my mentee is to work together on a health related project – we’ve had a few initial discussions already and I am excited for this. This project looks like it will allow my students to collaborate with other students on the East Coast, and so does another project that I’m lining up with Charlie Rizzuto.

Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success – Henry Ford

Across the globe: I enjoy hearing from educators teaching in other countries as it gives me a better appreciation of the similarities and differences that we face. Plus I get to hear how PE and Health are valued (or not) in different countries. For that reason I enjoy listening to this podcast from Carl Condliffe. I have been discussing a collaboration with Tasmania based teacher Pat Coleman which will allow our students to work together on a decision making lesson and I will repeat my successful International Podcast Day project again, recording the voices of teens across the world discussing health.


Many educators have shared their #oneword with me over the past week or so and I’ve heard from teachers focusing on pivot, balance, growth, heal, reach, connect, reflection, advocate, invigorate, consistency, no and disallow.

Here are a few questions for you to consider this week:

Q1: What steps have you already taken towards embracing your #oneword? #slowchathealth

Q2: Which areas of your life will be effected by your #oneword? #slowchathealth

Q3: With whom will you share your #oneword? #slowchathealth

Q4: How will you know if your #oneword was a success? #slowchathealth

One Word

It’s that time of year when one of our #healthed skills, goal setting, gets a lot of media coverage. New Year’s Resolutions will be talked about at home and people will be encouraged to think of ways in which to improve themselves, usually after dwelling on their imperfections. However, because these resolutions tend to be behavior based often we set ourselves up for failure. “I want to quit caffeine”, “I want to visit the gym more”, “I’m going to lose weight”. The trouble with these resolutions is that they are too easily broken, which inevitably leads to failure (or guilt).

One alternative to the traditional new years resolution is the concept of one word. The theory behind this idea is that we choose a guiding word that points us towards the type of person that we want to become. And unlike a resolution, a single word can’t be broken. I think of it more as a gentle nudge in the direction towards a more improved version of myself. In this article by Nicole Dean she suggests that you decide what one thing, if applied to every area of your life, will have the most impact and bring the most positive changes into your life. Then you work to apply that word to every area situation and task you find yourself in.

I can’t remember where I first heard of this idea but I embraced the concept back in 2014 and first publicly shared this in a blog post about professional growth plans by Paul Rosengard.


In 2014 I chose the word resilience because I wanted my students to become more aware of the fact that the skills learned in my health class would allow them to face difficult situations in life with confidence. Over the year I would seek out articles on resilience and share them with students and my own peers. Three years later, as a result of the constant ‘drip, drip, drip’ reminder, the concept of resilience is now firmly embedded in my mind, and I find it easier to weave that concept into my teaching.

In 2015 my word was advocacy. I chose that word because I always felt that for my students to become fully health literate they should feel confident and competent in advocating for those around them who were less healthy than themselves…and yet up until that point I hadn’t found a way in which to include advocacy into my teaching. As a result of my one word for that year I was able to create an interactive advocacy e-book that I used in class with much success. This project has already been adopted by other teachers both within my building and further afield. Again, that one word has firmly embedded advocacy into my teaching and I am much more confident in my ability to create young advocates.

2016’s word was provocation and was inspired by Andy Vasily and his reflections upon his use of provocations to challenge the thinking of his students. This use of cognitive dissonance encourages students to think about their views and beliefs and challenges them sufficiently enough to motivate them to want to learn more.

And so with all of the above in mind I can reveal that my one word for 2017, and the topic of my next blog post, will be collaboration. I’ll talk more about why I chose that specific word and how I think it will improve both my teaching, and increase the engagement of students in my classroom in my first blog post of 2017. Until then, I’ll let you think about which word you think would best be your motivation or mantra for 2017. Looking for motivation? Check out this list of possible words to consider from the #onelittleword2017 expert Ali Edwards. Her blog shows one way in which the one word concept can be expanded upon.

I’ve Picked My Word For The Year. Now What? is a great blog post from Kimberly Job.

My One Word for 2017 and Beyond by Neil Gupta suggests 4 ways to make the most of your one word.

This Happier Podcast episode from Gretchen Rubin discusses choosing your one word.

Here are a few #slowchathealth questions to take us towards the end of the year.

Q1. Have you ever chosen a #oneword before? How was it for you? #slowchathealth

Q2. What will your #oneword be for 2017? #slowchathealth