The Connected Educator

There was a time when I knew that I was the best health teacher in my school….because I was the ONLY health teacher in my school. And there I am, fresh off the boat from England. No one knows me. I don’t know anyone. Heck, I couldn’t even understand what half of y’all were saying…and so I jumped onto social media….and everything changed.

[The following is a small part of the keynote that Andy Horne and I delivered at the awesome CAHPERD conference in San Diego in February]

Twitter allowed me to get off of my island and to find other passionate educators who were willing to listen to my ideas, convince me that they were worth pursuing, perhaps even suggesting ways in which I could improve them. Before I knew it, I was collaborating with teachers from across the world, developing resources, but also importantly developing friendships too. It’s now impossible for me to visit a conference without meeting educators for the first time no longer with a handshake…or a fist bump…but with a hug typically reserved for people that I have known for a very long time.

Think of social media as the professional development opportunity that never sleeps. 24/7 you can find someone to tweet on twitter, someone to favorite your post on Facebook, or to chat to you in a group on Voxer. You know when you were in college and there was that group of students that were a bit different? The ones that seemed a bit weird? The PE GEEKS if you wish. Well, now I can surround myself with as many of them as I want, brainstorming ideas to my hearts content.

Social media has allowed the world to become a much smaller place and our PE/Health/Dance community to become much cosier. Hey look at CAHPERD itself. Last year there were two Canadians delivering keynotes (Joey Feith and Dr. Dean Kriellaars), this year with myself and Jo Bailey there were two Brits.

We even had three teachers with us who had traveled from Australia to attend the conference – Andy Hair, Arron Gardiner and Nathan Weaver. (Word on the street is that they are hoping to get out to #SHAPENashville next year)

Queen Elizabeth thanks CAHPERD for their acceptance of her commonwealth subjects.


At a time when it can be hard if you don’t look like the majority, don’t speak the same language as the majority, or live life like the majority, we have the ability with our subject to challenge perceptions and stereotypes in the language that we use, in the way that we set up our classes and how we deliver our materials.

 Being a connected educator, being a part of a global network of teachers has encouraged me to question the activities that I offer in PE, and how I better prepare my students to become active global citizens.

Why is it that my PE curriculum is dominated by North American and European team games and activities? What is it that I am hoping to teach my students when I ask them to participate in PE and can I achieve those same outcomes, or more, through a new sport or activity from another part of the world? If I want to look at passing, receiving, finding an open space to receive a pass or shutting down a player when I’m a defender in flag football…..I can do exactly the same things in Tapu Ae – a great game from New Zealand that I saw Seth Martin and Sarah Gietschier-Hartmanplus I can weave in other educational elements as well.

Technology has made this so easy that I can now have my students collaborating with their peers across the country…and across the world. I’ve run a podcast project for the past two years in which teens from across the world, sometimes in their second language, respond to questions regarding health and the concerns affecting them today. I’ve had voices from Argentina to Australia, from England to Vietnam, from New Zealand to a country in Asia*. It’s pretty powerful when my privileged, well resourced students hear from girls in the Middle East who can’t drive a car because of their gender, and need a male chaperone to take them to women only gym, where the gym staff will be more concerned about what they wear as opposed to how they work out. That’s when jaws drop, and questions are asked.

If one role of education is to prepare our students to become global citizens and to contribute actively to that global community then our profession is stronger when we see our curriculum and educational opportunities through a global lense.


Free iBook Download: How Social Media Made Me A Better Teacher

Here are the #slowchathealth questions for this week:

A1: How have you benefited from your global connections? #slowchathealth

A2: How have your students benefited from your global connections? #slowchathealth

A3: What global collaboration ideas do you have? Share them here! #slowchathealth

A4: How does your PE/Health program prepare students for global citizenship? #slowchathealth

A5: What idea do have for a health blog post that you could share with the global #slowchathealth audience?


*Country unnamed to protect the location of their students.

Te Whare Tapa Whā

Being a globally connected educator has allowed me to collaborate with, and be inspired by, so many great educators from around the globe. Recently as I seek new ways in which to teach, and resources to use with my students, I have found myself looking to my peers in the Southern Hemisphere. Health teachers in New Zealand have an interesting perspective when it comes to framing their health and wellness curriculum and this owes much to the cultural identity of the indigenous population on the islands, the Maori. Wanting to learn more about what they refer to as Hāuora I asked Georgia Dougherty, a Health & PE teacher in Auckland, New Zealand to explain things for me.


Te Whare Tapa Whā – Māori well-being model

As Health educators, we know our health and wellbeing is more complex than the physical body alone. Health is holistic, therefore needs to be considered holistically.

Dr Mason Durie developed a Health model in 1982, encapsulating a Māori philosophy of wellbeing unique to New Zealand. The model, the whare tapa whā, is represented by a house (whare), suggesting one’s health has four dimensions; physical, social, mental/emotional and spiritual. Like a house, if one wall is affected, multiple walls are likely to be affected. To illustrate, imagine a bulldozer crashing into one side of a house, that wall would crumble and the others are likely to crumble too (the speed at which this happens varies). Our Hāuora (well-being) is similar – when one dimension is affected, the others are likely to be affected too, thus all four dimensions affect one’s health and well-being.

Physical well-being (Taha tinana), is the most familiar part of Health to all – the body itself. Taha tinana is related to the growth and development of one’s body, movement of the body and caring for the body. I explore this with the students with reference to exercise/physical activity and what we put into our bodies (e.g. foods and drinks). In greater depth, Māori consider the body, and all things associated with the body as tapu (sacred/special). For example, the head is tapu, so Māori do not touch each other’s heads. Additionally, personal space and body language are encompassed within Taha tinana, particularly considering stepping over one another as demeaning to that person’s mana (personal authority/power).

Social well-being (Taha whānau) explores the relationships within a person’s life, including family and friends, as well as feelings of support, care and compassion. Within Māori whānau, family connections are an important part of life, each person within the family having an important role to ensure care of all. One’s identity is derived from family characteristics, including ancestors, and identity is valued in high regard for Māori.

Mental and emotional well-being (Taha hinengaro), related to one’s thoughts and feelings, which are vital in the Māori world. I encourage students to think about how their feelings possibly affect how they are in class, what their physical bodies feel like or how we may act differently with our friends and whānau dependant on how we are feeling. Sometimes, communication through emotions rather than words is more meaningful for Māori.

Spiritual well-being (Taha wairua) is acknowledged as possibly the most essential component of Health, and also possibly the most difficult to define. One’s spiritual well-being comprises of the beliefs and values which determine the way people live. For some, this refers to particular religious beliefs, but not all. In addition, Taha wairua is linked to self-awareness and the search for purpose in one’s life, including what is important to someone.

Thank you to Georgia for writing this week’s blog post. I hope that it will increase collaboration between #healthed teachers across the globe.

Here are this week’s #slowchathealth questions. Feel free to answer them all at once or as they are released daily. Let’s keep the conversation flowing among our #healthed community.

Q1. Do you think your students place more emphasis on Taha tinana than other areas of their Hauora? #slowchathealth #NZHPEChat

Q2. To what extent has your Taha whanau shaped your identity as a teacher? #slowchathealth #NZHPEChat

Q3. How does your school support the Taha hinengaro of your students? #slowchathealth #NZHPEChat

Q4. Is Taha wairua perceived differently by students from different cultures, and if so, how? #slowchathealth#NZHPEChat

Q5 As #healthed teachers what can we learn from Health models from other cultures? Hauora? Fonofale? Fonua? #slowchathealth #NZHPEChat


You can find more from Georgia on her blog.

You can also hear her episode on Carl Condliffe‘s awesome podcast NZPETeachercast.

Practice Makes Permanent

One of the highlights of #SHAPEBoston was being greeted daily by the smiling face of this week’s guest blogger, MAHPERD President Claudia Brown. She is an educator whom I admire immensely and I’m delighted that she is our guest blogger this week.

Evolution. When I began teaching, it was the time of, “don’t let them see you smile until Christmas.” and “this is the way it’s always been done.” Don’t get me wrong, there were always great teachers who inspired me, differentiated instruction (without it being named as such), kindness always existed, it’s just that when learning classroom management, we were told that teachers had the final word, that command style was king (or queen : ) and if you gave an assignment, students could sink or swim.

Fast forward thirty years. Yes, thirty. To my young colleagues out there, your teaching only gets better – it is really something to look forward to! When I became a K-12 HPE curriculum coordinator, while still teaching health education nearly full time, I was required to attend many professional development leadership seminars. Our Assistant Superintendent arranged for the curriculum leaders to attend a full day conference with differentiated learning and assessment guru, Rick Wormeli. This day changed the way I teach and lead. Forever.

Mr. Wormeli’s passionate stance on grading equality and his book, Fair Isn’t Always Equal, have motivated me to make changes in my own teaching and to help others in my department and field to think differently about assessment and grading. Now, I know this isn’t new thinking. I have been practicing some of the strategies I have learned from Mr. Wormeli for about seven or eight years. But when I think about what specific ideas have improved my teaching, this is at the top of the list. So, if you are considering expanding your horizons and you have not experimented (yes, my classroom is a big lab!!) with redos, I urge you to give these ideas a shot:

1. If we are really differentiating, we allow work to be redone for full credit. Consider this in skills based health education. If you believe, as I do, that many touches on the ball = proficiency in sport and that many practices of a skill = proficiency in health education, then you can see how redos make perfect sense in the skills based classroom. Let’s take a role play where students demonstrate refusal skills for assessment in interpersonal communication. Students must demonstrate all of the skill cues for refusal (healthy relationship content infused), and how the health of an individual might be compromised if they were unable to refuse a risky behavior. The first time this role play is demonstrated might include some giggles, miscues, or lost lines. When we give these students an opportunity to perform the role play as many times as necessary in order to meet all of the requirements of the rubric, we reinforce the ability to use refusal skills. It’s a win win situation.

2. If we look at the real world outside of school, which is where our students will need these critical skills, we know that redos make perfect sense. Instead of bemoaning the fact that health screenings will take place during your class time, use the screenings to have students practice communication skills to increase self efficacy. Students may greet the nurse or screener, ask questions about the screening, and thank them for their time at the end of the test.

3. When students are writing a SMART goal around a health behavior, should they be allowed to rewrite the goal if it needs adjusting? Of course. As Wormeli says, “a pilot can come around for a second attempt at a landing.”

4. Students may have practiced conflict resolution and negotiation in your classroom using skill cues and role plays, but what if there is an “authentic” situation where these skills are needed? This may take place in your class (orchestrated by you, unbeknownst to the students), or it may arise when you least expect it. There is no better time to assess these skills.

5. If your students are preparing advocacy projects and it is clear that they could expand their thinking so that they really “move a needle” toward a change in the health of themselves, their families, or others, send them back to the drawing table, with a timeline of course and the support they need to be successful. Does this take more time from you? Yes, but every effort that you, as a teacher “redo” will be worth the growth and confidence you see in your students.

A last thought on redoing a skill in a healthy way. A graduate student of mine said this to me following a role play on communication where the healthy decision was the outcome: “I just don’t think I would respond this way if this situation really took place.” When I asked why, he responded: “I didn’t learn it that way.” Right.

Wormeli, R. Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom. Portland Maine, and Westerville Ohio: Stenhouse, and National Middle School Association, 2006. Print.

Claudia T. Brown, M Ed. Curriculum Coordinator North Reading Public Schools. Adjunct Professor, Boston University. President, MAHPERD 2016-17

Three Simple Things

This week I am thrilled to welcome the irrepressible #healthed teacher Scott Todnem as our #slowchathealth guest blogger!

Three Simple Things

As teachers, we all know the regenerating energy that students possess. They return each and every weekday, alive in the hallways and classrooms, hungry for new life lessons. Each “Hi!” and “Morning!” brings adolescent zeal that is sometimes exhausting. But we can take this energy, this nervous and often boisterous energy that spills in the door each period, as a reflection of a genuine interest in learning.

Sure, there are times of apathy in the classroom. That doesn’t mean students aren’t looking for life lessons, however. In fact, the “I’m bored” behavior may silently scream, “Create interest! We need to be challenged!”

Much of middle and high school life involves a social component, as well as the mental balance of stress and self-esteem— but that’s why we teach Health Education, right? These are the very life lessons that pique our interest and it’s what we take pride in teaching.

With all this in mind, I offer three simple things to add to your teaching in order to enhance the educational experience. The focus? Improving the social connection and mental well-being in yourself and those around you. Health Educator or not, try these tricks to better connect with students.

1. Smile

About a year ago I made a conscience effort to smile more.

Something simple, really, and it came about as I was reflecting on professional goals and personal life. I wanted to create and portray a more positive aura surrounding myself and my lessons.

“Maybe it’s simple,” I thought. “What if I smile more?”

I figured to project happiness and see if that helped both myself and others feel comfortable. Like my own life, teenage ups and downs are inevitable. Adolescence certainly brings laughter, but it can also be a time of stress and struggle and even inexplicable withdrawal. Teachers have the ability to help students feel encouragement through crucial developmental years.

It’s not like I’ve taken research data on the topic of smiling. But I have to say, it has definitely made a difference in my style of addressing a classroom of students, in speaking to a crowd of parents during curriculum nights, or in presenting to a room full of fellow professionals. If I ever felt nervous or unsure of myself in the past, I would often rush to finish; I would speed up in order to “just get through it.”  Now, I try to pause, take a breath, and give a smile before carrying on.

In a world of haste and uncertainty, we can make a positive impact– starting with ourselves.


Never force a smile. Display the multitude of emotions and remain a role model of mindfulness and natural expression. However, smiles can occur quite naturally in everyday interactions, so let them out. They are especially powerful during the beginning of lessons, assignment set-ups, and/or activity objectives. These criteria-heavy portions of instruction often need that signature human element.

You may notice students follow your expression with a smile of their own. This isn’t something seen in a final exam, but it is certainly something students might remember long after the class content.

Smile, see how you feel as an educator, and watch how your students respond.

2. Choose Your Words

“What are we doing today?”

The dreaded question, right? As if we could explain in five seconds what lessons will occur in a full 40-50 minute class period.

I have decided to turn this question around. No more dread– only listening and responding to the intrigue in my students. They are just expressing interest. And even if they aren’t, even if the question is more along the lines of, “Ugh. What do we have to do for this assignment again?”, I seize the opportunity to plug my own positive wording.

“What we get to do today is…” Or, “We have the chance to examine…”

With a simple turn of phrase, life in the classroom is an opportunity. Exactly what it should be.

I encourage you to eliminate “You have to” from your teaching vernacular. Get rid of the educational chore. Feed the educational intrigue.

“Have” will still be around, of course, and words like “must” and “need to” will be present too, particularly in discussing project criteria or assignment details. But it’s quite possible that even in those moments you’ll be able to state your lesson objectives in a positive light. Once you are cognizant of word choice, the positive flow becomes more and more natural.


Be clear on expectations and be positive in the experiences that will follow. Find a way to cut out any passive voice like, “If you wanna…” or, “Maybe when you’re done…” or even the innocent sounding, “The projects need to be turned in by…” Instead, put students in the active role. “You have until Monday to turn the assignment in, which is still a good five days,” is free of ambiguity and eliminates the sense of chore. Notice this is different than, “You have to write an essay and it must be typed and you need to get it all done for me by Monday.”

Linguistics? Maybe. But give it a whirl and see how class morale feels.

3. Create Fun Routines

Obviously setting consistent classroom guidelines allows your course to flow. But there are other items that deserve attention– fun routines that come to the surface as you teach.

I found myself with consistent additions to weekly lessons that have grown into entities of their own.

Weekly wacky facts became a thing. So did social bell ringers, trivia questions, and even classroom contests. The excitement around them was something I couldn’t ignore. I decided to create catchy names for these activities and build them into simple teaching traditions. They don’t take time away from curricular content or district goals; in fact, these routine activities supplement the Health class experience and further embed state and national learning objectives.

The activities were already occurring. I just gave them room to grow. Routine became tradition as word spread through grade levels and siblings.

Creating your own brand of teaching sets you apart from the generic school experience. You forever stand out in the minds of students. I don’t mean that in the sense of competition, as in, be better than the other teachers you associate with. Quite the opposite: I am referring to the unique offerings we all provide for our students. This includes our course content, but it also includes ourselves– our personalities, our character strengths, and our specific teaching abilities.


Self-reflect. You already have habits and tendencies while teaching, and you probably incorporate other items that aren’t purely curriculum based. Find those you like, nurture them, and let them thrive.

Do you have a weekly interest that can be set as a mini-routine? Build it up. Create a catchy title for that part of your day or week. Every Monday or Friday or whenever it comes up, use that 4-5 minutes and feed the fun routine. I bet you can connect it to your lesson content and it may even grow into classroom tradition. If not, scrap it and put efforts into a different fun routine. Follow those where students show the most interest.
The best part about these three simple things is that they don’t involve a big overhaul. No curriculum writing, no redecorating the classroom, and no SLO paperwork or educational framework. All important items, of course, but the mental/social additions above are quick embellishments that highlight you as a person, and therefore you as an educator, strengthening the experience you provide for young people.


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!