In writing this blog and sharing it, I know that I am speaking to friends and like-minded teachers and educators and probably athletes and/or movement activists who are already converted. Preaching to the choir, so to speak. We identify with the importance of education, we have committed our lives to work with young people and we subscribe to the philosophy of ‘do no harm’. We are (hopefully) one of many adults supporting great teaching and learning moments as our students identify who they are and what they believe in (and who they are not, and what they don’t believe in!) and we are able to witness this evolution – a gift – and part of the service of being a teacher.
As I watched the Olympics this year – both the Summer and Winter – it was wonderful to be able to share a depth of conversation with my own children about specific sports that they are now well versed in. They wanted to watch particular sporting events and more importantly they wanted to engage in the richness of conversation with others around debating times, distances, tricks, jumps, teamwork, points and more. Their understanding was greatly enhanced by the opportunities they had had in their own school sports and PE classes and this growing depth of vocabulary was drawn together as they had rich athletic experiences as competitive athletes in their own right. Suddenly Olympic level competition was something to revel in and be in awe of, as they looked at the World’s best and compared this to their own Personal Bests or Team experiences and saw (and understood the significant) lag between themselves and Those People.
Covid-19 has really impacted some of my students (and myself and others I work with) sense of Identity as people who move and measure movement by training and competition. Disruption to training, access to gameplay and competition has impacted how we measure and see ourselves in our own minds’ eye. I wonder how our students who are (or are not yet) budding athletes and live to move and play will overcome the setback that Covid-19 has thrown us. I worry that they may miss out on formative teenage opportunities of PE, sports and the lessons they offer around teamwork, consistent training and setting goals, competition and growing from those experiences to race with strangers or play teams that push you to be better. I see more students anxious when offered an opportunity to play competitive games or races, but they haven’t yet had the bank of time to practice failure and resilience. They have missed out on celebrating a close win or overcoming a conflict on the court. Being at home for significant periods of time has impacted the way they communicate with others. I also worry that academics have become outlandishly focused to the micro degree, and we are missing out on the joy of play, movement, activity and games. Where do we fit that into our online learning? How do we make that more of a priority and bring that into our everyday lives?
As I head out for a ride with a group of competitive friends, I know that my years of experience in training, competing, reflecting, injury, wins, losses, learning, researching and testing have played a massive role in the person I am today and in my identity as an Athlete. I also know that this is continuing to evolve as I get older (and wiser!) and continue to push the boundaries and explore what is possible. I desperately want this depth of learning through movement for my own children, and for my students, it is at the very core of who I am.
I hope that in the evolving landscape of Covid-19 that we will see a return to sport and competition and gameplay (in PE, after school, outside clubs etc) that will help students to re-identify or just identify as being Movers/Active people /athletes and allow them to find joy and depth of learning and reflecting on seeing themselves in their mind’s eye. How will we help young people find these opportunities and reach out to all young people to allow equal access? I want to continue having a depth of conversation with students and my own children about the richness of what Humans bodies and minds can achieve and to see where their own journeys take them – but with an emphasis that they do have journeys that focus on movement – and identify with this being a major life force to be nurtured, celebrated and shared.
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Looking for Sticks by Mel Hamada