The Challenge of Implementing Physical Education Mandates

Author’s Note: This post is written about Oregon’s PE Law, Senate Bill 4, and the challenges school districts face when trying to implement mandates.  Furthermore, the motivation was inspired by a newspaper article in the East Oregonian that was shared on the SHAPE America Facebook page on 8/31/19.  You can read the original article by CLICKING HERE.

Ever since I entered the teaching profession in 2008, a Physical Education law has been considered the utopian policy dream for physical educators everywhere.  For years, the state of Illinois was elevated to a pedestal for the work they had done and what was featured in the book SPARK.  Unbeknownst to many, Oregon has had a state physical education law as policy since 2007.  House Bill 3141, as it was titled then, was considered a huge achievement for the state.  In short, it mandated 150 minutes per week of physical education in grades K-5 and 225 minutes per week of physical education in grades 6-8.  The bill gave school districts 10 years to plan, prepare and to be in compliance.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a school district in Oregon who didn’t keep kicking the can down the road and hope for days where the law would eventually go away.  I can speak to this personally because I began sitting in on meetings with stakeholders at the state level as far back as 2015 to plan for implementation.  Compromises were made and full implementation was pushed back again and a phase in model was agreed to.  This meant that over a 5 year process, school districts could slowly phase in to the required minutes.  The 2019-20 school year is the first year of this phase in with elementary schools K-5 needing to be at 120 minutes.  If schools are not in compliance, they do run the risk of having their state funding being withheld (this law has teeth!).  This is where things have become interesting.

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Becoming an Unplugged Educator — Why I Said Goodbye to Social Media as a Professional

As I currently sit at my gate at the Tampa International Airport waiting for my flight back to Oregon, I find myself finally committing the time to a post that has been a long time coming. I think the transformational nature of the SHAPE America National Convention and how inclusive it felt (kudos to Judy LoBianco for her leadership and the work that SHAPE America put in for pulling it off) finally is giving me the moral courage to publish after discussing this blog post for what has seemed like months with a small group of people that I trust.

I want to talk about something that I am sure is somewhat controversial.  For years, the rhetoric within the #physed profession (and in the greater education community as well) was to, “get connected.” At its peak, it was even insinuated that if you were not on Twitter…well, what the heck were you doing?  Being on social media had become a box to check off on what it means to be a professional.  I even wrote my action research project for my Master’s degree on social media as a professional!

I want to dispute…no, I want to reject the idea that we need to be “connected” as an educator.  I have made a clear decision to unplug, if you will, and I have regained a sense of happiness and fulfillment as a physical educator that I had lost.

Before I continue, I want to be explicitly clear–this post is NOT about work/life balance.  This post is NOT about burnout.  While important, I feel these concepts sell short what I am trying to communicate.

This post is about evolution.  Specifically, this post is about eliminating what doesn’t help you evolve.

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What is your play personality?

At the end of November, Andy Milne and Justin Schleider organized the #slowchatgiftx, a holiday gift exchange for health and physical educators in the US. Approximately 30 teachers signed up and agreed to send a surprise gift (with a $20 limit) to another educator. I received the book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Dr. Stuart Brown, from Terri Drain.

According to Brown, “people have a dominant mode of play that falls into one of eight types,” which he calls play personalities. No one is a perfect example of a single play personality type. Most of us are a mix of them. At different times and in different situations, people might find themselves playing in a mode that is different than their dominant type” (Brown 65).

While I read the section about play personalities, my mind was racing. I started to identify my own play personality and realized it had changed since I was younger. I tried to guess which personalities best fit my friends. I wondered how they could be used in my middle school physical education classes to help me develop a culture of play (my big focus this quarter). I looked at a few resources, including this article from the University of Michigan, and put together a document for my 8th-grade students that would allow them to identify their own play personalities.

On Monday, they read the descriptions and answered three questions on a slip of paper:

  1. Which play personalities best describe you?
  2. Explain why you chose those personalities.
  3. Which activities in P.E. are you most drawn to based on your play personality?

That night, I read each slip. Sixty-four students completed the assignment. Within my three 8th-grade classes, there are forty-two Competitors, thirty Explorers, twenty-four Kinesthetes, twenty-one Artists/Creators, twenty Jokers, eighteen Storytellers, ten Collectors, and six Directors. I looked over my quarterly plan and made a few adjustments based on my students’ play personalities.

On Tuesday, I posted the results and asked each group, “What does this information tell us about our class?” We dug into the data and shared our thoughts. My students noticed that many of them are competitive, many of them like to explore, and very few students like to take charge (the Directors). Then, I said, “Based on the play personalities in this class, I chose a variety of activities for you to experience. Many of you are competitive, love to try new things, and love to think creatively. Some of you just love to move and others enjoy telling stories. I guarantee that at least one thing this quarter will totally be your jam.” I read through the list and didn’t hear any groans! (…until I reminded them the quarter ends with the human sexuality unit.)

I would like to encourage you to try three things:

  1. Determine how you can use play personalities within your #PhysEd program. What can the information tell you about your classes?
  2. Give your students the opportunity to identify their play personalities. Feel free to make a copy of my document and modify it for your use.
  3. Take some time to read Dr. Stuart Brown’s book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.