Quality Programs, Collaboration, and Advocacy

Article excerpt

Through collaboration with school-based partners, physical education teacher educators regularly step out of their classrooms and into the educational world of children and youths. This gives them the opportunity to see new developments in practice, to keep their finger on the pulse of physical education. For example, teacher candidates (TCs) in my Elementary School Instruction course have a practicum in selected elementary schools, which allows me to observe them and their mentors every semester in a variety of unique classrooms, in diverse school settings. Together we learn.

Quality Programs

One of my course goals is to provide examples of authentic assessments and to require TCs to use them in their K-5 classes. Before they accomplish this goal, we observe many examples not only of authentic assessments, but of positive learning environments; appropriate skill development sequences; fitness routines; the integration of math, science and reading skills; and of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA; Graham, Holt/Hale, & Parker, 2007). The six national standards (National Association for Sport and Physical Education [NASPE], 2004) are evident in nearly every lesson, and the TCs are often amazed at the high-quality physical education programming they observe.

Student learning is evident in all of our schools and for all learning domains. Student progress is assessed more thoroughly than in past years and is often managed in short meaningful bites as well as during more in-depth sessions. Some inevitable disruptive incidents in class test the TCs' time management. Although later the best TCs typically confess that they had been rattled, externally they exude patience, calmness, and persistence in the face of behaviors they have not seen before. Ultimately, the practicum gives TCs the valuable experience of seeing students perform motor skills, sometimes unpredictably, and of assessing their learning while providing a positive class environment.

Physical educators across the grades share an interest in the development of TCs to become highly qualified teachers and leaders in the field. They provide to TCs many examples of best practices in an "authentic context." Without their modeling, TCs could not grow as rapidly and might not know what quality physical education programs look like in action. Replicating these same practices in our gym with peers is impossible. These teachers have put their students' needs first for MVPA, fitness, motor skills, safety, and integration. They are in the forefront of best practices in the field, and collaboration with them is indispensable to teacher educators.

Although seeing physical educators' teaching strategies can be very helpful to TCs, it is important that TCs also become aware of the challenges they will face when they enter the field as teachers. One of the most critical challenges is the need for more MVPA. The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports recommends 60 minutes of MVPA every day for children and youths (Corbin, Pangrazi, & Le Masurier, 2004). This recommendation is especially important for girls, who tend to become more sedentary in the middle and high school years (McKenzie et al., 2004). In the face of reduced time for physical education in schools, it is critical to increase the amount of MVPA for all students. Even two to three extra minutes a day can make a difference, and participation in physical education activities contributes to that daily goal. Still, more MVPA and more physical education classes for students are needed if we hope to influence normal weight children to remain active and obese children to pursue moderate and sustainable physical activity.

Collaboration

While physical education teachers function beyond their own self-interests in the classroom, they have not been able to garner the support of other teachers and administrators in wholeheartedly valuing the health and physical well-being of students within their schools. …