The New Normal for PE

This time last year, our gyms were packed with students playing basketball and volleyball. Today, the gyms are empty, and individual sports are in. Last week we sat down with two teachers from the Physical Education department, and what follows is an interview with Tracy Sullivan and Alora Popow.

What is different about PE this year?

TS & AP: This time last year our courses consisted of flag football, volleyball, basketball and kickball. Obviously, none of that is happening right now. We’ve had to completely reinvent our units to protect our students from COVID-19. There are no team sports, and we are sanitizing all shared equipment after each student’s use.

The intentionality in the new structure for PE created much more consistency in programming. Every class gets same programming – one unit per week. This alignment makes it possible for consistency with sanitizing, which is crucial, but has also created a very predictable and safe environment for the students, which aligns much more closely with the CA Way.

We’re outside way more than before, which has been awesome. We are seeing payoffs not even related to COVID-19 precautions. Students are taking more individual risks, they are happy to be in class, and there’s been no complains about sanitizing.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

TS & AP: A lot of our students love team sports and are really good at them. It is challenging not to support their passions. Using PE time for sanitizing instead of activity is also tough. But we’ve felt incredibly supported to get the tools and equipment we need for COVID-safe activities – like a class set of scooters!

What have you learned?

TS & AP: Teachers are resilient. We originally felt like we had nothing – our usual lesson plan just were not going to work. We all felt like rookie teacher in our first year teaching. Now that we’ve wrapped our heads around the new reality, all we see is our department (and every teacher in the building) coming up with cool new ways to do things.

You can teach an old dog new tricks! The shift in mindset, our ability to adapt and overcome, we are all learning new ways to teach – we are even using the technology differently.

In summary, things are crazy. But there’s such an atmosphere of “let’s do this; we are a team; we can get through this.”

How has this experience informed your views on the educational world?

TS & AP: I never thought we could teach PE digitally or remotely. It’s outrageous, but we did it. We’ve learned you really can learn anything, anywhere, at any time. We’ve always believed that personally, but it’s different putting it into action. However, just because you can learn anywhere, doesn’t mean it’s a fulsome replacement for a physical experience. Schools are an important place to come together and learn together.