Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The importance of really getting to know your students

As a teacher candidate, I believe that one of the most critical components to being a great teacher is getting to know your students, developmentally and personally.  From my observations thus far ,in 256 and 355, I cannot stress the different abilities of kids that I observe who are in the same grade.  Every child learns differently- some are visual learners, some are auditory, some need to do an activity before they will learn it.  Every child learns at a different pace as well.  It is so critical that we tailor our lessons in ways that can and will meet the needs of every student in the classroom.  With all of the cuts being made in the education system right now, I understand that it can be very demanding and exhausting for teachers, but these children need us.  One of the most upsetting observations I have made thus far is that a surprising number of children must either not have great home lives or their parents don’t have the time to spend with them, playing games outside.   As a PE teacher, you have to realize that the 60 minutes a week these children are receiving in physical activity, during PE class, may be the only form of physical activity they are doing all week.  With the huge emphasis on technology these days, so many children would rather sit inside in front of a tv, computer, or video game instead of play outside or participate in sports or after-school activities.  As a future educator, I realize that I have to be creative in designing ways to get children active outside of school- to get them physically active for a lifetime.  So many parents today have to work often and late hours so they aren’t spending the time with their children they should be.  I can’t tell you how many young children reply, when I ask them about what they do when they get home from school for the day, that they go home and watch tv, get on the internet, or play video games.  It’s just really sad that society has become like this.  When I was younger the first thing my friends and I did when we got home was to go outside and play games with each other- wiffle ball, kickball, flashlight tag, etc.  We hated being inside.  I was fortunate enough to have parents who, although busy, always made time to play with me outside and get me involved in sports/physical activity.  As future Physical Educators, it is crucial that we find ways to connect with the students, inside and outside of school; to use creativity to spark a child’s interests in a variety of lifetime physical activities.  We have to realize that many of these children don’t have the support at home and that we have to be their support.  It is one of the most rewarding experiences to know that you’ve made a positive difference in a child’s life.  As difficult as it can be, take the time to get to know all of your students- personally and developmentally.  Some children will be more difficult than others, but persevere in your efforts.  It will be well worth it.  This is why we get into this business- to make a difference in these children’s lives.  We are not there to simply throw the ball out and watch them play for 60 minutes a week.  We are there to find ways to help them improve and learn in any way possible- physically, cognitively, and affectively.  When I was working with the young children at the CHAMP afterschool program, I made it a point to get to know each child the best I could in what little time I had with them- their interests, dislikes, hobbies, etc.  These are the things, or outlets, you can use to get through to them.  For example, one young boy- Nick, loved learning about the United States so I can up with games to play with him that incorporated the states into them and he absolutely loved every second of it.  We had another girl, Leah, who (at first) we had extreme difficulty getting her engaged in the activities.  When we found out that she loved squirrels, we came up with games that involved squirrels in some way and she would participate during the entire activity.  Also, when we had them keep food journals, I was shocked at the lack of healthy diet in the meals these children were getting at home.  Thus, healthy eating is another area that we, as Physical Educators, should be stressing to these children.  My philosophy in life, education, and physical education is to learn by doing.  Don’t give up on something just because it doesn’t work out.  Take a different approach to it.  Keep trying new things until you find something that does work.  The important thing is to be persistent and to never accept defeat.  No one ever said that this job- teaching- was going to be easy, but it is well worth the fight.  When you can see that you’ve changed these children’s lives for the better; there is no greater feeling in the world. 

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