A fastball is the easiest pitch to hit in baseball. The baseball is thrown towards home plate on a straight line that allows the hitter to easily predict where they will need to swing their bat to make contact. Teaching is very similar to baseball.
Every teacher can crush a fastball in their classroom. A fastball in the teaching world is the ability of the educator to execute what they have practiced throughout their career in the classroom. It’s the daily routine they have mastered and become accustom to. The fastball is the teacher’s go to, the content and routines that make up their comfort zone. Unfortunately, teachers today don’t just see fastballs. They see curveballs, sliders, and other pitches with deceptive movement. These pitches in the teaching world are the variables we are not so accustom to in the classroom.
Education is consistently moving forward with new strategies to improve overall learning in the classroom. Effective teaching today means the educator has to keep up with current learning trends and have that ability to adapt to multiple types of pitches.
Next year, Washington State will deliver a new pitch to physical education teachers. New learning standards in physical education will be thrown into the mix. I have traveled around Washington State this past year training physical educators how to connect these new standards to their teaching. Breaking this news definitely caused concern among my specialized group of educators. Many teachers were frustrated, which I could completely understand. I remember one teacher angrily replied, “This is just one more thing we have to do.”
The teacher that had lashed out with this comment was frustrated and felt as if they had already struck out. This teacher thought they would have to add something entirely new to their teaching arsenal. In reality, this teacher was already doing the work, they just hadn’t made the connections. Many educators feel this way when new standards and grade level outcomes are introduced. This is perfectly normal. There will always be ever-changing guidelines and standards that demand teachers spend extra time in the batting cage to revise their instructional strategies and match today’s best educational practices.
Washington State adopted the five national physical education standards as their own and will officially implement these beginning in the 2017-18 school year. Many school districts, including mine, are transitioning to standards-based grading in physical education in the next coming years. The term “standards-based” is new to a lot of my physical education colleagues. Through multiple trainings in Washington State this past year, I had the opportunity to reassure many of these educators that this change isn’t as challenging as they anticipate it to be.
Just like a batter, a physical education teacher has different options with how to reach base safely and effectively teach to a standard. A batter doesn’t always have to hit the ball to the same spot on the field to reach base, nor does an educator have to teach a certain way to incorporate each standard into their teaching. There is a lot of flexibility with how a standard can be taught.
Let me break this down with the five Washington State standards physical educators have to teach to.
Standard 1: The physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.
Standard 2: The physically literate individual applies knowledge of concepts, principles, strategies and tactics related to movement and performance.
Standard 3: The physically literate individual demonstrates the knowledge and skills to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.
Standard 4: The physically literate individual exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others.
Standard 5: The physically literate individual recognizes the value of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction.
To teach each of these standards, a physical educator can use the whole field and utilize multiple topics and grade level outcomes to assist them in teaching to each standard.
Example: A physical education teacher wants to assess Standard 3 (see above) with their second grade students. There are multiple ways this teacher can effectively teach this standard (see below).
The teacher can use any of these topics and correlating grade level outcomes to teach to the standard. This provides the teacher with many options on how they will assess Standard 3 with their second graders.
A common misconception teachers have when they hear standards-based instruction is going to be implemented, or new standards are coming, is that they will have to put even more on their plate of responsibilities. In reality, many physical education teachers are already teaching to the standards, they just need to make the connection.
The best advice I give my colleagues is to reflect on their teaching practice and read through each standard and its grade level outcomes. This will only take 5-10 minutes, and even if you are not in physical education, you can do this same exercise with your specialized content area. Here’s what you do… Grab a writing utensil and a copy of the standards and grade level outcomes you teach to. Highlight every grade level outcome you currently teach. This is a powerful reflective process. After you’re finished take a look at the big picture. What outcomes did you address? Were there any outcomes not addressed? I did this reflective process and saw my strengths along with my weaknesses. This exercise helped me see those pitches I was crushing and the ones I was also whiffing at. I was able to see the big picture, identify the areas that I could improve in, and set myself up to swing with confidence no matter which pitch was thrown to me.
If you currently use standards-based instruction in your classroom, what instructional strategies are aiding you to round the bases? What’s your fastball? What’s your curveball?