Policies, Procedures, and Team Building Oh My!
As we all get set to head back into our gyms/classrooms soon, or maybe you already have, we are all analyzing our policies, procedures, and ways that we build relationships with students. As an educator there is ALWAYS room for improvement in all of these categories. Each new set of students brings about new ideas, needs for new policies, or ways you can improve your procedures. Each one of these things is vital in any classroom environment, but I believe even more important in the PE classroom environment.
The need for set procedures helps with the process of dressing in/out (if you do that at your school), how they gather equipment, etc etc etc. Policies help you as a teacher establish your rules and expectations. The most important category that helps with both of the above things, is your connections with students AND the connections they have with each other (team building).
Classroom expectations can cover two things (for me anyways)…#1. What do THEY expect from my class? and #2 What do I expect from my class?
#1. Their expectations- I like to give them a brief overview of what my class will look like on day 1 or day 2. I know that I teach PE vastly differently than what they most likely had before me (fitness based vs. sports based). I have found that if they know that ahead of time, they are much more likely to buy in to that and expect that. I also like to ask them exactly what their expectations are. What do they expect from their classmates? What do they expect from me as their teacher? and What do they expect to learn? This opens that line of communication immediately and helps me alter my curriculum if needed and warranted.
#2. What do I expect from my class(es)? For this topic, I give them my expectations on the first day, and repeat them often as a reminder. I also have posters that I made to hang in the locker rooms. It’s a freebie and you can find it here:https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/PE-Classroom-Expectations-Poster-8315290. The first expectation is to be respectful to yourself and to others. I harp on this one more than any other expectation and go in depth talking about what this means. For example, I make sure they understand that talking while others are sharing is not respectful, using unkind words is not respectful, and also saying they “can’t” do something is not respectful to themselves. I do also like to ask them what they consider respect from me and their classmates.
Policies and Procedures
Good structure and routine is 100% necessary in the PE classroom, without it, it is CHAOS (and we all know it can be even with the policies, rules and procedures).
Make sure your students know your policies/rules and understand WHY they are a rule. For example, cell phones…I don’t allow them, they have to keep them in their lockers. I make sure I tell them the reasons for that decision, this increases their buy in due to the increased understanding of why I made that a rule. Put your policies in writing in a syllabus or document that students show they have read. If you don’t have in writing, they will claim they didn’t know, and it helps communicate those with their guardians as well.
Be CONSISTENT with enforcing your rules and policies. If students feel you aren’t consistent they will test you or maybe think you are only enforcing the rule on them. Consistency breeds results.
Practice your procedures as often as needed. For me, we practice them dressing in/out in the time allotted, practice opening their lockers and making sure everything fits, etc. This helps students feel more comfortable and know those routines. I also make sure there is not much downtime in our pre/post class routines so not to allow too much time for students to find ways to get in trouble. It may be necessary to repeat and practice policies/procedures after long breaks or as you notice students starting to “forget” them.
This is the most important of all of the above. Without connections with students, they will not care about your subject material, rules, policies etc. We have to make students feel safe in our classrooms for them to learn. If they don’t have any connections with me and the teacher or with classmates they will have a hard time feeling safe. Unfortunately, the PE environment can breed an environment that isn’t always the most respectful and brings about anxiety in a lot of our students. I want my students to know that I won’t accept that disrespect, hassling, picking on etc from student to student. They know I am a safe place to come let me know if they are feeling that way from another student. If they don’t have that, and feel that way, they are going to shut down and not be part of the class.
It can be difficult to connect with every single student, especially when you can have so many in any class or school year, but I promise they know when you are trying. This can be as simple as telling them you like their shoes, noticing their new haircut, or bonding over a common sports team. Be interested in what they do and who they are.
On top of creating connections between yourself and the students, we have to try to foster relationships between the students themselves. Our class involves a lot of team work and cooperation. We NEED students to have connections to make those things be successful. The more opportunities we can give students to talk with each other about themselves the more connections they will make with each other and bond over common themes. This starts on day 1. One activity I use is “Get to Know You PE Bingo” which has PE specific(ish) questions that can have students start to talk to each other to find some common ground. You can grab this for free here: https://view.flodesk.com/pages/62dad38e03e5892a03493bf4
I am also going to try something new this year to bring a little more SEL into my classroom and hopefully foster more connections between students and myself. On Fridays, which are our “free days” due to a short school day, we are going to begin each day with 2-3 questions which allow students to decide how they feel about a certain topic about themselves. I am still playing around with the name but for now let’s call in “Friday Chats”. I will post the questions on my board and they will take a few mins to make notes on their phone, paper, or just think of the answers. I will ask for volunteers to share their answers and then the class will #1 Give them a praise about what they just talked about and #2 Ask them a question about what they just talked about. I will not make any students share that don’t want to, and the things we ask must be respectful and kind. I am hopeful this activity will help me learn my students better and their classmates learn each other better. My first Friday Chat will be on our second day back so it is how we are going to have the talks about expectations etc and my questions will be.
#1. What do you expect to learn?
#2. What do you expect from your teacher(s)?
#3. What do you expect from your classmates?
#4. How are you feeling about this school year?
On top of these things I have talked about, we also play a lot of team building games and have activities that I will talk about in the next blog!