How to Create a Positive Culture in Your PE Program [Interactive]

Copy of PEC 2021 Self Sustaining Games Gopher Public

[0:02] Today on the PE Express Podcast, I’m going to discuss how you can build a banner worthy Physical Education program through the use of an actual banner.

[0:29] Hi, I’m Randy Spring. I’m a K-5 Physical Education teacher at Liberty Ridge Elementary School in Woodbury, Minnesota. I’m currently in my 13th year of teaching, and I’m super pumped to be here today to talk to you about how the choice we made to put a banner in our gym helped create a culture filled with positive learning, positive relationships, an efficient teaching in our physical education program.

[0:53] Before I go into detail about why we have this banner, what’s on it, and how we use it to create a positive culture within our program, let’s talk about two pivotal moments in my teaching career that helped propel this idea to life.

Why I Created the Positive Culture Banner

[1:08] Let’s rewind my first year as a PE teacher when I was asked to teach at three different schools in one year. Within working with all kinds of different teams and different cultures and different programs in different schools, I started to know a common practice that I was not a fan of and that was asking students to get in groups of 2 to participate in a PE activity. Now you might be asking yourself Mr. Spring, Randy, what’s wrong with that? I do it all the time? Well, here’s what I saw wrong with that after the dust settled multiple times in that first year of students asking each other to get into groups, there was always multiple same students that will come up to me with watery, tear filled eyes looking at me and saying “Mr. Spring, I don’t have a partner again.” And I bet a lot of you right now, hearing those words can think of those students that have struggled to get into groups and have felt left out unnoticed and not cared about in our PE classrooms. As a first year teacher that hurt, but I didn’t really truly think about how I could help.

[2:19] Fast forward years later as a Middle School Speed and Strength coach, I started to notice that every single day my middle school athletes were coming into my weight room, I was asking them, “how was your day?”, “Hey Johnny, how you doing today?”, “What happened last night at practice?” And very, very few of these athletes would respond, would look me in the eye, or even look up from their phones. Knowing my wife, 10 plus-year experienced math middle school teacher, I had to ask her, why are these middle school students like this? Why won’t they respond when I asked them simply, how are they doing? She blew my mind when she simply looked me in the eye and said “Randy, you have to teach them.”  That is when I had enough and decided I need to be the voice of change and it’s starting in my PE program. That is when the banner of “I notice you, I care about you, and I want you to succeed. Love, your PE teacher” came to life.

Putting Words Into Action

[3:35] Now putting words on a banner and a banner on the wall, that’s easy. Making those words “I noticed you, I care about you, I want you to succeed. Love, your PE teacher” come to life. Now that doesn’t happen overnight.

My PE Teacher Notices Me

We had to work hard as a team to create opportunities where students not only felt noticed by us, but noticed by each other and that meant creating groups of two and three. When you create an opportunity for a group of two to notice somebody raising their hand and go ask them to jump into their group to make a three, you’re telling them I notice you and we notice each other. Creating groups of two always leave somebody out. Allow students the opportunity to be noticed through your instruction.

My PE Teacher Cares About Me

[4:25] Care – How do our students feel and experience being cared for by us? Well, we create opportunities where they get to do activities that they love to do. They get noticed and cared for by us by how we teach them throughout the day from start to finish. We don’t stand in the corner, we don’t stand in one part of the gym, we move around constantly to let them feel cared for with our actions and our words.

My PE Teacher Wants Me to Succceed

[4:56] How do they feel successful in our classroom? They play! We don’t talk a lot, they play and that is built into all of these different principles that come behind this banner. When you create opportunities for students to feel notice, cared for, and successful through efficient practice, authentic relational experiences with them, you’re P. E. Program will stand tall and strong on these three pillars built in this banner.

Challenge Students to Become Better People

And the greatest part of all and I get teary eyed every time I say goodbye to my 5th grade students. At the end of that year, on the last day of school, we tell them and we show them that banner one more time and we say “I notice you, I care about you, and I want you to succeed. Love your classmates, love your brother, love your sister, love your teammate.” When you leave 5th graders, our goal is for you to live this out and not experience it from me, your PE teacher, but for other people to experience these words through you and your own actions.

So what are your pillars? Doesn’t have to be, “I noticed you, I care about you, I want you to succeed”, but think about what are your values? What are your non-negotiables? What are you holding your program up on that makes your students feel the things that they feel when they’re noticed, they’re cared for, and feeling successful. I hope you had some great takeaways from this podcast, and I hope you find your own words to put on your wall and make them come to life because we’re here to build pillars, and build a great program, that builds great people. Be proud of your PE. Thank you. 

4 Responses

  1. Thanks Randy, very inspiring! I use the John Wooden’s Pyramid of success in my PE class, but your banner sums it all up and it’s simple , concise and genuine. I always tell my 5th graders at the end of the year to go be the best you can be and find friends that have your same interests and positive morals in life. I end by telling them – Now Go Be Great! And like you, I do get choked up because I care a ton about our kids and their futures.


    1. Michelle,

      Thank you so much for reading/listening! I got choked up just reading your comment! I can tell by your genuine words you really care about what you do. I have no doubt your students leave you better people. Have a great school year and keep doing what you’re doing! – Randy

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