On today’s podcast, I want to share my one simple rule in the gym. It’s something that I’ve refined over the years and it can be applied to all grade levels.
My One Rule of the Gym
Like most teachers, I start off the school year getting students acquainted with my expectations. You know, the procedures within our class and most of all my one rule in the gym. I think that when students hear that I only have one rule, you know, they immediately, that immediately changes the context of my class in their mind. Maybe they’re thinking about their other specialist teachers or their classroom teacher and the different rules and expectations that they have and they’re like, Oh, Mr. Graham only has one rule. It’s awesome. We can do so much stuff in here. I just think it gives kids a more optimistic outlook on how they’re going to perform in my class. I mean really who wants to sit and have a another long list of do’s and don’ts to try and conform to, you know, not me and certainly not my students either. So what is this magic rule that I have? Well, it all centers around the concept of respect and I’ll break this down into about three parts and that covers just about every situation that I’ve encountered over my 22 years of teaching.
Defining Respect in PE
These three parts of the respect umbrella are #1 – respect the teacher. #2 – respect others and #3 – respect the equipment. So I will facilitate like a discussion with my kids and I’ll ask them what each of those things means to them and I get some really good responses, and a lot of times those lead to further talking points and some really good examples. So, you know, basically my conversation goes like this, you know, I’ll start off and, and tell the students that, uh, you know, I want our gym to be a place of respect. You know, I’ll ask the kids to think about a visitor coming into our class.
Maybe a prospective family on a tour of our school, right? Or another teacher looking in the window. Or maybe there’s a parent volunteer who’s come into our class for the day, or I’ve got an administrator or anyone other than the students in the class or myself. What impression will they have after observing our class in action? You know my expectation is that they leave with an impression of, wow, that’s a really respectful group of kids. So I asked them what kinds of things would they see or what kinds of things would they hear that would give visitors that impression, you know, and then, and then the discussion ensues and hands go up and you’re starting to call on kids and they’re given all kinds of answers. You know, when it comes to respecting the teacher, whether that’s me or a substitute or a student teacher, they know, they’ll say things like, you know, listening when the teacher’s talking or following the directions and staying on task.
Being Respectful to Others
When I ask them about what does it mean to be respectful to others, I mean this is a really, really important one. You know, that discussion will continuous stuff like including in our group or making sure we’re taking turns and sharing equipment and not arguing or fighting or listening to other people to use them, good sportsmanship, encouraging, you know, those kinds of things. My big emphasis for that one is that people and their feelings are way more important than the outcome of a game or who gets the purple hula-hoop or you know, only being with your best friend all the time, you know, and that isn’t something that comes easy for kids because kids are wired to be very egocentric, right? And, and they naturally tend to focus on themselves. And if you understand that and that that’s a developmental stage in their life, then I feel like I can work with that. I know that’s just how kids are wired and they’re gonna naturally have those tendencies. But I’m going to work within that structure to try and get them. And guide them to where I want it to be, you know?
And then finally I’ll ask them about our equipment. How do we respect equipment? And, you know, of course they’re going to say, well, we use it the right way. We put it away when we’re done. We want to be safe with it. You know, I think it’s important to have the students volunteer those types of examples because it demonstrates to me as the teacher that they know what it is to be respectful and how that should look in our class. When you boil it down, it’s just respect is just treating people how you want to be treated, right? Uh, taking care of the things around us.
I feel like if I do that well. If I’ve established that solid foundation, then I can really begin to build my classroom climate with them. I make a large poster and hang that up in my gym. It has the word respect at the top and then it has the three parts and it’s up on the wall. And now I gotta refer to that you know, from time to time when needed, you know, remind students of the expectation and making our, our, our class a place of respect. But I believe that by like establishing that framework for kids, something for them to operate in, it makes them feel valued as a person and once someone feels that that experiences, that feeling of, of value through some respectful interactions, I mean they can really thrive in that supportive environment and then they have a sense of belonging.
I mean I used to get caught up in teaching content, you know, the, let’s face it, I mean it’s PE, I’ve got standards to cover, I’ve got assessments to do, you know, but I just have come to learn over the years that the social emotional component of teaching needs to be in place first for my teaching to be at its most effective. I mean if you struggle with constant behavior issues, I suggest focusing students’ attention on one simple theme, kinda like I did for respect and then referring to that as the consistent underlying goal of your class. And you might be surprised to find that by simplifying your list of rules it may help you in your journey to become a more effective class manager.