Physical Education tends to get a reputation of being a place where the focus is skill development and the acquisition of motor skills and movement concepts and strategies. This is 100 percent accurate; however, there is a facet of physical education that is known to many physical educators but possibly not apparent to outside onlookers. I would like to discuss the social aspect of physical education to bring awareness to the vast importance of how our field really helps kids grow into global citizens as well as finding out who they are as a person and how they can grow socially and emotionally.
P.E. is a place we really learn to grow as individuals from an early age. In the K-2 phase, kids are starting to explore their surroundings. What actions physical or social are appropriate and which ones result in repercussions of some sort. That's why a huge learning measure in that age group is spatial awareness; it creates boundaries and helps kids learn how to manage their space without imposing on someone else's personal bubble. This is also an age where kids learn how to make friends and this is born in physical education, they tend to gravitate to someone in the class that they enjoy spending time with and playing games with that individual or group of acquaintances that ultimately become friends. As we dive into growing ages, these bonds are solidified in the physed environment, a wonderful place where students have the oppurtunity to share ideas of play and inclusion with one another while moving.
Learning Social Cues
Social cues are signs that people send through body language and facial expressions. It can be very challenging to learn how to read people at any age. In my physical education scope and sequence, I do an entire unit on building relationships through physical activity. I suggest that you do the same if you have not already. It is our responsibility to develop not only the psychomotor domain and its development of a child but also the cognitive, affective domains as well. I suggest that you explain what learning cues are and create activities where students have to analyze and explain what someone's body language or facial expression is saying. I like to say if there is a positive cue then those two people pass the ball three times and do a layup followed by a high five. If there is a negative social cue, the student backpedals to the baseline to give them space, it's a fun activity and it helps the students understand the concept.
The Glory/Frustration Experience
PE is a place where we experience all types of emotions, highs, and lows, ups and downs. With excitement, you have an environment where there are 15+ people there to celebrate with you and mask in the glory that is achievement whether it be group or individual. This where they learn to celebrate with compassion and respect, and it's our job to teach them these qualities. Physical Education comes with a decree of honor and that responsibility should not be taken lightly. Frustration is a massive part of our lives and it always will be; but how do we learn how to manage it...I will give you a hint....yup, physical education. I recently said on my podcast that losing is the most important thing that an athlete can experience and that goes double for students in PE. Losing is painful, saddening, and can be hard to cope with. In PE, we learn how to deal with defeat and show our emotions in a healthy manner. We must learn to show sportsmanship initially in order to admire what the other team did well, and then there is nothing wrong with speaking to a classmate or teacher about your feelings. We then can focus on the positive and take the emotions from defeat or any other type of frustrating circumstance and create a learning experience from it and develop a whole new positive environment.
In all, please know that if you are a physical educator you are really fostering a way to help kids find out who they are and who they want to be. You are an inspiration and have all the tools to help kids find their path, they love you and they always will for it.