On this episode of Blending In, I’m chatting with Aaron Coyle, one of our veteran elementary school PE teachers from Hemet Elementary School who is also the elementary PE coordinator in our district! In today’s episode, Aaron shares his love for teaching kids, how he’s building the PE culture at his new school site, and because of technology, how his teaching methods and strategies have evolved over his 20 year career in education.
In our conversation today, Aaron talked about the importance of building trust with colleagues in order to foster successful planning and collaboration in his PLC. He uses Twitter (follow @acoyle) to expand his connections with fellow educators (like Ben Landers the PE Specialist - follow @thepespecialist) and discover resources (as do I). He also discussed the importance of building trusting relationships with students using some traditional strategies like putting procedures and structures in place so students feel safe, allowing kids to be helpers in class, and using an activity wheel that allows students choice.
In addition to name selector tools like the Wheel of Names, Aaron also talked about how he uses the Team Shake App to help him group students into teams for different types of games/activities and to be strategic about how he’s grouping students according to behaviors and/or skills. (Note: Our district does not provide iPads to our teachers; Aaron is using his own personal phone or iPad when using this application. This app is also accessible through Google Play.) Aaron mentioned that he pulls student rosters from our SMS Aeries and puts them into a Google Sheet. From the sheet he can import the names of his students into the app without having to type each kiddo’s name by hand.
Music plays a big role in Aaron’s PE classes to get kids moving, and so his goto music platform is Spotify. One technique he uses to give himself more freedom at the start of his classes is prerecording his warm-ups using the Voice Memo app and then playing it through a speaker to his students. This allows him to take attendance, address student concerns, provide verbal cues to students who may be off task, etc. (Note: You can also use other webbased voice recorders like online-voice-recorder.com or ScreenCastify to record audio if you don’t have an app.)
PE is often thought of as the “fun” class, but students are learning physical skills through the activities they participate in during class. So, we talked about the importance of communicating to students what they are learning each day and why they are learning it. Aaron shared how he does this each day by using laminated student-friendly “I can” statements, and how this process evolved for him over his teaching career. We are fortunate that our district supports us with a print shop who printed these for him at no cost to him.
At the end of our conversation, Aaron had some great advice for new teachers: “That first year, you have permission to muck it up. Work hard, do your best, and know you’re going to make mistakes - and learn from those!” And to other veteran teachers who are fearful of integrating technology, Aaron said that we can’t be afraid of failure because “Failures are actually opportunities for learning.” His advice is to go slow and try one new thing at a time which is advice that I wholeheartedly agree with!