The Atomic Ant and the Physed Summit

A few years ago I wrote this story as part of a teachers’ book called “Fueled by Coffee and Love” by Mary Venturino. It’s in Amazon

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Back in my Day “The Atomic Ant” My Inspiration

 

The first day I met my physical education teacher in high school. Her name was Aurora and I must say that I did not like her at all. Aurora was very strict and told us all how the rules would be enforced. At the time, I felt the rules were way too exaggerated. One example was that if you got to class one minute late, you would be facing some consequences.

 

Aurora was small, but quite strong. She couldn’t sit still and was always engaged in some physical activity. In those days every teacher would drive to the high school. Not Aurora, she rode her bike every day despite the weather and ignoring the hills that were in between her house and the high school.

We used to call her “ La Hormiga Atomica” “The Atomic Ant” because she was always doing some sort of exercise: Playing tennis, running, biking, swimming, and to date… she still is.

It felt like she put the bar quite high regarding her students’ performance expectations.

That being said, my initial kind of negative opinion about Aurora, having us running outside even in the snow and being quite strict with us, changed in a single day.

I am from Madrid, Spain and therefore I studied in a public high school in a city called Majadahonda, in the outskirts of Madrid, where I used to live. As part of the physical education curriculum, PE teachers organised a field trip for us and, on this particular one, we travelled to the mountains to spend the day skiing. Since skiing is quite an expensive sport, I never had the chance to try it before, so the very first time I actually went to ski I was 15 years old. 

I am not sure if you can remember your first-day skiing, but in my case, I felt quite hopeless at the beginning, having to choose all the equipment, carrying heavy skis and poles while trying to find the best way to the meeting area. I took a chairlift with some friends up the mountain to go down the slopes but once I had arrived up the mountain, I realised I had no idea of how to ski or just how to get down safely. 

Fortunately, one of my friends had some basic knowledge and she tried to teach me, but I kept falling down and losing my skis every time. If you have ever been in that situation you can picture how frustrating it is to try to go down the hill making some sort of triangle with your skis, and, as soon as you want to turn, you lose your balance and one ski goes down the slope, and you end up having to walk to get it, being careful that no crazy person is running you over as you try to get to where your ski is. Then you need to get all the snow off your boots, so you can actually click the skis back on again and try for the tenth time in 40 minutes to go down the green slope, especially made for beginners.

So there I was, after several attempts to go down the beginner’s slope and having fallen down multiple times, quite exhausted, more mentally than physically, and feeling quite upset with myself for not being able to ski, but how could I? Nobody trained me. I had just joined some friends on this field trip who were definitely more experienced than I was.

Anyhow, while I was about feeling ready to give up, Aurora, my PE teacher all of a sudden showed up. She told me that she was looking for me because she knew that I was a beginner, and from that moment on she stayed with me and my group of friends the whole day.

She taught me how to ski. She would patiently go slightly ahead of me on the slopes and outline the route for me the follow with her skis. She did it in such a way that it certainly gave me confidence and strength. She made me believe in my skiing learning ability that I was actually enjoying the day from then on.

After that day, my view on Aurora had completely changed. I realized that the reason why she could be very strict with us, especially at the beginning of the year, was to be respected, not to be mean to us. She did all sorts of things for us learners. One example was that she gave free after-school dance lessons, self-taught, so she could actually teach us.

When I was in my last year of high school, I wasn’t really sure of what career I wanted to pursue. Finally I decided that I wanted to study Physical Education. In Madrid, in order to study Physical Education in College, you have to have a good grade in your admittance exam, plus you have to pass several fitness and physical tests that require quite some practice. I only learned at a very late stage that most people train for a year to pass those physical tests. I practiced for two weeks, with Aurora. As soon as she found out that I was thinking of studying Physical Education she offered her help.

The above-mentioned tests include: swimming, endurance, strength, flexibility, agility, and several more. You must pass all the tests with the minimum grade (or higher) or you are out. No second chances. 

The day of my physical tests was July 18th. It was really hot out there in Madrid. I was in quite good shape after two weeks of training my body non-stop. 

I started very well, passing all the initial tests. There were two tests that I was feeling less confident about: Agility and Endurance. I had managed to pass the agility test and all of the other disciplines and now only had to face the endurance. We had to run one km in less than five minutes, and it was almost 6pm. It was really hot, but I didn’t care. I knew I could do it. And I did!

Thanks to Aurora and her inspiration, I studied Physical Education, became a PE teacher and started to share the passion that she had shared with me with my students.

I have to say that like Aurora, I am firm in my classes, but at the same time care very much about my learners and their personal development. I am an advocate for health, physical activity and wellbeing not only with my students, but also with my colleagues and of course with my family, friends and the community.

I always have loved nature and the outdoors and that ski experience, really helped to guide me to who I am now.

I have become an international educator and I live in China now. Every summer I go back to Spain to spend time with my family and friends. Aurora and I became friends a long time ago. We get together to run in the forest close to where my parents live. Every summer we meet at the very same forest and run together as we catch up. She is always full of energy and we love to catch up and share with each other our life adventures.

Gracias Aurora, La Hormiga Atomica: You are my inspiration!

On May 9, I took part in the #PhysedSummit2020 and also presented about “Student Voice and Peer Feedback using a platform called Flipgrid”

You can access the program here   and mine here. The reason why I am linking these two facts, it’s because I told Aurora about it and she tuned in from Spain, joined the Unhangouts and commented on the backchannel chat. I was so thankful and so happy.

To end this post I just wanted to say that “Relationships Matter”

Week 4 of Online Learning

Time goes on so fast!

We are already in week 4 of Online School at the International School of Phnom Penh, in Cambodia.

Last week I struggled because I wasn’t sure “why”

Why some amazing students were not being responsive to their weekly tasks? What I was supposed to do? Try to understand them? Overwhelm them with emails or seesaw notifications? Wait? Or ask them?

“Don’t cry when the sun is gone because the tears won’t let you see the stars.” Rabindranath Tagore

I sent a survey and got lots of responses, very positive by the way, and honest, which helped me to understand and better plan what students need and are looking forward to.

So this week I changed a few things:

I sent extra challenges (for the students interested)

I tried to connect with students in a different way, by acknowledging the ones who were trying to teach others or showed deeper thinking. I also sent a provocation to learners so they would be interested in sharing a passion, something they really liked to do/play.

I asked the younger students, G1, to share a skill they had been working on for the past few weeks and thought they had improved on.

I felt so lucky!

I got energizing, positive, and beautiful responses from many students. Since single-subject teachers, only post once a week to avoid overwhelming learners with a task, I feel that some of our activities get “sank” at the end of the line, and almost forgotten for some learners.

In the course of the past few weeks, students are better understanding the routine of the 30-60 minutes of daily physical activity and the diary response that is sent or post on Friday (end of the week) and that helps to know how they are doing but it doesn’t really tell us how they are feeling.

Teachers and parents have played an important role in reminding students to work on their diary and the way it should be sent.

Meanwhile, I have been supporting my kids at home with home learning and online school. Often times they play together and my latest goal is to document those special and unforgettable moments.

Here you can see a couple of examples that I have done.

The first one was actually a post that I sent to all the EY learners, trying to get them into moving and being physically active.

EY HPE at home

If you click here, you’ll witness a day playing “Airport” I made a trailer out of it, so it is really short compared to the play that happened at home that day. Still, it does summarize a fun day.

This morning, my kids had fun playing together, walking in the garden, finding rocks to finally paint them. Here is the video.

As a mom, I am really trying to get them to be outside and play as much as they can limiting the screen time to the minimal required to accomplish school tasks. The heat and the change of routine is definitely exhausting my kids so being active without a device helps.

Thanks for reading!

 

Wait…What’s Happening?

Week 3 on Online School for us at ISPP, the International School of Cambodia.

Online School, how to define it? What are your thoughts on this?

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By now you are either confined at home, you have been or you are aware of social distancing. If you are not a teacher you might have kids and suddenly they need your support with their school tasks.

But… wait?

You might not be a teacher, you might have a different job that you still need to do. A job that might actually be related to the reason why we are confined at home, or we should be to save lives.

So… us teachers, are we aware of that? How many tasks are we creating for students daily? Are we sending stuff back? Are the kids responding to feedback? So… what is happening?

School has shifted to online school. Some school are trying to synchronise lessons to the actual time. I guess that is kind of complicated if you teach in an International School as many families have decided to travel back to their home countries during the COVID19 outbreak.

Our school does not have synchronised lessons. We use different platforms to communicate with learners and parents, to teach and to offer choices. We are all different and try our best for our learners in our very own and best way.

As a parent, I feel very lucky to have 2 amazing teachers for my kids, very supportive, empathic and inspiring.

I am a teacher myself, and I know that kids are going to try to get things done as fast as they can and move on to do something else, or do nothing. As parents, are we managing the time our kids spend with “their” devices? Are we providing fresh, healthy, food for them? Are we maintaining routines that help them understand that school goes on, these are not holidays? Are our kids getting enough sleep? Are they playing outside in the garden if we have one? Are they moving enough?

As a physical educator, that is one of my concerns. How can I better support my students? Do they get enough sleep and move at least 60 minutes per day? How are they feeling about the coronavirus?

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In Spain, my home country, the coronavirus has hit very hard. Many people have died and many are in hospitals in very bad shape. There are doctors, and nurses taking care of the sick ones. These people have families who are so worried every day about them and have school tasks to do at home, but…how can they do them? Are they thoughts on something else? Do they have nannies taking care of the kids?

As teachers, are we asking our students how are they doing?

Do we remember what the priorities are?

Are we feeling overwhelmed? Are we overwhelming our own families? Our students?

I think reflecting on what is important will help us to get back to the track. Yes, we want students to keep learning, to show evidence of their learning and as parents, we want to support this. Just keep in mind that everyone else’s reality is different and the way and the time they might react to things may be different too.

Stay calm, be positive and stay healthy.

Thanks for reading

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One Week of Online School

The world has changed from day to night.

What we had fear of and, at the same time, we were expecting to happen over the past few weeks has happened just like a blink of eyes, so sudden, and the whole world is expected to do the same. Our school shutdown last Monday.

It’s been a week now. A week of being a parent and a teacher at home, like many, many others around the world.

So, how did I start?

Thankfully, we have an amazing, very supportive community, the physed community online that shares ideas, documents, videos and all sort of resources to help you create your own, the best that can fit the needs of your students.

Also, a great team of single-subject teachers at our school thinking of what is best for the needs of our learners.

We are aware that it’s not going to be the same, however, we are trying to provide the best online school we can.

We don’t want to overwhelm our learners, so single subject teachers will post only ONCE per week ( everyone on a different day)

How does it look like for PE?

For now, we have decided to offer a variety of choices as we are aware that students might not have space, the facilities, or the equipment they need for everything we offer.

We will post once, on Mondays, but we know that students need to be active at least 60 minutes per day, so, for now, we are focusing more on the physical activity than a specific unit. This can change soon.

This is what I have sent to my G1 students for instance. And a similar one, with a weekly goal for the G5 learners.

Students have the whole week to complete different activities of their choice and document them on the PE Journal (see below)

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They can add photos, short clips or just make their own version, then explained what they did and how much time they spent doing it.

Some students have sent me some videos already, and it’s great to see how active they are by themselves, jumping on the trampoline, cycling around their house or even swimming!

Others are slowly completing their diary or haven’t added anything yet.

What about my own kids? And the whole family life?

I am super lucky to be able to work from home with a flexible schedule, being available if needed it, or else, working at other times so I can support my kids with their learning during this time.

The first thing I did was to make a daily schedule for my older son (7 years old) so we could establish some sort of routine.

Our online school time starts at 8 at home (7:30 for me as a teacher) and we go over the different activities. during the morning, with lots of recess time and play, inside and outside.

At 9, when it’s the first-morning break for my older son, my youngest comes up and we check what his teacher has sent. I have noticed that both of them are looking forward to that moment of watching their teacher, listening attentively and paying attention to what is being said or asked for them to do.

After lunch, there is a mandatory pause time, where my oldest reads a few books to the youngest until he falls asleep. Then he has time for himself, there is just one agreement, “this is not a device time”

It’s then my time to catch up with things if I wasn’t able to do it in the morning and plan for the week.

In the afternoon, after the pause, it’s my husband’s turn to be with the kids, making sure everything gets done, sent and offering lots of play/fun time which is a very important thing too.

Then we all join in, playing any sort of game out in the garden, from basketball (be creative, my youngest is 3) to badminton, or even tricks throwing or kicking a ball. Just offering lots of movement and fun!

Balloon games with the ceiling fan on and “catch the panda” have also been a few favourites. To not name, that we have played with water, washed all the bikes, cooked, done all sort of art, playdough, magnets and we even had a hairdresser at home, with a few menus to choose from.

When we feel a bit tired, we practice yoga o dance, or even just put some music and draw or do mindfulness colouring.

Anyways, there are so many things we can do and I am thankful for this!

This is meant to be the first of a few reflection posts during this period of self-isolation and online school.

Let’s see how we are feeling next week.

Stay positive and find times for self-care!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankful

Last weekend the schools in Siem Reap, Cambodia, got closed, because of a case of coronavirus. I thought that schools in Phnom Penh would be affected too and I was almost anxious, waiting for an email to let us know that our school will be closed too.

A whole week has passed since then and we are still up and running and I am thankful for that.

Tuesdays after school I join a boxing class here at ISPP, our school. I had the bad luck to sprain my ankle and although I thought it wasn’t a big deal, it changed my week and the way I walk, move and even interact with others.

I still went to school on Wednesday, taught my lessons with a bit less moving around time for myself, being conscious of self-care and even participated in a fun short teacher performance for the talent show. I am thankful for this, as it wouldn’t have happened if the school would have been shut down.

On Thursday, the whole school participated in a Swim Gala or Wipeout event. I was still limping a bit but was able to move better and ran an activity. All students from KG on participated in the event ( we had 3 rounds)

G5 students had their overnight activity at school because due to the virus we had to cancel the real trip that was in the outdoors. As part of their PYPX, students were expected to take part in this activity, which was very special for many of them. Being mindful of self-care I had to pass on this one and take care of myself and my injury. I am glad I did as today I feel even more independent as I walk and move. My sprained ankle is definitely getting better!

We are aware that our school can get shut down at any moment, for now, we are still up and running and I am thankful for that.

The Power of Notes

Back in November, I went to a PE conference and a person who I appreciate and respect enormously gave me a very nice, encouraging and meaningful note. It meant the world for me. This person was Mel Hamada, you may have learned something from her if you are in the PE world and she might even be your friend or an inspiring mentor.

Anyways, I kept that note and just found it recently and re-read it. A day or two later I went running, and you know, the best ideas come when you are up and moving, at least this happens to me. So I just thought of a student who has improved dramatically over the course of this year in her skills, especially in her swimming skills. So I thought that I could start something like this for my students, and so I did.

Today I delivered my first encouraging, appreciative note to this student. It was a privilege to witness her smile and how proud she felt. She walked out of the pool sharing it with her friend, in a nice kind way.

I loved it and so she did!

Many times we think of students and how much they have improved throughout the year, but how many times do we share this information in an informal way, and not just giving oral feedback?

With this post I would like to encourage you to give it a try, notes are simple and the effect they can give to kids is simply amazing!

 

G1 Dance Reflection

Last week we wrapped up our dance unit in G1 showcasing in the ES Assembly the learning that has been happening during the last few weeks.

This unit is a very special one as we have been integrating with the homeroom with the Interdisciplinary Theme, “How We Express Ourselves” and so did other single subjects such as art and music.

This meant that students were able to inquire into “Light and Sound” throughout all the subjects and students could make lots of connections during the unit.

Our central idea for this unit was:

Light and sound are used in different forms of expression.

During the unit, in PE, learners inquired into:

  • The choreographic concepts of time, force, flow, levels and space    
  • Creating movement sequences in response to a musical theme

Using various dance games and different sounds they moved their bodies creating sequences of movements with a partner and in small groups.

G1 dancers improved their rhythm and let their creativity run as they felt more confident sharing part of their dances with their group.

From the very beginning of the unit, students knew that they were going to be performing in front of others and so they had to make good use of their time. This wasn’t always easy, especially for more introvert students, however, the way we did it really helped them to get out of the comfort zone and feel good about their movement compositions.

In the beginning, I would just play the music we chose for that day/dance and by the end of the lesson, everyone would perform at the same time, so there was no real pressure as everyone was in the same boat.

Then, we moved into half of the class performing and the other class watching and then switch, so everyone would have an opportunity to perform in front of others and learn from others. We encouraged students to give positive and constructive feedback to each other.

The next step was to have only 3 groups performing at the same time, then 2 and eventually, everyone was so ready to perform in front of others that it wasn’t a big deal to have your group performing in front of the whole class.

Students had lots of opportunities to “polish” their dances following a basic routine of a begging, middle, end, and adding concepts of choreographic dance such as space, levels and time.

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I filmed every group in front of a green screen and they came up to an agreement when they had to choose their backgrounds.

 

As part of the end of the unit celebration, G1 learners were able to share their dances with their families as we added them into their digital portfolio using a platform called Seesaw.

Click Dance here, here and here to watch a few of the dances G1 students created with their groups.

During the unit, we also explored other types of dances, such as African dance, learn a few new steps as we warmed up using the “Just Dance” website, or just express ourselves and let our bodies dance free while doing shadow dance.

Towards the end of the unit, students reflected on their learning. One of the prompts I had for them was “How did you feel about your dance? Why? Most of the students said they felt good about it because of different reasons. Some said that because they were able to try their best throughout the unit, others they felt nervous and happy at the same time. Others really liked the opportunity to choose a cool background. Others just simply felt proud of themselves. It was a very positive experience for all and lots of learning involved in the whole process.

 

 

 

Nature

Why Nature?

We are starting February and I just realized that I hadn’t taken the time to write about the word I chose as my #OneWord2020

It wasn’t an easy task to chose a single word, however, once I got the idea, I really thought that nature was the most appropriate one for me. And you must be thinking, ok, nature, but why?

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All my life I have enjoyed being in nature and by nature. Nature makes me calm and when I am surrounded by nature I feel good, I love that feeling, relaxed, healthy, maybe sweaty or muddy, still love it. You might happen to have experienced a similar feeling.

Just remembering those moments when I went running on the woods, the forests, or close a to a river, or when I hiked a mountain and as got to the top, I felt accomplished and lucky to be surrounded by a surreal panorama of beauty, most of the time sharing those feelings with friends or family.

 

Since I was little I have always loved being outdoors, playing with nature, running and exploring.

I now live with my family in Phnom Penh, in the heart of Cambodia. A beautiful country with amazing people that have suffered the consequences of a terrible war not so long ago.

If you type “Deforestation in Cambodia” you get multiple articles explaining the horrible deforestation that this country is suffering for the last 40 years.

I am just quoting what Wikipedia says in their website: “Cambodia is one of the world’s most forest endowed countries that has not yet been drastically deforested. However, massive deforestation for economic development threatens its forests and ecosystems. As of 2015, the country has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world[1].”

It is quite scary, and it’s not stopping or going to stop any time soon.

I am concerned about nature in this country and in the world and I am sure you are too. As a lover of nature, I like to find green spaces to go with my kids during the weekends, places that are not too far so we can spend a morning or an afternoon together as a family being active, running, hiking, cycling…

As an educator, I also like to inspire my students to go outside and play, however, there are not that many options for them to go. That’s why I am very happy to be able to coordinate, together with the G5 team an overnight trip where students spend a couple of days and one night in nature, doing different team-building activities, sleeping in tents, under the stars, stargazing, singing songs around a campfire and making smores to name a few.

 

All these reasons and a few more where the why I chose the word “Nature”

I will be posting more thoughts on how I use my word throughout the  year.

Thanks for reading.

 

Happiness, A Skill You Can Learn

Not sure if you happen to know a website called “Action for happiness”

They have different things to inspire you to be a bit happier in case you need it, such as 10 Keys to happier living, action, courses, events, calendars…  Every month they offer a free calendar with ideas to take care of yourself, be kind with others, or grateful.

Today we start Friendly February so I thought I would share it with you in case you want to use it, even if it’s once, twice or every single day of the month.

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(From The Action for Happiness Website)

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Western neuroscience has now confirmed what Eastern wisdom has known for a long time: happiness is a skill we can learn.

Research shows that happiness, compassion and kindness are the products of skills that can be learned and enhanced through training, thanks to the neuroplasticity of our brains

Here you can find more information about the “GREAT DREAM” idea, 10 keys-guidebook to a happier life.

Striking and Fielding

A few weeks ago we kicked off our Striking and Fielding unit in G5.

Students started this unit sharing their wonders and questions they had about the unit.

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We will be looking at those throughout the unit and try to address the inquiry.

This year we decided to start teaching the unit in the gym, instead of the field, and play small games, such as 1vs1 or 2vs2 to give lots of opportunities to players to practice both, their striking skills as well as throwing and catching skills.

As they started playing the small games, especially on the second day, students became more aware of tactics and strategies they could use for either hit further and get more runs or stop the runner by positioning themselves in a more efficient spot as well as improve the accuracy of their throws and the communication between the team members.

We also played a game called 6 or safe that is a great game to get students engaged in the unit.

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Next week we will be out on the field and have learners strike off a Tee to eventually learn how to play T-ball. We will be hosting a YAPP (Young Athletes of Phnom Penh) tournament at the beginning of February where students in grades 3-5 have the opportunity to play against students from other international schools in the city.

It’s always lots of fun and a great experience for our young athletes to take part in such a tournament.