By: Ron Malm
When I was young I dreamed of playing pro baseball. My backup plan was to be a barber or a bartender. What do all 3 of these occupations have in common? Working with people! Quite simply, I am an extrovert. Connecting with people is my passion; that and learning about and sharing what I believe to be Quality Physical Education (#QPE).
For the past 15 years, I have had the incredible opportunity to travel the country and meet, dialogue and work with physical educators from every corner of the US. I have been to Alaska, all the way to Florida, Upstate NY, and to the border of California and Mexico. My work has taken me to REALLY big school districts – with hundreds of PE teachers (750) – and to very small school districts with 1 PE teacher. I have seen extremely affluent communities, where students drive golf carts to school, and communities so depressed that city parks do not exist and schools serve ALL students free breakfast and lunch. What do all of these experiences have in common? Unbelievably innovative, courageous, smart and flat-out awesome people!
This brings me to the title of the blog. Sure, I have literally hundreds of memories of the places I have been, but the ones I will cherish forever are the ones that involve thousands of #QPE teachers I have met. In the last 10 days, I have had the opportunity to connect with three such people, and feel compelled to share these stories for three distinctly different reasons.
The first connection I’d like to talk about involves a woman named Colleen, who has taught for 20+ years at all 3 levels. She is currently at Elementary, but strives to go back to teaching middle school students one day. She asked me to observe her teaching and give her feedback on what I saw that she could work on. This is courage! After over 20 years of teaching, this person is still willing to receive feedback and is thoroughly committed to getting better. This reminds me of what many physical educators ask their students to do every day: to never stop learning. Thank you, Colleen, for your courage to keep learning!
The second connection happened when I had the opportunity to listen to, and then meet, Crystal Gorwitz (@clearlycrystal). She is from Wisconsin and teaches Middle School. She was a keynote speaker at the SEA Summit Conference in South Padre, TX this week. I was amazed at Crystal’s drive to keep looking for ways to connect with her students. In the short time that I listened to Crystal, it became CLEAR that she would never stop striving to connect. She will use technology, costumes, humor, personal stories and more. It made my heart sing to see an educator who had one singular goal: to positively affect the students and the teachers she came in contact with. Thank you, Crystal, for your amazing ability to look at YOUR teaching through the eyes of YOUR students!
The last connection I’d like to share was with the person, whom I met at a deeper level – Dolly Lambdin (@dollylambdin). This was not my first time meeting Dolly; but over the past 3 days, I was able to witness what many other people may already know about her: she has an amazing ability to lead through pulling, NOT pushing. Pushing people to “see the light” or do what is in the best interest of #QPE is counterproductive to the end goal, and Dolly fully realizes this fact. Pushing people creates resentment. Nobody wants to be told what to do. This holds true for children, as well as adults. The first time I met Dolly, I did not know what to think, because she did not say much when I was around her. After more opportunities to talk to Dolly and watch her in group settings, it became evident that her leadership magic lies in her ability to pull you ever so gently to where you already know is the right place to go. Thank you, Dolly, for demonstrating great leadership!
If I could do it all over again, would I choose to play pro baseball, serve drinks or cut hair? Truthfully, yes – I would play pro baseball in a New York minute! However, in reality this was never going to happen, and therefore, the real answer is NO! The job I have is not a job, but a calling. It is who I am, and what makes me alive. Meeting the people I do makes me think critically about who I am and what I stand for. I stand for Quality Physical Education for ALL! I have strong opinions about where OUR profession needs to go, and I am not afraid to share those opinions with the people I meet; for it is because of the people I have met over the past 15 years that I believe and stand for what I do!
I want to thank all of the amazing #QPE people that I have met and all of those whom I have not yet met, but sincerely hope to in the near future.