Physical Education Curriculum & Software #QPE

Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Here’s to a SMART Year


As we head back to school, embarking on the 2016 year, we might be asked by our friends, family, kids, and co-workers one or more of the following questions:

  • How was your winter break?
  • What did you do for fun?
  • How was new years?
  • Are you excited for this year?

As we answer these questions and more, we might feel a little lump in our throats when we are asked the inevitable, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?” That lump is not uncommon. New Year’s resolutions are hard to make, and even harder to keep. One reason for this is our resolutions can often be a little vague. For example, “I want to exercise more.” might ring a bell. Well, this year we have no need to worry about a lump in our throat because our New Year’s resolution is going to be a smart and successful one! It will be well planned, thought through, and time sensitive…here’s how.

We are going to make sure it is a SMART-Goal. A SMART-Goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Let’s break down each piece of what a SMART-Goal is made up of with the help of SMART Goal Man!

It’s not going to be easy, but we are ready for the challenge of being a happier, healthier version of ourselves this year! Happy New Year and here’s to a SMART 2016!


The Trap for the Now-Fit Teen


By: Yuliya Davis

This blog post has been a long time coming after my Story of the Un-Fit Kid back in May of 2015. It has taken months to gather up the courage to finally write this “second chapter” and years to overcome (to a large extent, although, never completely) the consequences of the issue I’d like to discuss.

The topic of today’s conversation is eating disorders – specifically, Anorexia Nervosa – which laid a powerful and deadly trap for me during early teen years. Even as I was working on this post, warily and with a good deal of doubt, I came across an article on CNN about an anorexia battle recently fought and won by an amazingly strong and brave teenager – Maris Degener (you can check it out at “Teen overcomes anorexia through yoga”). While this young lady’s triumph over the eating disorder was utterly inspiring, the article also convinced me that it was the right time to publish my post – and start the conversation about what we could do to help kids and teens to avoid this terrible and potentially lethal trap.

Eating disorders are scary – like an ongoing, real-life nightmare that is truly destructive. Even if they don’t kill, they are bound to leave ugly mental, emotional, and physical scars. I became anorexic at 13, and my condition continued to deteriorate until the age of 16, when an extreme change in circumstances and surroundings forcibly kick-started my recovery.  While my personal experience (thankfully!) may not have been as extreme as that of Ms. Degener and many others, I believe that it can offer enough of the back story and insider’s perspective to help us understand how kids become vulnerable and what we can do to help them.

As you may remember from the Story of the Un-Fit Kid, at the age of 12, I acquired some basic fitness knowledge and learned to balance the energy in/energy out equation, which transformed my life. For a time, my new-found healthy weight and active lifestyle brought confidence, success, and plentiful affirmation from peers, dance coaches, and people around me. As any other kid, I thrived on all the positive reinforcement and attention the “new me” and my dance accomplishments were generating. Unfortunately, I started to associate positive changes in my life and success in my dance career directly with my decreased weight. With no solid nutrition knowledge, no healthy eating habits, and no real understanding of what my growing body needed, I lacked the most essential tools that would have allowed me to maintain and further improve my health and fitness. Instead, I focused on doing the only thing I knew how: decreasing the “energy in,” i.e. my food intake, and increasing the “energy out,” i.e. the time, intensity, and frequency of my exercise. Inadvertently, I started spiraling: my hair began to thin rapidly; my energy levels and certain bodily functions declined sharply; my mood became all but intolerable (being perpetually hungry, tired, and cold doesn’t make one into a particularly nice person); and my relationships deteriorated – almost to the point of no return. There was nothing my parents or friends could do to help, because I simply wouldn’t (and couldn’t) listen to them – I was too afraid of turning into that overweight, unfit, and unsuccessful kid again.

You will ask – what is my point in bringing all of this to light? It is simple: to illustrate how easy it can be for children and teens to fall into the trap of eating disorders – and how important it is for us to prevent them from doing so. We have a much better chance of protecting a child’s healthy future if we can stop him or her from falling victim to an eating disorder early on. Once fallen into the trap, full recovery and return to health are never easy or guaranteed. Eating disorders change one’s life forever, and the damage they do to a young person’s body and mind often lasts a lifetime in one form or another.

So how can we protect kids? I truly believe that the first, and most important, step is to provide them with a well-rounded education and a healthy perspective – one that’s based on solid nutrition knowledge and the building of healthy eating habits. And in this, the role of teachers is paramount. As much as parents, friends, and social media affect the kids, nothing can quite compare with the power of a teacher – one, who students look up to; one, who can gently guide, influence, and inspire them. Many times, teachers can be there at exactly the right place and at the right time: they can be the first ones to notice dangerous behaviors and the first ones to intervene – thus changing the ultimate outcomes and the lives of students for the better. This, of course, is never easy: how does one determine whether he/she has the right knowledge, training, and ability to teach kids about things that may be new and uncomfortable, unfamiliar and not a strong suit personally? Many teachers feel this way about nutrition and healthy eating – all in all, they didn’t go to school to become dietitians… However, I believe that we must remember that one of the most important and precious roles that we play throughout our lives is that of a Teacher – delivering knowledge and guidance wherever it is most needed – and learning ourselves along the way. As Arne Duncan put it in his July LinkedIn post Why Teaching is the Most Important Profession, “Teachers are our nation builders—the strength of every profession in our country grows out of the knowledge and skills that teachers help to instill in our children.” Let’s use our power wisely!

National PE Institute 2015: Teacher Interviews

Kids pe institute

The 2015 National PE Institute was held at UNC Asheville in North Carolina. It was an incredible experience for everyone involved. Each day had a central theme and a question corresponding to the theme. Alex O’Brien spent his mornings asking participants of the #PEInstitute15 the question of the day. He then complied them into a video that streamed live to the world before the afternoon keynote of that day.

The following videos are the collection of the questions and answers. As the summer months begin to shrink and the new school year approaches, we trust you will find motivation and inspiration in these videos to make this year the best experience for your students. Thank you for being a positive influence for so many young minds!

Unstoppable Together

The day after the USA celebrated it’s independence day the USA women’s soccer team won the World Cup. It’s a story for the record books. The above commercial is a great representation, created by Nike, of how important it is to push each other to achieve more. As the summer months continue in full swing we can’t help but look to the horizon and see September, and the start of a new school year. As we move into the 2015-2016 school year we have to do so together. Nike hit the nail on the head in this commercial with it’s message, and it relates to us as health and physical educators.

As an individual teacher we are strong. We want lifelong health and happiness for the students we have the privilege of teaching. We want to provide them with all the essential knowledge to make healthy diet and exercise choices. We want to give them current, relevant information so they have the arsenal needed to become their own nutritionist and personal trainer when they graduate high school. As an individual teacher we have a daunting task.

Together, as a group, a team if you will, of health and physical educators we are, just like Nike said, unstoppable. Working together to share ideas, best practices, and collaborating on how we can get our students the information they need is going to drive health and physical education confidently forward. We are the most important subject and together we can help others see why we are the core of education. We are the most important subject because a physically educated person knows how to prepare their body and minds for learning.

If a student is dehydrated, malnourished, sleep deprived, and sedentary their bodies are not ready to learn. Together we are unstoppable because we can teach our students how to stay hydrated, eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep and maintain a body that is regularly active.

As we move through summer, call, tweet, email, and reach out to us. We would love to help you become unstoppable when it comes to teaching health and physical education!

Oh the Places You’ll Go and The People You’ll Meet

oh the places ron blog

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.

What is your button?

ron watch

By: Ron Malm

I am losing right now and I do not like it one bit! Many of you know that I cannot stand to lose. I think it is genetic; therefore I feel obligated to blame my mother (JK mom).

Before I tell you what my button is, I need you to think of your button (If you are thinking to yourself, what’s this weirdo talking about, just give me a couple hundred more words).

I believe that everybody is motivated to move. What motivates you? Are you motivated to move because it makes you feel good? Maybe you like the way it makes you look? Do you enjoy being around friends? It is possible that you are motivated to move by all three of those reasons. (Maybe you are motivated by a challenge…understanding my blog post is quite challenging)

I felt that it was my job as a Physical Educator, and now as a Workshop Facilitator to figure out the participants’ button and push it. Why is this so important? Simply put, finding the button allowed me to connect and make the experience meaningful (I applaud you if you are still reading this blog).

It is my opinion that making a connection is what creates the optimal environment for learning. It links the teacher and the learner and produces trust that each is acting in the best interest of each other. This in turn allows the participants to feel safe and if they feel safe they are willing to stretch and grow. Hence, the button has been figured out and pushed (In the event that you are wondering what I am losing at, I am now going to share)!

Recently, my wife and I purchased activity trackers. As soon as we returned home the game was on! Every day the game starts over. Who has the most steps by bedtime? I have gone so far as to go for a run at 9:00pm just so I could beat her, only to find out upon returning that she ran in place the entire time I was gone. Argh! Guess what motivates her?

I will be the first one to tell you that I need to stretch and grow, so I got to go, my activity is low and I don’t want to lose!

The Story of the Un-Fit Kid

unfit kid

By: Yuliya Davis

Do you recall Adam Marshall’s post from April 29, titled “Fitness Knowledge for Everyone”? It brought to light the issue of the nutrition and fitness knowledge disparity that really struck a chord with me. In the story, Adam talked about his lifelong love of sports and movement, his positive experiences as a school athlete, and his work as a personal trainer and fitness professional. With that, Adam also described the struggles that he witnessed: teenagers and young adults (barely out of high school) seeking professional fitness and nutrition help to try to get their health back – with mixed success. Why were they in that situation? What about the Physical Education they should have received as children? And in the back of my mind, as I read Adam’s post, I realized that I could have very easily been one of those people.  So I decided to tell their – and my – side of the story.

The issue of sharp division between the “haves” and “have nots” in the context of nutrition and fitness education is not new. Thankfully, this is not a heavy, in-depth discussion of the existing disparities, but rather a quick tale of how access to knowledge transformed the life of an overweight, uncoordinated, and insecure kid – me. As you read my story, I only ask that you allow yourself to be open and curious – and to ponder the why’s as they present themselves.

I was born and raised in Southeastern Siberia, Russia. That’s right: the scary place we all heard about with bitter cold winters, old prisons, bears, and… a normal Western city, not unlike many here in the United States. I went to a small school, studied all the usual subjects, and hated Physical Education (PE), which in Russian is referred to as Physical Culture (in a literal translation). I was overweight since early childhood and due to family circumstances and other factors outside my control, didn’t get much chance to engage in active play or spend a lot of time using playground equipment outside. Thus, I entered school lacking proficiency in many essential motor skills and fundamental movement patterns. Our bi-weekly PE class very quickly became sheer torture. We ran laps around the old gym – or the track around the school – and then worked on sports skills for Russian favorites such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, and lapta (a version of baseball). Being that I lacked many basic motor skills, I wasn’t successful in trying to figure out how to use an implement or become proficient with a ball. Instead, I watched the kids who were good at sports get better, while those of us who weren’t went largely unnoticed and got poor grades. Luckily, I still liked to move – especially when there was music – and my parents signed me up to attend a dance studio.

I was thrilled, but after the first few lessons, my excitement somewhat faded. It was very difficult – and embarrassing – trying to keep up with my agile peers, who were not overweight. And while I diligently worked on steps and techniques that helped me become more coordinated and comfortable with movement, my weight held me back and kept me from being able to successfully compete. It was at the end of the school year at the age of 12 that I got truly lucky – my aunt gave me a book. It was one of those oddball Reader’s Digest hardcover compilations (Reader’s Digest was just becoming popular in Siberia), and it had a Health and Fitness section. Being that we just got tested, and I, once again, was classified as significantly overweight, it was an auspicious coincidence that the Health and Fitness section caught my eye – and changed my life. Looking back, there wasn’t any extraordinary information in the book – just the basics – but the basics were enough.

I learned about energy in/energy out (it felt like a revelation!), macro and micro nutrients, calories, energy content of some of the common foods, intensity levels, and some of the ways to improve fitness through simple exercises and lifetime or daily activities. Believe it or not, I actually remember most of what I learned that summer, because it was so important and helpful to me, because it made so much sense in my life, and because I wished that I would have known it earlier. Next year, I returned to school and dance a different kid – fit, healthy, confident, and happy. I never became proficient in sports – our PE classes didn’t allow the opportunity to go back and re-build missed skills – but I went on to become a regional dance champion and a successful power lifter.

Fast-forwarding a few years into the future, I ended up moving to the United States, got married, and became a parent. I was able to help my son avoid weight issues, develop good nutritional habits, and share my love of movement and exercise. I now work to further Quality Physical Education (#QPE) alongside an amazing team of dedicated educators at Focused Fitness. We help provide kids with movement opportunities and the access to health, fitness, and nutrition awareness. We help teachers gain the knowledge and skills they need to guide their students toward a healthy, happy, and active life. Why do I do it? To make sure that no kid’s health and happiness has to depend on luck or the chance of stumbling upon the right book at the right time. My 12-year-old self would be very proud – as am I!