I often wonder what has become of Jacob, even though it has been 15 years since he was a student in my physical education class back at Franklin Elementary. It seems odd to me that I would be wondering about Jacob when I taught thousands of students over the course of my career, but I just can’t shake the impact Jacob had on me professionally.
Jacob frustrated me to no end. He was one of the smartest students I ever had the privilege to teach, but Jacob was LAZY! Have you not had a lazy student or two in your career? A typical day teaching Jacob’s class had him entering the gym and choosing to walk during our instant activity, pretend to be doing exercises when we were doing circuits and move at 1/100th the speed of the other students when we were doing a large group activity. I could have understood if the instant activity was lame, the exercises were too technical and the activity was ultra competitive, but not mine! All one had to do is look at all the students laughing, breathing hard and sweating to realize my class was the “place to be”… for most of the students.
In reality, Jacob was far from lazy… he simply saw no relevance in the activities, lessons and units in my PE class to HIS life. Jacob, like other students in school had already figured out that he was not the fastest, strongest or most coordinated kid on the block and therefore saw no purpose in trying to scale the traverse wall, jump rope or practice his forehand striking with a racquet. Many of the activities I planned for the students did not resonate in Jacob’s life outside of school. Certainly there were other “Jacobs” (Students that had already given up on the physical aspect of life, but faked it and “flew under the radar”).
I think about Jacob often. I think about him because I fear that my blind spots got the better of me more than I care to admit. It was not hard for me to watch students throwing and immediately see the baseball players among them, yet I was blind to the students that saw no purpose in my teaching. I think about Jacob because he pushed me to SEE physical education and physical activity from HIS perspective.
If it doesn’t connect with all the students, then why are we teaching it? I often hear, “because it is good for them”. Sure, it is good for them. It is good for them the same way feeding your own kids vegetables, but if they don’t understand how it relates to them, it is worthless. Everybody deserves the right to be taught the WHY and not just the what, and how.
If you want to find out if your teaching is connecting with your students, I challenge you to give them an anonymous survey asking for their feedback. They will tell you. You may not like what they say, but honest feedback is rarely fun to hear. Although if your goal is to get better, then “SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP!” and do what you know you must. Find YOUR Jacob. He exists in all of our classes, you just have to look for him.
If I ever run into Jacob, I will share with him that he pushed me as a physical education teacher more than any other student ever did. He pushed me to see physical education from his perspective and therefore see what at one time was blind to me.
Thank you Jacob!