Purpose. It is something all teachers should strive for in their craft.
I'm sure I am not the only PE teacher out there who has had students ask "why are we doing this?!?" The fact that students are questioning what they are doing in your class is a good thing. Embrace it. It shows that your students are utilizing higher order thinking and as a teacher, you should welcome such things in your class. Obviously, you as the teacher should be able to answer that question and explain your answer in such such a way that your student(s) understand. If you can't, It is likely because you have not put too much thought into the purpose of doing such an activity.
Being a PE teacher, having purpose within each and every lesson is something that is an absolute must. Often times as physical education teachers, we are seen as "not important", "less than" and "unnecessary" in the eyes of political policy makers, central office personnel, administrators and sometimes, even our teaching peers. This misconception has only been perpetuated further in the last decade with the focus of public school education on standardized testing and increasing reading and math scores. To some extent, we ourselves are to blame for this. The reputation that our PE predecessors have given our profession ("rolling out the ball" and "busy, happy, good") are unfortunately based in some truth. In no way, shape or form is it fair to judge the entirety of a profession only on the bad apples, but unfortunately we as humans tend to place more weight on the negative than the positive. Fast-forward to the state of physical education today in the US and it is not surprising to see why we are at the bottom of the educational totem pole.
With our profession at such a cross-roads, we as physical educators can no longer afford to do the status quo. Enter purpose. Purpose is something that EVERY physical educator must strive for within every lesson as well as within their PE program. As a profession, we need to change the perception of what we do each day with the public...not an easy task to say the least. Demonstrating that our purpose provides value within the constructs of a well-rounded education is essential not only for our students, but for the future of our careers as well.
So all of this begs the question, what role does purpose play in PE? The answer to this question might be slightly different for each of us, and that is OK. To me, purpose is "the why" of what I am asking my students to learn. As a teacher, I feel as though if I teach my students how to do something without them understanding its relevance, I am doing them a tremendous disservice. The way in which I relay the purpose of a lesson from one student to the another might differ. Not all of my students learn or more importantly, make meaning, the same way, so I have to be able to relate to each of them. Over my years of teaching, I find that the more of a relationship I have with individual students, the more likely I am able to successfully convey the purpose to them.
How do we determine purpose in PE? Work with the end in mind. Utilize your state's PE standards and your district's grade level outcomes to determine what you want your students to know and be able to do as a result of your teaching within a particular unit. If your state/district does not have these necessary pieces of puzzle, SHAPE America's national standards and outcomes are great resources/starting points and most state standards/district outcomes are aligned with these documents. Once you can answer those essential questions, create objectives and the scope and sequence of activities that will help your students to meet those standards and outcomes. Plan activities that are engaging, play to your students interests and allow for your students to use creativity and imagination. Reflect along the way throughout your planning process. Put yourself in your students' shoes. Ask yourself the question they so often might ask you..."why are we doing this?!?" If you have instilled purpose within the planning of your lessons, you should be able to answer this. If you can't answer that question, re-examine the reason of why you have that particular activity as a part of your students' learning experience within the unit.
What does purpose mean to you and how do you determine purpose in your teaching? Comment below...I would love to hear your thoughts!