Monday, March 28, 2011

Going with the Flow!

Going with the flow, being adaptable, being ready for anything, seizing opportunity, and being prepared are all important qualities for teachers. Especially, when your day doesn't go as planned.

Today I had the opportunity to supervise a 4th year physical education student on his placement. About 10 minutes into his lesson, the student received the news from the vice principal that a nearby school would have to use the gym as an emergency cover due to a potential fire in their own school. Thus, physical education class was getting moved to the library! Like every good teacher, I can only imagine that my student teacher's heart rate increased a little bit and he secretly thought, 'what the hell am I going to do now?' (On a side note, I was thinking the exact same thing about how the heck I was going to evaluate him!).

So in honor last minute emergencies, quick room changes, and the 'science fair that is being held in the gym but I forgot to tell you' moments, here are some ideas:

1. Have a stack of Canada's Food Guide (or US Food pyramid on hand). Put the students into small groups of 3-4 students. Briefly go over each of the food groups and have the students provide healthy examples of foods from each group. If you have time, on your way out of the gym, grab a few tennis balls, a frisbee, a hockey puck, and ping pong (or something similar) balls. You can use the frisbee to represent a plate, and the other items to demonstrate serving sizes of items such as fruits and vegetables, pasta, or peanut butter. Have the students then create a balanced meal for breakfast or lunch, or a meal plan for an entire day based on their serving requirements.

2. Have a small spaces box/suitcase handy. I remember a session a the 2006 PHE Canada conference in Moncton, NB on this and it was full of the greatest ideas. The presenter had a suitcase full of classroom PE activities that could be rolled into a room! Ideas for you own small spaces box could include decks of cards (for a variety of fitness related activities), laminated fitness, dice, board games created by the teacher, hacky sacks, scarves for juggling, cat balls for mini hockey against a wall, body bands for fitness, velcro gloves and velcro balls, rings for tossing on upside down chair legs, and bean bags for plank hockey. You can really use your imagination here and think of different dollar store toys/items that can be made into small space activities.

3. Have an outside option. Take your students for a walk, bring skipping ropes or playground balls, play tag games in the school yard (snow or sun!), have a game of ultimate or soccer. This is also a great time for encouraging students to create structured play on their own. Bring out different equipment and let the students figure out how to 'play' with it and with others.

Above all, you never know when something is going to get you booted from your gym. Be prepared and be open to going with the flow!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Graduation 2010!

"Graduation is only a concept. In real life every day you graduate. Graduation is a process that goes on until the last day of your life. If you can grasp that, you'll make a difference."
~Arie Pencovici

Last night my students graduated. I am hesitant to use the term 'my students' when talking about the students who graduated, bringing about connotations that I actually had something to do with them getting to receive their diploma! It's always a interesting discussion about how much influence we teachers have on our students success at any level of schooling. Every convocation I attend, I always look around at the people in the audience and realize that we teachers are only a small part of our students success. Parents, friends, coaches, administrators, guidance counsellors, employers, and so many more people have such a profound role in each student's education. However, that small role that teachers have is profound in the way it can influence a student in the present and in the future.

I often think back to some of my favorite teachers from elementary, secondary, and university (I'll tell you about them in another post some time) and I wonder if they knew what positive role models they were for me. I wonder, beyond the students who have the courage to thank you in person, if I am doing my job well enough to inspire my students. I, similar to many other teachers, like to think I am doing my best to bring out the best in 'my students'. I like to think that I want to make my students feel the way my teachers made me feel- empowered, smart, and good. I think back to what made each of these teachers special and it was that these teachers cared and were not afraid to show that they cared.

Last night was particularly special because I had the opportunity to see some of my students graduate for the second time. Many of the students I had taught at the high school were now graduating from the college (wow, do I feel old!). It is truly amazing to see how different and how similar the students are now compared to two years ago. The most important similarity is the look of hope they have in their eyes. They are proud of what they have accomplished and how happy they have made their friends, families, and teachers. The obstacles that they have encountered along the journey are merely small pebbles, and they have the energy and motivation on graduation night to conquer any Everest that is put in front of them. As a teacher, it is a wonderful feeling to see the hope (mixed with excitement and fear) in the students eyes. It is wonderful to see the pride that parents have in their children!

I think one of my favorite parts beyond seeing the students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, is when the students introduce you to their parents and families. For me, this is confirmation that I have had some role in the students' education. It is the idea that I am worthy and important enough to be introduced to the most important people in our students lives.

Last night, I met many parents! A few of my fondest (and 1 very funny) memories from last night.....
- meeting Sophie's mom (who was a teacher at a school where I did a field experience many moons ago) and hearing how Sophie would come home from school and tell her all about nutrition class over family dinner....and how Nonna was not going to make the pasta dinners any healthier!!
-meeting Veronica's entire family: yes, 1 dad, 1 mom, 2 nonnas, 1 grandpa (I have no idea how to say this in Italian as the nonnas always make the tiramisu and the students always argue about who's tiramisu is better!), and 1 brother...what a lovely and extremely supportive family! It was easy to see why Veronica is as pleasant as she is and how she has succeeded in school!
-meeting Lindsay's parents who drove all the way up from my home town. Lindsay, who is actually only a year younger than me, approached me after the first class and it turns out we had played against each in other in sports during high school- who knew! Her parents brought a little of the Ottawa Valley and home to the graduation!
-finally, the funniest part of the night was when one of my older (read: 22) male students came up and said that he had always wanted to tell me that I was a hot cougar. Speechless, a cougar!!!! Really, at 28????

Ah, cheers to the graduates of 2010!! May you go forth with excitement and continue to graduate every day! May you change the world!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Inspiration is all around me :)

I found this unpublished blogpost in my drafts from April 2010....
Seems to me these people have stepped it up even more during the past few years :)

"The past few weeks have had some interesting 'eye-opening' moments, especially related to those special people who inspire me as a teacher. Often the people who inspire us are people who are older, experienced, and have done/created/initiated some really great things in their lives and careers. There are many of these people in my life, however I have begun to notice that the people, who once looked up to me for the things I have accomplished, have stepped out into the world and are doing some pretty phenomenal things!

One of my friends who was in a class that I was a teacher's assistant for some four years ago, is now an athletic director at the college I work at. I remember his essays being well done and him putting a lot of effort into his assignments. Like most students, the rest of his university career came and went with the usual happenings. This past year, he became the youngest athletics director in all of Canada. He has taken a stale athletics program and brought energy, youthfulness, a positive rapport, and more importantly, change, into it. He has taken a program that has focused primarily on athletics and worked to create academic coaches for each team. Although in its first year, the foundation is set for this to be an extremely effective partnership that will work to the benefit of the athletes, coaches, and school. He has also taken the steps to create community relationships for teams to start integrating themselves into local schools and organizations. So much positive change has occurred- all because of the passion of a young professional who took a program and created a vision for it!

One of the most inspiring people at the moment is completely responsible for my twitter/blog/igoogle education. Although I am in the very beginning stages of understanding social networking, this person has taken the relatively untapped resource of networking in PE and found his niche. He has managed to create his own website (, integrate twitter, linkedin, blogspot, delicious, igoogle, googlewave, and a few other networks that escape me in order to bring physical educators together in cyberspace. I am amazed at how much he has learned about social networking in the last 6 months- so much so that he will be starting a master's degree on in it the fall! I have to say that every time I meet with him, I leave our conversations filled to the brim with how bright the future in physical education is. I feel inspired and ready to make positive changes and advances...all because one person has PASSION for PE!

It is amazing how much of a difference it makes to work with colleagues who share a similar passion and vision for physical education. A new colleague that started at the college in the fall semester has put a little pep (and the color pink!) in our department. When I first started at the college, I felt like a dorky keener who wanted to change the world and bring fun, excitement, and my Krista-style of teaching into our office. Being the youngest and newest, it was a bit intimidating, especially since many of the other teachers didn't necessarily have the same energy and zest as I did. When my colleague came in, I thought 'wow, this is someone that is more hyper than I am!'. It is amazing to see what two hyper people can do to the overall morale and passion of a department. I can honestly say that our department has become closer knit and in turn, has brought a new energy into the classes!

Finally, my last inspiration occurred this morning when I was on my way to work on the metro. I ran into a student who I taught at the high school and then again at the college. This is a somewhat quiet student who I used to let come into my weight training classes to train even when he wasn't in the class! We got to talking and reminiscing about some of the crazy PE teachers at the high school, when he said, 'guess what?'. Funny, I was just about to ask him what he was going to study at university in the fall, when he went on to say that he had just been accepted into the physical education program at McGill. He said that he originally wanted to go into business, but that he wanted to follow his passion for physical activity and do something education-related. It was exciting to see one of my former students excited about teaching PE!!!

I guess to sum up, we as individuals are only as great as the people around us! Thank you to all of you who inspire me everyday!"

Monday, April 19, 2010

No Excuses!

"Make room in your hearts and minds to grow, not only as an educator, but as citizens of a global community." (Graduating education student)

For the past couple of years, I have had the pleasure of supervising physical education student teachers in local elementary and high schools. Every year at the end of the supervision, I get an email from the office of student teaching [OST] asking if I would like to attend a special culminating activity entitled 'Journey's End- Journey's Start' for graduating students. And every year it falls on the same day as another engagement. This year it didn't and I typed it in my icalendar right away, figuring it would be a great opportunity to meet with other supervisors and students from the faculty of education.

So I arrive in one of my favorite rooms at McGill, Moyse Hall, and settle into one of the chairs, waiting for the keynote speaker to begin his talk on the theme of 'Teacher Leadership and Youth Action: Community Engagement and beyond! Now, I won't lie, I am not one to be completely attentive around 3-4pm and it's usually the time where my body is screaming for a nap. I had to admit, I found myself fighting to stay awake on what should have been an extremely interesting talk about the role of community for new teachers. As usual, a non-education professor, took a seemingly practical theme of community and explained it in a manner that left me wanting to hear it from the mouths of the graduating students.

Luckily, 2 students rescued the great theory and described an initiative they had run that put theory into practice to make it understandable and useful. These 2 students decided that they wanted to run an initiative to support Fondation Maman Dion and the Quebec Breakfast Club. They decided that they wanted to run an art auction of student work and enlisted the help of every graduating education student. With the help of 7 interested organizers, the students ran into multiple challenges including governing boards, uninterested teachers, no power as student teachers, and scheduling issues. Their recount was both realistic and honest about the obstacles that both new and experienced teachers have to go through. At the end of their talk, the two students summed everything up with the slogan, 'No excuses'. They surmised that now that they are teachers, there are no excuses for not partaking in a larger community of activities, running initiatives, and using local organizations to teach students to care about their community.

The slogan of 'no excuses' really struck home with me as I find myself often surrounded by teachers who don't have time, don't have energy, don't have the resources, etc. I often find myself shaking my head at why some of these people are teachers if they are not going to give 100% in everything they do? Likewise, I often shake my head when people as me why I bother volunteering my time for APEQ. It comes down to two things: 1. I care. 2. I have no excuse not to. If teachers don't devote their time and energy to one or two (or possibly more for the extra keen!) initiatives, who will? It's high time we change our thinking to "I have no excuse not to do ____________."

Finally, a few other thoughts came to mind at the end of this presentation:

1. Why are physical education students not required to attend? I find it hard to believe that they still send students out to practice teach for 7 weeks and then don't bring everyone back together for one last reflective day or workshop. Seems to me that this sort of goes against everything they teach us about reflecting upon our experiences....

2. We really need to get out of using 'stage', the Quebecois version of practicum or field experience. To put it politely, it sounds bush. I used to think that one of my old professors was being ridiculous when she emphasized how unprofessional it sounded to use this in a sentence or read it in an assignment. Until today, when the word 'stage' was used umpteen times.

3. After listening to many student teachers complain about how they should be paid to do their field experience and how it was unfair that they had to run intramurals at lunch or coach afterschool, it was refreshing to see students see that they can run small initiatives with small and big outcomes. More importantly, it was beautiful to see teacher still naively aware of how the student is at the centre of all that we do and all that we teach.

No excuses :)

Getting to know me...

My name is Krista Smeltzer and I'm a physical education teacher in Montreal, Canada. I currently teach at a college (cegep, for those of you from Quebec) and instruct courses in fitness, frisbee, yoga, nutrition, trail hiking, and many other physical activities. In my spare time, I also head up the Association of Physical Educators of Quebec (, the Anglophone physical education organization in the province. I also supervise student teachers who are about to enter the physical education world!

If there are two things I am passionate about, they are definitely physical education and physical activity. When I'm not in the gym or classroom, you can find me playing ultimate, practicing yoga, or somewhere outside in the fresh air doing a physical activity! Thus, this blog will be used to share my experiences, thoughts, and ideas about physical education and physical activity!

Thanks for visiting my blog and connecting with me!