March 15, 2015
Teachers Talk - Get On Your Running Shoes!
Julie Dubyna, College Heights Christian School, Lacombe, AB

Sports were never my thing. Sure I loved playing capture the flag, and I could take a hit in dodgeball along with the rest of the students, but I have never been truly involved in “real” sports. As kids at a tiny SDA school, my friends and I would attempt to play soccer and football during recess, but would adapt and change the rules to make it even possible to play. Playing positions was a concept that really never even entered the realm of possibilities! But what we lacked in numbers, we made up in our attitude of having fun, and getting out there and RUNNING! That’s what I remember the most – running like crazy to get the soccer ball from one end of the field to the other, with the help of my 2 or 3 other teammates. I remember playing baseball and having no third baseman, and a line marked on the field that represented an automatic home run, because there was no way any of us would get the ball in time to do anything! But it was all so much fun!

Then I became a teacher in a small SDA school. For many years, I felt it was my responsibility to be the authority, to be the one who could do the teaching. That is my job, right? I felt confident in teaching the “academic” subjects, but always felt somewhat lost when teaching P.E. I used to stand on the sidelines with my shiny whistle and shout encouragement to the students, and hope desperately that I would come across as looking like I knew what I was doing.

Then I became a mom, where it was obvious I had no idea what I was doing! Everything was a new experience. I discovered that when you know nothing, you try everything – especially when it comes to calming a crying baby! Anyway, after 4 years and 3 children, I became very comfortable with trying new things. I was okay with not being the expert. I never realized just how much more fun it is to eat breakfast under the table using tiny bowls and even tinier spoons than to just sit at the table properly. How is that fun?
I again became a teacher when my husband and I decided to switch roles. One of the biggest differences in how I teach now is reflected in P.E. I no longer stand on the sidelines, and I don’t think I could find my whistle if I tried. I’m too busy RUNNING again! When I discovered that my class had only 9 students, ranging from grades 3-8, I decided that it was time for me to go buy some running shoes. I realized that there was no use in pretending that I was an expert when it came to sports and decided to utilize the knowledge of my students.

Here’s how my P.E. works. We concentrate on one sport for 3-4 weeks at a time. I tell the older kids ahead of time what sport is coming up, and ask them to develop a set of basic rules that they can explain easily. I then search the internet and find related drills for everyone to do. When we start a new sport, we really focus on trying to encourage each other, and work on building skills. The older students love the responsibility of teaching the others. What I have also noticed is that the students seem to respect me more for being willing to let them teach me. I remember near the end of our hockey unit, I still had not scored a goal, so one of the older students made it his mission to set me up as many times as possible until I scored!

I realize now that as a teacher, when students look to me for answers, whether about math and science or relationships and ethics, it’s okay for me to say “I don’t know – let’s try to find out the answer.” It’s even better if another student speaks up and is willing to share their knowledge. The students are also learning that it’s okay if they don’t know the answers. As a class, we all have our areas of expertise and we can use that knowledge to teach each other. We respect each other, and have created an atmosphere where it is okay to make mistakes, whether playing dodgeball or solving a math problem.