How Consistency is Key in PE (the Instructor)

We have all experienced the importance of consistency in school. Can you remember a time when you had a substitute teacher in grade school? I was that annoying student who would tell the substitute teacher, “that is not the way that our teacher doe it.” I remember my friends would try to pass notes or would take too many bathroom breaks so they could hang out in the hallway. Most times the substitute teacher was a perfectly nice person (who was good at their job), but the classroom atmosphere didn’t feel the same and the day didn’t feel as productive. Having the consistency and routine of our established teacher was the anchor we depended on so we could focus on our work throughout the day.

As the teacher in PE, one of the most important attributes the the students are looking for is fairness (which includes interactions with students as well as implementation of games and rules). What the students do not understand is that fair is not always equal. General constraints of the game should be applied to all students evenly, but there are plenty of situations where leniency should be applied to younger or less skilled students. For the younger students, this is a tough concept to understand. They want the rules to always be consistent for everyone involved. However, the typical Montessori classroom provides you with a built-in explanation for discrepancies. Montessori classrooms are multi-age; therefore a first grader should not be expected to do what a third grader can do. Compare this to the classroom; first graders may be working on addition and subtraction, while third graders are working on multiplication and division. This explanation will satisfy most students, but extra conversations with aggravated students may need to happen for them to be fully on board. The best way to avoid this conflict is to have a plan to address it before the game even starts. Having specific ways that younger students contribute (which may be different from the older students) to the game from the start gives them an opportunity to play without older students questioning fairness. For example, manipulating a component like distance (whether it is for running, throwing, etc.) based on age, right from the start, helps the students manage differences between themselves.

For older age students, they do not want to be singled out as different from other students (especially if their skills are lacking). It is a delicate balance between being impartial when enforcing rules of games so the students see that you are not showing favoritism, while also facilitating play that makes the game fun for students of all ability levels. If there is a player who breaks a rule (especially accidently), and it has no impact on the game, it probably is not worth stopping play to address it. We want the students to play as much as possible, and if we make every call, that slows the game and does not make it as much fun. Because you are human, you will miss some calls, and the students need to understand that not everything is noticed all the time, and they need to manage their expectations. Students will have to practice managing emotions and perseverance through disappointment.

Besides consistency of applying fairness during games, the PE teacher should be consistent with how they interact with the students. If a teacher is “mean” to one student and warm and bubbly to another student, the other students will notice. If the teacher changes their attitude or demeanor one day to the next, this can be confusing and unsettling to the students because they don’t understand what is prompting the change in attitude. If this is not strength of the PE instructor, they should take the time practice modulating their behavior so that they are more consistent with the students. Meditation and visualization are useful tools that in this endeavor.

Finally, there should an established routine within the typical PE class. They will be playing new games almost every week, so to manage all the new things they are learning, they need to know that some things never change week to week. In next week’s blog, we will look at how we can be consistent with our approach to PE before the lesson even starts.