What I Saw & What I Learned: An American P.E. Teacher’s trip to Melbourne, Australia & Singapore (Blog 2 of 3)

This is the second of three blog posts in my attempt to summarize and piece together some of the major takeaways from my professional development trip to Melbourne, Australia and Singapore.  This trip was conceived and designed with the help of my personal learning network (PLN) from the #PhysEd and #PEgeeks community on Twitter.  During this trip, I spent a school day with each teacher as they conducted physical education classes as well as any other additional duties throughout the course of the day.

At its core, this trip allowed me to experience the type of learning I hope my students strive to obtain.  What better way to model experiential learning than to pack my bags, get on a plane, and fly half way around the world to visit people I’ve never met in places I’ve never been: all while thinking, I really hope I planned this right!

Day 4: Thursday March 27, 2014
Teacher: Andy Hair (Twitter @MrHairPhysEd)
Leopold Primary School (Leopold, Victoria)
http://www.leopold.vic.edu.au/

IMG_1796I checked out of my accommodations in Melbourne and walked with my luggage in a light rain to Southern Cross station (1000m).  Hopped aboard V-Line train to
Geelong (a little over an hour ride) where a smiling Andy Hair picked me up.  Andy was wearing my school’s T-shirt (which we swapped last school year through the #PEshirtswap) and his knees and ankles were wrapped in ace bandages as he was still recovering from the Ironman competition from the past weekend.  Having skyped with Andy on two occasions, it was fantastic to meet him in person.  We spoke as if we were old friends as he took me on a brief drive from the train station to his school.

What I Saw:
Leopold Primary School is an extremely charming Prep-Grade 6 public school about 15 minutes outside of the historic port city of Geelong, Victoria.  The gym is absolutely IMG_1748gorgeous!  I was especially fond of the wood floors and the garage-style doors, which were kept open throughout the school day to allow fresh air to flow through.  The gym is owned by the local parks and recreation service and is used in the evenings for clubs, sport leagues, taekwondo, dance, etc.  The outdoor facilities include playgrounds, basketball/downball courts (similar to “4 square” played with a tennis ball), a footy oval (field), and a large soccer field.

Andy is the head of a two-person Physical Education department (with Gemmah Gill).  The two teachers share and office just outside the gym and often team teach together.  Andy begins each school day wheeling his robust technology cart into the gym (complete with iPads, projector, AppleTV, and speakers).  Near the back wall of the stage hangs an enormous projector screen that Andy helped to build.

Grades 5 & 6 P.E. classes for the day consisted of a guest instructor from Lacrosse Victoria, a company that conducts clinics at schools and park districts throughout the IMG_1760area.  Students hadn’t seen Andy since the week before the Ironman, so they were extremely excited to see and hear about his experience.  It was evident that his students had a genuine affinity for Andy, whose upbeat demeanor and aura of respect is infectious.  Andy spoke colorfully about his experience in the Ironman to his students as jaws hung open with the details of how excruciating the eleven-hour event was on his body and mind.  Andy’s personification of a healthy lifestyle, along with his family balance, is inspiring for both students and his colleagues.

Both P.E. teachers are comfortable and efficient with technology.  I was extremely impressed by one of Andy’s Excel spreadsheets that is used when entering student sport data.  The spreadsheet was created with auto-calculating/VLookup functions to sort by age and student scores automatically by the simple entry of each student’s assigned IMG_1761number.  This type of data entry tool is great for students in that they can quickly find out how they scored within their age group (without having the teachers spending several hours entering names and scores).

Technology is also incorporated throughout the school with the integration of Google Apps for Education.  Student technology emersion is evident through the use iPads and laptops (1-to-1 from grades 4-6). The school just implemented a learning management system, called School Turf, which is run by two men who customize the LMS as needed for the teaching/administrative staff.  Formative feedback, grading, digital portfolios and digital documents are seamlessly shared between the teachers and students.   School Turf also includes a “learning network” (similar to a social network) where student can blog, leave comments, and “like” certain posts.

What I Learned:
As a teacher in the field of Physical Education, I could not have been more impressed with how Andy Hair personifies IMG_1770everything that is right about our profession.  He practices what he preaches with such humility that it is no surprise that his students and his colleagues respect him so genuinely.  Andy is the type of teacher (and the type of person) that students are inspired by and aspire to be like.


Day 5: Friday March 28, 2014
Teacher: Ashley Mills (Twitter @AshleaMills)
Firbank Grammar School (Brighton, Victoria)
http://www.firbank.vic.edu.au/

After spending the night in a rental apartment in Geelong, I walked with my luggage about a half mile to the V-Line train station to take a 7am train from Geelong towards Southern Cross Station.  I transferred at the Footscray stop to Werribee line towards Flinders St. Station.  Then transferred at Flinders St. Station to the Sandringham Line to North Brighton.  I then walked about a half mile to Firbank Grammar School where I met Ashlea Mills.

What I Saw:
Firbank Grammar is an elite, all girls, private PYP school (Primary Years Programme).  Themes of inquiry provide a scope and sequence for which all subjects and content areas use to guide units and instruction.  Enrollment is around 310 with class sizes of approximately 23.  Ashlea Mills is the main PE teacher for Years 2-6 and is accompanied by 2 part time PMP teachers (Perceptual Motor Programme movement/skills in stations).

Physical Education classes begin in the sport room which has a mounted TV (with a protective enclosure) where Ashlea displays visual aids though AppleTV.  The sport room IMG_1819has a glass wall with sliding door that opens to the outdoor facilities, which include several tennis courts, netball/basketball courts, playgrounds, and a large oval (grass field).  Ashlea was teaching her final lesson of her cross-country unit to her grade 4 students.  Students bring their own Ipad to class (purchased by the family, required by school).

IMG_1828

Ashlea’s lessons for the day were based on collecting each girl’s 12-minute run data through the use of an app called Run Lap Tap.  Students were partnered up where one girl would run around the 200 meter track (which had been painted by maintenance staff) while the other would start the timer
and double-tap each time a IMG_1837lap was completed. Upon completing the run, results were emailed to Ashlea as well as the runner.  Information included how many laps were completed and how long each lap took (which allowed for speed: meters/second).

Ashlea is an incredibly efficient teacher in both her planning and her instruction time.  She seamlessly multitasks and transitions from student meetings to classes throughout the day.  Efficiency is crucial for Ashlea, as she organizes team sport as well as adventure camps throughout the school year.  Although Ashlea has only been a teacher for 3 years, she is an extremely proficient and reflective teacher.  She stays informed about best teaching practices by attending (and presenting) at Teach Meet sessions, is active in the #PhysEd Twitter community, reads educational blogs, and writes her own blog (www.healthybodies-happyminds.com)

The school day concluded (as does every Friday) with an all school assembly lead by the Year 6 students (each week, a different year presents).  The school demonstrates the importance of community through the presentation of awards, poetry, musical performances, and other various recognitions.

What I Learned:
It was extremely beneficial for me to see how the themes of inquiry function in a primary school.  The mission and values of the school (learning, initiative, endeavor, achievement, responsibility, integrity, respect, creativity, spirituality, flexibility, diversity) are integrated
applied throughout all of the content areas.  It was eye opening for me to see how this type of curriculum worked, not only in a P.E. setting, IMG_1849but throughout the various classroom environments as well.  Ashlea’s relationships with her students, as well as her time management techniques, were incredible to witness (for teachers of any age or content area).  Her purposeful and efficient integration of iPad applications in P.E. was exciting to see, and has me inspired to find ways to bring some of her ideas to my school.

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