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Joe Wicks and PE: Are we being replaced?

I absolutely loved this article. This is a very well-written piece detailing a PE teacher's perspective of what constitutes true Physical Education. There are links to a variety of sources that allows for wider reading and clarification. Here are five key points from this article with some personal comments thrown in as well:


Title: The Future of Physical Education after COVID-19

Author: Alan Dunstan

Source: Medium

Some key points:

1. Joe Wicks has done wonders in promoting physical activity during this pandemic where we are all spending a great deal of time indoors. He calls himself ’The Nation’s PE Teacher’, which just by calling himself that made Alan, the author of this article, ask himself some very searching questions. Joe is incredibly popular and seems to be verging on becoming the "global" PE teacher. Alan reflected on these questions: Are PE teachers needed anymore? Is distance/online learning the future of PE? How can we adapt and flourish in the aftermath of months of lockdown?

2. Alan mentions that PE is more than physical activity. What Joe Wicks and other coaches have done is address the physical side of PE, not the education aspect, which is arguably, much more important. What these celebrity coaches forget about is the ‘Hidden Curriculum’. Alan refers to ‘Grit’, an incredible book that everyone should read, written by Angela Duckworth. Angela discovered that there is a high correlation between achievement and level of grit, or in other words, passion and perseverance. PE addresses grit through our lessons - directly but also indirectly. Directly since, I know in my outcomes, it is specifically addressed. But, during discussions with my students, time-out moments or even just chatting in the cafeteria, grit is mentioned and emphasised depending upon our conversation.

3. Alan discusses ‘interaction’. He mentions that despite his children following the online lessons posted by their PE teacher, and having the resources and facilities at home, interactions, among other things, are what his children said they valued the most. These are social needs. He mentioned the UNESCO Charter for PE and Sport, which states that High Quality PE needs to address collaborative skills. This also happens to be a 21st century skills along with creativity, communication and critical thinking - all of which can be addressed in PE and are not specifically linked to physical activity. But, in well-designed PE lessons, they can be.

4. Fundamental movement skills are being addressed more prominently in PE programmes around the world. What comes to mind here is the Passport to Life program in Canada. By having students aware and proficient in these fundamental skills they will then become physically literate. Physical literacy is being able to move with competence and confidence in a variety of situations. If we can develop these fundamental skills in our students then more likely will they, not only have the capacity but to also have the confidence to engage in lifelong physical activity. This does, however, require a paradigm shift for some PE teachers.

5. This article then moves onto the topic of 'values'. Some teachers value sport and naturally drift towards the ‘sporty’ ones, others differentiate their lessons to promote inclusiveness allowing all students to thrive, then there is what national policy values. WHO guidelines mention that promoting health and fitness is a priority, which are emphasised in PE curriculums in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. However, if there is an international obesity crisis, should this not be a collective effort within all facets of the international community, not just the education sector, let alone PE teachers?

The full article is linked below and I highly recommend all PE teachers to read it and follow in Alan’s footsteps. Reflect on your practice and discover what constitutes 'true' physical education to you, otherwise, as Alan mentions, “Joe Wicks might be taking our place…"


The image above:

We held our first live online workout last week (we call it Zoomercise since we use the Zoom platform) and it was a huge success. We had 109 students log in for 20 minutes of exercise. This was not a PE lesson, it was an add-on to boost community togetherness and physical activity. However, this presents a golden opportunity to develop student empowerment and to promote student agency.

  • Grade 5 students will start running these Zoomercise lessons. Both myself and my colleague will also be online facilitating the session but with grade 5 students leading the session.

  • One of the tasks for my grade 5 students was to create Tabata workouts. They have been using the Plan, Perform and Reflect cycle to develop these. I have 2 grade 5 students pooling all of these workouts to create a book of Tabata workouts that we will then send to schools around the world who are now experiencing extended indoor living. (Please let me know if you are interested in receiving it. It would mean a lot to them for people to view and use their public product!)

Here, physical activity is being promoted but there is also a cognitive element along with social-emotional learning. In these awkward times, my pedagogical approaches have been in flux and I am still trying to find the ’sweet’ spot, I’m still trying to find my groove even though we are approaching 9 weeks of online learning. But, I do feel with what I’m achieving so far is my interpretation of online physical education. It is more than just physical activity.

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