Teaching Character Building Through Physical Education

For most of my career in teaching I have thought about curriculum in a very traditional manner which is that you have a subject area like physical education or math,  that within that area you have units like basketball or swimming or multiplication, and then you have objectives within each of those areas.   Last year I decided to experiment with a different approach which was to have character as the main goal and curriculum areas as a venue to teach character.    So for instance, when the students came to the climbing wall, the curriculum was courage and climbing skills the means to getting to courage.

What a shift it made in my teaching!   When the students were in the pool, I decided that the curriculum should be determination which means to go further than where you feel comfortable to reach a goal.   What happened was that when determination was the goal I could push the students to practice a skill for a lot longer like kicking with a board.    So in the end I they kicked better and they were more determined.

I used to do it the other way, that is I used to teach the skill and have character as an add on,  but it just wasn’t the same but I became so caught in the skill that I forgot the character.  By putting character in front of skill it is always in my mind as I do the skill.    In the soccer unit, joy and participation are the character goals.    So I keep asking myself questions like how can I help the students learn how to join in more.   How can I make playing more joyful and still teach all the skills.   What happens is pretty obvious.  The more they join in and the more they love it, the better the skills get.

I think it is a worth a try.  Instead of just teaching math, for instance, teach patience and have really difficult math skills as the curriculum.   Then you can learn all about how to be more patient and at the same time achieve math competence.   Instead of teaching art you can teach beauty and awe.

I knew I was being successful on the climbing wall because students spontaneously began telling their fellow classmates to use their courage and they were very free to admit to their fear.

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