Practicing Positivity in Lower School Physical Education

Jared Scott Tesler
A pre-Kindergarten student, once tagged, becomes emotional about having to leave the game. A fifth grade student loves soccer but struggles with pre-competition anxiety.
These are just two situations where physical education can benefit from the deliberate, systematic process of positive education. Taking a meta-moment, to effectively manage the space in time between an emotional trigger and response, the first child might take a few deep breaths, while the second child might practice mindfulness.
At Shipley, Director of Lower School Physical Education Bruce Nkala and his departmental colleagues are busy incorporating all aspects of positive education, with its focus on the individual character strengths, personal motivation, and overall well-being of each student, into the Lower School’s physical education curriculum.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Lower School physical education classes emphasized overarching themes—responsibility, accountability, kindness, gratitude—using the Socratic method, teachable moments, and a variety of media. Toward the end of the 2019–2020 school year, through Shipley’s online learning program, Shipley Learns Online, these conversations were supplemented with workout videos, featuring positive education segments designed by Lower School physical education teacher Daryl Strickling.
To demonstrate positive education in action, Nkala points to the following example: “Students talk about perseverance at the beginning of a baseball lesson, because the teacher anticipates the challenges associated with being able to bat. Students formulate strategies for when they find it difficult to hit the ball—from staying determined, to being patient, to encouraging others. During the game, the teacher sees how these strategies play out.”
Strickling, who has worked at Shipley for over two decades, adds, “Through physical education, we can create positive emotions by getting the kids moving. We can create situations that require them to use teamwork, resilience, grit, the power of yet, and self-regulation.”

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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.