Cohort 21 felt like both an urgent and important opportunity for me as an educator. As someone who is new to my position in HPE (health and physical education) and EL (experiential learning), I spent the last school year just trying to stay afloat (despite all of the lofty dreams and goals I had going into the new position). Learning a new school’s culture, routines, schedules, and community takes time. As I moved through the school year trying to simultaneously make change and keep my head above water, I never felt like I was doing things to the best of my potential. With Cohort 21, I am looking for renewed inspiration to focus on my professional growth in order to bring my best self to my new role now that I’m more settled.
What is important to me this year? Looking closely at my programs from both an equity and belonging lens, and asking the questions: Who sees themselves in my programs? Who struggles to find belonging in these learning environments? Where can I create change to allow for more equity and more belonging in the health, physical education, and experiential learning spaces? I’m not yet sure where this connects with a specific goal, but as we focus on the intersection of MBE (mind, brain, education) and DEB (diversity, equity and belonging) as a full faculty at Royal St. George’s College, I continue to examine the spaces and programs that I have control over to see how I can make these environments that centre equity and belonging.
The strand that resonates with me the most is Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice. Working intentionally to design programs, classrooms, and opportunities that highlight DEIJ has always been a priority for me, and now, more than ever, does it feel like schools are leaning more toward more “progressive” programming and values. As I strived to work within an anti-oppression framework as an elementary classroom teacher, DEIJ work was part of day-to-day programming due to the focus on core curricular areas like social studies, science and language arts. Although there are lots of possibilities to focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in the health and physical education spaces, there is still a lot of work to be done here.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how physical education has historically been a space that has either deeply promoted belonging, or very much excluded students and left them with negative association to phys. ed., and how it should be possible to create programs that don’t exclude students. This is definitely the urgent part – what about phys. ed. (and health, and experiential learning) has made it an inequitable learning environment, and are there immediate changes that can be made to keep this from happening? The important part feels more long-term, and connected to my goal-related thoughts above. Can we redesign health and phys. ed. programs that have DEIJ at their core? Sure we can. What will these look like? As with any change, there comes both support and pushback, depending on what it looks like. What traditions and highlights should be kept? Which should we say goodbye to? Who might experience a negative impact from these changes? Do the benefits outweigh the downsides when making these kinds of changes? I believe that if we focus on the why of the change – a greater sense of belonging for students (and teachers) – there’s no one who can disagree with the need for improvement. As my head of school always says, we’re in the business of children.