What this “PE Guy” learned at a non-PE conference and why we should venture outside out comfort zone more often.

Just about a year ago I was asked by members of the Teach Better Team to be a featured speaker at the #TeachBetter22 Conference in October. As someone in the education space, albeit Physical Education, I was aware of the team and had even participated in some of their live event over the recent years. All that aside, I wasn’t sure what it would be like to attend (let alone SPEAK) at a conference that didn’t have the AHPERD, SHAPE, or NSCA acronyms somewhere in the title. Regardless, I was excited that Rae Hughart, Katie Miglin, and the rest of the Teach Better Team thought of me as someone they wanted to be a featured speaker, so I was thrilled to do so and booked my trip!

Fast forward to mid-October. From the moment I walked in the door, the energy was palpable. Several hundred educators and administrators flooded the museum turned charter school that hosted the event. The excitement was contagious, to the point where I found myself deep in conversation in the few minutes it took me to walk to where the opening keynote was being held.

I had a hunch going in that I’d be in the vast minority of attendees with physical education, strength & conditioning, and sport as a primary focus area. That hunch was confirmed quickly but it didn’t matter. Even when I presented my two sessions; one on movement in school and the other on building rapport with students, that were both put together from PE point of view, they were extremely well received. The conversations and feedback after the sessions were filled with comments like, “I’m definitely bringing this back to my classroom,” “I’m stealing that,” “can’t wait to share this with the team,” and much more.

Obviously, it was fantastic to hear that my message was well received at each of my sessions, but what stood out to me the most from the conference were the messages, concepts, and ideas that I took from each and every session that I attended. It should come as no surprise that none of the sessions I attended had ANYTHING to do with physical education, movement, sport, or strength & conditioning.

I heard about an instructional strategy to help with mastery learning that is centered on self-paced, student centered, learning that encourages autonomy and student ownership in their learning. The session was very hands on, and the presenter had us participate in an abbreviated version of this educational approach. As we worked through the various components of the “unit” I couldn’t help but think how excited PE students would be if they were allowed to approach their learning in this manner! You better believe I was jotting down notes for how this could be (and hopefully will be) done in the future!

I listened to Dave Schmittou talk about assessment.  His session had me thinking hard about the what and why behind the assessments physical educators and sport coach administer to the kids they serve.  Allyson Apsey shared how to support the whole educator, offering ideas and insights on help team members and coworkers be them best they can be on all levels.  I absolutely loved listening to Becky Schnekser talking about learning experiences rather than lessons, activities, etc.  The whole time, I was thinking that PE may be the single best place (yes, I’m biased) for experiential learning!

There is no doubt that the information I learned, coupled with the conversations I had was beneficial for me personally and professionally.  Everything from this amazing conference will certainly find its way into our programming and the support we provide educators.

There is talk all the time in the PE and sport space about growing the profession, about bridging gaps, and of course, advocating for what we do.  After this conference, I’m beginning to think that there is no better way to do all of that than by attending an event that may be a little outside your comfort zone and certainly outside your silo.