Mo Hourani & Luther Rauk
Don’t panic, pandemic PE
Luther Rauk, from the American International School of Muscat and Mo Hourani, from the American Community School Beirut, have started regular online meetings for Physical Education teachers from around the world to connect, share, and collaborate on best practices in a physical education classroom in the midst of a pandemic. The sessions are titled lightheartedly, ‘Don’t Panic, Pandemic PE’
The pandemic has posed numerous challenges for both students and PE teachers, but one silver lining is a new opportunity for PE teachers to connect and collaborate online. Last March as schools closed their doors, teachers around the world were scrambling to figure out the best ways to reach their students and many felt as if they were novice teachers all over again. In those frantic and uncertain times, Don’t Panic, Pandemic PE was born.
Don’t Panic Pandemic PE is a grassroots endeavor created out of collegial support and common passions. Luther and Mo, one in Oman and the other in Lebanon, reached out to each other to inquire about how each was facing the obstacles of teaching physical education online or in a hybrid learning environment. They soon realized that others could add to and benefit from these types of professional conversations.
Many PE teachers have been attending webinars, taking online courses, listening to podcasts, and reading books and articles in an effort to improve their teaching practice. When teachers find something great, they want to share it with anyone that will listen. Don’t Panic, Pandemic PE creates a platform for teachers from around the globe to network through regularly scheduled Zoom meetings, regardless of their current instruction mode (online, hybrid or traditional model).
The purpose of these round table discussions is simple really, to create a safe place for PE teachers to share what has worked or not worked for them and their students. Participants offer up strategies to maintain or improve student learning and make recommendations of people to follow on social media, podcasts to listen to, and videos to watch. Perhaps the most important goals of this group are to build connections, encourage, support, and inspire each other.
In the dedicated discussions about online learning in PE, the difficulties that came up in the discussions about operating online physical education classes can be summarized into (1) the monotony of the classes within their limited environmental conditions. Most teachers referred to the educational content the online platforms such as zoom, google meets and the limits that they allow. most of these platforms didn’t adequately convey the value of physical education. (2) Teachers were going through trial-and-error methods applied from resources generated through connections as the Don’t Panic PE Pandemic one. The trial and error is mixed with a lack of expertise in operating online physical education classes. (3) very limited curriculum guidelines that can drive the online physical education settings and allow for teachers to move the students’ learning through the limitations. (4) how to keep students engaged in regular physical activity to improve their physical fitness and mental health while they are navigating the lockdowns.
When the round table discussions targeted hybrid and in-person learning, the main recurring themes were maintaining the highest levels of safety and sharing the established physical distancing protocols, while providing the best opportunities for students to engage with the other students directly and often. Teachers shared many games, strategies, and activities that can be done in a physically distanced setting. Teacher participants have also discussed allowing for optimal student participation and providing the best opportunities for engagement while students transition between online learning and in-person learning in the hybrid classroom, it was common that teachers made a selection of a number of crucial and optimal learning outcomes that can be taught given the reduced contact time hybrid learning provides.
The weekly Tuesday evening sessions are impactful, as they benefit the attendees, their students, and their school communities. PE teachers gain knowledge about new trends in education; implementation strategies for best practices, increase their confidence, improve online efficiency and share innovative approaches. The topics vary week to week from how to do specific lessons with consideration for COVID mitigation guidelines to managing stress and the social-emotional needs of students in a physically disconnected world.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Mo Hourani is currently the Head of Physical Education and Athletic Director at American Community School Beirut, Lebanon. Mo played Basketball in Beirut, before moving internationally. Mo has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and currently working on EdD in Educational Administration. Mo has also lived in the UAE, Syria, and Jordan prior to recently moving back to Beirut. Mo has a passion for further promoting holistic education, and elevating students’ wellbeing through activities and sports. Mo can be reached at Twitter @HOURANIedu or firstname.lastname@example.org
Luther Rauk is currently a Middle School PE Teacher and coach at The American International School of Muscat, Oman. Originally from Minnesota, USA, Luther has also lived and taught in Thailand and Bahrain. Luther spent four years as the Athletic Director at TAISM where he developed a passion for learning how best to help coaches do their important work with kids. A desire to make real connections with students again led him to return to the PE classroom in 2018. To connect with Luther please follow him on Facebook or email him at email@example.com.