Critical Look #3 – My Own Work

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Critical Look #3 – My Own Work

Christine Ruffolo



‘Critical Look’ challenges the way systemic information is presented and questions the story being told.


SYSTEMIC IDEOLOGY: Create a New Normal in Physical Education.

Personal background with system –  Fifteen years of trial and error at a public high school.

What New PE is getting right

Reconsidering the purpose and practice of Physical Education.  Using elements of medicine, sport, expression, and mental health to question the world of fitness.  Emphasizing the importance of self care and self awareness as a means of preventing illness and injury.


Possible Flaws in a New PE Methodology

1.  Assuming that kids want to learn in PE

On multiple occasions, kids have told me that they take PE specifically so they “don’t have to think.”

With all I wish to teach them, this honesty comes as a blow.  They want two things: To have fun, and For the stimulation of the activity to arouse their current state.  By offering information in the context of their interests (broken down by space, skill, and self), my best hope is to embed nuggets of wisdom within games they enjoy, like vegetables.   Finding the balance between leading them and letting them lead me is a constant compromise of time and energy.


2.  Validity of Outcomes

I do not get formally evaluated, so I have to rely on my students.  Most observations scan for engagement, and kids are excellent at faking it, both in action and actual understanding of a conversation just had.  Because I am in charge of their grades, and most have a decent knowledge of what should be said, it is difficult to distinguish between authentic feedback and being told what I want to hear.

Since I define the course and compose the written assessments, I am in essence pushing my agenda.  I control the time spent on certain areas and ask questions in a way that steer answers.  Though I have gotten better at phrasing things away from ‘what I want or what I also want‘,  I don’t think my bias or influence can be completely negated.

For every one of these that speaks to my soul, there’s another that walks away completely unaffected.


3.  Placing Autonomy as the Pinnacle of Student Aspirations

Being self-directed does not translate into being self-taught.  While kids appreciated having choice, most looked to their friends to confirm what they should do.  Before self, they want to have people.  Everything else is secondary.


New PE Claims that are Suspect

Any of this is actually ‘new’.

Before things got ruined with sport farming, development of the whole person must have been the goal.  Teaching young people about themselves and their world and how they fit into is steeped in ancient tradition.  Somewhere in the East, students are being taught about mindfulness in ways that are much more fundamental than my own.


Novel stuff is given greater footing than traditional stuff.

When the class was all body, all self-knowledge, enrollment was very low.  I would get ten or fifteen students, mostly girls, and our reputation was that we were a yoga class.  In not wanting to work solely with the outliers (and in an attempt to mainstream the coursework), I had to give them more of what they were familiar with and already enjoyed – namely, sports.  While I use sport to primarily teach qualities, we remain a game heavy curriculum, approximately 70-30, using units of sports as organizing markers.


Internal Work is Enjoyed and Appreciated.

More than once, it has been called boring.  They struggle finding comfort in this place inside themselves.  So attuned to doing in comparison to their classmates, no one’s really sure when and what can be okay.  When it becomes obvious that the entire group is struggling getting to the place I ask, we pause and talk about things.  These conversations are incredibly valuable toward reaching a common understanding and finding a more communal place where everyone is willing to try.



Critical Look #1 examined Functional Range Conditioning.

Critical Look #2 questioned the current trajectory of Fighting Monkey.

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