Physical & emotional safety is a precondition for learning in H&PE

Students learn best in an environment that is physically and emotionally
safe. In health and physical education, we often think of the need to keep our students physically safe. We have them checking to ensure their shoes are laced, hair is tied, and jewellery is removed. There is physically an inherent risk, and we want to do as much as we can to reduce it.

As educators we need to keep in mind that students learning is occurring in a public space where others can see them explore, learn, succeed, and make mistakes, and because of this, students emotionally safety should be top of mind as well. Student’s also discuss health topics that may be personal, and have implications for their personal health and well-being, so creating an inclusive and emotionally safe environment is critical.

Teachers need to provide a physically and emotionally safe environment for learning by emphasizing the importance of safety in physical activity, treating students with respect at all times, being sensitive to individual differences, following all board safety guidelines, and providing an inclusive learning environment that recognizes and respects the diversity of all students and accommodates individual strengths, needs, and interests.

A recent video from Ophea shares how some teachers in Ontario are bringing these concepts to life. Check it out!

Is your learning environment physically and emotionally safe? Ask yourself these reflection questions from the Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum, 2015.

Self-check Questions:

  • Is instruction designed to ensure a positive experience in a safe, inclusive, and
    supportive environment for all students?
  • Are all school board safety and equity guidelines being followed?
  • Are intentional steps being taken by educators and students to build skills for
    healthy relationships and ensure that bullying and harassment are prevented, or
    addressed if and when they occur, in the change room, the gym, outdoors, and in
    all learning spaces?
  • Are activities being modified or adapted as required to ensure that all students
    are included?
  • Is exercise presented as a positive and healthy experience rather than being used
    as punishment?
  • Does the program ensure maximum participation for all by avoiding activities
    in which students may be eliminated from play, and thereby deprived of
    opportunities to participate, practise, and improve?
  • Are teams designated in ways that are inclusive and fair, avoiding potentially
    insensitive methods of selection (e.g., having teams chosen by student captains)?
  • Are students’ diverse backgrounds taken into account when health topics are
    introduced, to ensure that discussions have personal relevance and that topics
    are addressed with sensitivity?
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