Physical Educators North of the Border


I always liked the Canadian national anthem. Think it has a nice melody. I heard a real Canadian sing it in beautiful Banff at their national PHE (Physical and Health Education) conference this month, and she really belted it out with pride.

The conference was terrific. It was attended by 1,000 dedicated professionals, a nice mix of university pedagogy people, elementary and middle school practitioners, and a smattering of high school folks. All of them appeared to love their jobs, and yet, they experience some of the same challenges we do in the states (e.g., lack of administrative priority for PE, not enough elementary specialists, classroom teachers responsible to instruct PE but lacking some of the resources to actually do it, secondary people who place coaching first instead of teaching, just to name a few).

So while there were many similarities, there were some differences. What we refer to as Standards, they call Outcomes. Their provinces seem to have more autonomy when it comes to receiving funding then our states do, the weather is (generally speaking), colder more often, so outside activities are less frequent. And, I couldn’t help but notice that the % of overweight teachers appeared to be far lower than ours. I give them credit for walking the talk.

I presented a session called, “SPARK’s Greatest Hits,” but the surprise was that our greatest hits consisted of our unique teaching strategies rather than the terrific activities we’re known for. I incorporated a variety of content and instruction examples into 3 main themes:

1. Talk Less
2. Disguise and Differentiate
3. Modify Traditional Sports

One of our SPARK trainers there, Dan Cooney, led a session called, “Disguising Fitness.” It was a dynamic sampling of activities from elementary through middle school and the attendees had a great time “playing up a sweat.”

The handouts are posted on this website
If you are one of the very nice people I met at the conference, or at Mt. Royal College in Calgary, where I presented on several topics the day prior to leaving for Banff, I hope you’ll stay in touch with us at SPARK and take advantage of all the resources we have to offer.
If you’re one of the unfortunate few that hasn’t visited Canada for vacation or for professional growth, I strongly recommend planning a trip one day. I think you’ll find the people are more than accommodating, the physical educators are top notch and happy to share ideas, and the scenery (especially in Banff) is something very special.

Thanks to my new Canadian friends for a great trip, and special kudos to my fantastic hosts, Bill McGregor and Harry Deboer of School Specialty Canada, who made it all happen.

“Oh Canada, We Stand on Guard for Thee!”

-Paul Rosengard