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April 11, 2018 / sharoncopy

Encouragement in Phys. Ed class

A student’s mother was searching the gym for the regular teacher. I introduced myself as the sub and asked if there was any way that I could help. She explained that her 7-year-old son A. has spina bifida and uses crutches. He was upset because whenever they play tag – no one ever tags him. No doubt they think it’s too easy to catch him and they shouldn’t, but he wants to be included. We discussed what I might say to the class without using his name. When the class arrived and I announced we would be playing “Sharks”, I said that when they play tag, they should not just chase their friends and tag them, they should tag everyone – that everyone in the class was playing and should be tagged. Now, it helped that in Sharks, there are 4 taggers and once a person is tagged he takes over the job of Shark. I noted that A. did get tagged a few times and also was the tagger – he couldn’t chase them, but he caught some as they ran past him. 🙂

Later they were practicing basketball skills. I stayed with him and chased the ball (sometimes all the way across the gym) when it got away from him, and it occurred to me to also count how many “dribbles” he did each time around. This encouraged him to try and even to adjust where his left crutch was so that the ball wouldn’t bump it so often. He reached 26 a couple of times and his best score was 37 bounces. He excitedly told his teacher of his accomplishment.

A boy in the nextclass was getting very upset – nearly in tears – because he could not make a basket. I got down on eye level with him and told him that’s why we were practicing and that just because he couldn’t do something right now doesn’t mean that he won’t be able to do it next week or next year or even later today. “We have to practice – that’s how we learn.” I worked with him, and though I don’t know a huge amount about sports, I encouraged what seemed a better technique (probably remembered from high school!) and he kept trying. Eventually he got a basket and I could see the relief on his face. He got another one a little later and then I left him to practice alone.

What is a substitute teacher? Just a glorified babysitter? No – we have the opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives also.

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