Reaching All Students with Reflective Practice in P.E.

Sean Davis teaches Physical Education in an alternative setting at Talley High School in Renton School District. Sean was among the first in his school to become an NBCT.

From the nominator:

Sean goes out of his way to make physical education accessible, and enjoyable to students who are reluctant to participate and have had negative experiences previously. One of the major ways he motivates students to participate is through his constant participation in activities with the students. He is always finding ways to build relationships with students, mentor young men, and work out with kids in ways that they will actually find entertaining and accessible.

Sean was asked to teach a body shaping class. He has morphed this class into a yoga class. He uses this course to improve our school culture through teaching students mindfulness, breathing practices, and meditation. This is more beneficial than he realizes in our environment where many students struggle with managing their emotions, and controlling emotions like anger. Students throughout the school will now ask to go to Sean’s body shaping class when they realize that they need help regulating their emotions, and Sean always welcomes them with open arms.

In addition to his work with yoga, Sean is constantly participating in his classes to encourage student participation. If his students are lifting in the weight room, so is Sean. He goes out of his way outside of the school day as well by advising for a Health Club, and for a program through Burton’s Chill program. Sean is an absolutely incredible physical education teacher and deserves to be recognized for it.

Why did you decide to become Nationally Board Certified?

Well, in my school, many of us feel we need to get either pro-certification or become an NBCT. One of my mentors was involved in the National Boards process, and told me I should pursue it. Mainly, though, it was the challenge. NBCT is so high up there, so prestigious, and I’ve always been a person to challenge myself. I got my Master’s degree and now I’m an NBCT.

What was the process like for you?

I have had my certification for about a month, and I remember it was strenuous! I decided to do all four components in one year, and thankfully had a great support system around me, including support from peers, home, and the NB cohort I was a part of. Overall, the process involved many things I had encountered already in education, and several things that Central Washington University prepared me for. There were some long nights spent on my laptop, but I felt that the process was able to challenge me while not burning me out.

What have you learned from this process, and what have you utilized in the classroom?

It kind of affirmed the choices I am making in my classes to help me create high quality learning environment. As I was looking at each component, there weren’t a lot of things I wasn’t already doing, but there were ways I could improve. I could say “I’m already doing that this way, let’s change it and improve it.” It helped me look at various aspects of my teaching, allowing opportunities to continue to improve, which is something I always strive to do as a teacher.

What do you love about teaching in Washington?

I get to teach PE every day, I love it [laughs]. Growing up, I saw what an impact that good teachers have on students. I grew up in an area similar to these kids, and when I got into teaching, I knew I wanted to teach in an area where I could maximize my impact. That’s what I’m doing. I can relate to my students because in a lot of ways, I grew up similarly to them. We have a lot in common, and it’s awesome for them to see someone with a similar background being successful. The significance of education kept a lot of kids out of trouble, and kept them in school. It’s my favorite to help these kids get better and find opportunities to teach them something they can use the rest of their lives.

An example of this is how I created a yoga class at my school that has been successful. The kids didn’t realize the benefits until they tried it. We tried it in smaller settings, first in weight training, then I had loads of kids request it. It helps a lot with stress management. Some of my students have a lot of extra stressful factors in their lives. In the middle of the day, we can get mats out and do yoga. I like that my students are seeing the benefits of it now, and they can use it later in life.

What advice can you give other Washington educators?

For the NBCT process itself, I would say set several deadlines and keep up with them. Some of us are focusing on multiple components, and there’s a lot. Don’t wait until the last minute.

I always say this as well: be yourself. I find teachers that come into a class, and try to pretend to be something the students can relate to, but our students can see that. They want stuff that’s real. Even if your students are opposite than you, they will respect you for being yourself.

I also want to say that relationships are key. Take time to get to know your students, make them feel wanted. If they come in and have off days, recognize that teachers have them too. If you notice it, talk with your students and give them a chance to bounce back from whatever is going on. Then, they’ll come back with better mindset, ready to learn and engage with a sense that they are valued.