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Stuck in the Middle: Running on Empty

Picture of Kal Russell
Stuck in the Middle: Running on Empty
by Kal Russell - Wednesday, 24 May 2017, 8:46 AM

Stuck in the Middle: Running on Empty


Over the last two years, NSMS has held a special transition activity for our grade 7 students.  The reason for transitioning students in grade 7 to grade 8 resulted from a staff conversation about how well our students were starting school each year.  We were finding that in the first week of school our grade 8’s were stressed and anxious.   


Our grade 5 transition activities are successful because we make our new grade 6 students feel safe and confident about coming to NSMS in the spring of their grade 5 year.  They visit the school, walk them through our classrooms, and as we say in education: transition them from grade 5 to 6.  We loop our grade 6 students with the same teacher in our grade 6/7 multi-age classes, so those students are feeling very confident and secure in September, but the grade 8’s were being placed in new classes and they were nervous.  


A  grade 7 to 8 transition activity was needed, so at our last staff meeting, our teachers started planning an assembly.  The jobs were all being divided up and I was keen to help out, but I didn’t seem to have a role, so I asked, “How can I help?”


“You covering the three grade 8 PE classes, so our grade 8 teachers can be part of the assembly,” staff replied.


I quickly started doing the math, but I ran out of fingers.  I was going to be teaching 90 grade 8 students all by myself.  Now I am pretty sure this does not meet the new class size regulations, so I had to come up with something quick.  Should I call the Saanich Teachers Association president with a grievance or phone a friend?  


I decided to call Mr. Buckham, the VP at Parkland, and ask him to come over on that morning and help me out.


Mr. Buckham and I started the class with a quick explanation of what we would be doing and what our expectations would be for the next 67 minutes.  They were simple:  if the students participated and gave a good effort we could do a warm up, learn a couple new skills and play a large group game.  If participation was poor we would run.  I don’t like running for the sake of running In PE class.  I believe you can mix the running and cardio exercise into the lesson.  In fact, in my experience, you can give everyone a great workout while they are having fun playing.  


The rule was simple:  If they ran during the activities we would play and if they walked during the activities we would run!  


The kids were great during the warm-up!  They listened and were giving it their best.  It was so contagious that Mr. Buckham and I started warming up with them.  Mr. Buckham even demonstrated hockey strides.  Watching a 6’8” man stride across the gym made us all smile.  He is very athletic and his powerful strides made the gym shake.  We then taught everyone a few ways to throw a frisbee.  I demonstrated the forehand and backhand, while Mr. Buckham taught them ‘the hammer’.  Of course he did!


Everyone headed outside to practice our throws before playing a mass ultimate frisbee game.  This is my favorite way to replace long distance runs in PE.  We were divided up into Team Russell and Team Buckham and we used up to four frisbees in the game. There was a lot of running, jumping and throwing. It was a great cardio workout.  


The participation was amazing, so Mr. Buckham and I started playing with our teams.  I was no longer worried about students’ effort.  I had one young lady tell me she could not throw the frisbee, so I suggested she play defense and knock down the passes.  She spent the next 20 minutes intercepting and knocking down opponents’ frisbees. She was so good that  I knew I would have to start calling her the ‘fly swapper!’  


Then a throw came my way.  It was a high, long and floating pass.  A boy on the other team was chasing it with me.  As the frisbee hung in the air I loaded up and started my jump to snag the disc.   


As I flew in the air, maybe a couple of centimeters off the ground, the young man flew over me and snagged the frisbee before it reached my outstretched hands.  He quickly turned and passed to a teammate in the end zone, while I tumbled to the ground and checked my feet to see if I had rocks in my socks.  I sat there for a few minutes watching the game.  I was tired and needed a break, but everywhere else on the field kids were running.  


REO Speedwagon would have told the young man going for the frisbee to ‘Take it on the Run’, while Jackson Browne would say that I was ‘Running on Empty’.


At North Saanich Middle School, we realize that our grade 7 students need help transitioning to grade 8 and that grade 8 students will walk if you make them run, but they will run all day long if you let them play.  


Go Hawks!