To have a comeback, you have to have a setback

I had a bit of a set back today. On reflection, I can pin it to a few things.

Me, thinking that something like a school sport afternoon would be easy to plan for and carry off. I planned activities and decided to follow a routine that normally sees me through most practical PE lessons without too much grief.

Me, thinking that my years of practical PE teaching experience would help me wing it through any tricky spots I might encounter. I mean, I know how to wrangle kids and get them travelling in the right direction, at various speeds, right? I’ve done so for pretty much most of my career to date.

But I was taken completely off guard by a factor that I didn’t realise carried as much weight as it eventually did.


I introduced my plan to the combined Year 9 and Year 10 group for the hour of activity that was left after setting out expectations for the Term. Heads started turning, whispering and concerned looks started amongst the troops.

One brave kid spoke up and said “But that’s not what we usually do”.

“Interesting response” I thought. Without missing a beat, I carried on with the message that this was what we were doing today and let’s get going.

At the end of the sport period, as I put the gear away, I reflected on the experience that I, and some of the kids, had just been through.

75% of the group made the most of their time and engaged, at various levels, with the activities.

The other 25% actively tried to disrupt the lesson. Actually work actively to stop the lesson, in some cases.  As I circulated to get them back on task, invariably the response I got as to why they didn’t want to buy in was “this isn’t what we usually do, so I don’t want to do it”

I have seen what School Sport groups usually do as part of past casual observations. This is a sport afternoon where supervising staff (usually nominated by their faculty head and often with little or no experience of supervising students in practical lessons) have run sport by rolling out basketballs and allowed them to “play”. Staff roles were in effect to supervise, rather than facilitating movement. Staff have been offered training for running these sessions, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

This was the very reason I went in with a different set of activities and a different mindset. The activities I chose involved movement and opportunities to do things differently. And thinking about it, that was probably where I went wrong, mostly.

Change can be good. Change can be necessary. But too much change, too quickly, can be overwhelming for some, so their natural reaction is to resist. And I saw that first hand in some (not all) of the students. I had too many resistors and it crippled my plans. It made me think of this:




As I mentioned on Twitter:

I definitely agree with Nathan’s reply.

So I’ve got some baseline data now on how some of these kids think about change. It only wasn’t about movement, or me (well, maybe a little) – it was more about too much change, too quickly. I didn’t know what the existing social and movement landscape for the students was about before I charged in with my change. I know I will need to tweak what I do to reduce the fear of change and coax more students on board my vision for the sport afternoon next week. I’ve got some ideas, and I’m not afraid to listen to the kids and include their thoughts and feedback in my plans.

As I said to Nathan:

So how do you react to mindsets (student or adult) that resist the work you try to do?

By the way – the title of this blog is a quote from Mr T. No one ignores advice from Mr T.

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2 thoughts on “To have a comeback, you have to have a setback”

  1. We grow from our failures, and to fail is good as it makes us pick up the pieces and try a new path. Good reflection mate. I’m still learning how to be better friends with failure too.

    • Hey Ciaran, Thanks for the interest in the post and nice comment too. Friends with failure is a good way to put it. I don’t mind failing at things. The fall doesn’t hurt you, it’s the stop at the end that hurts. Then getting up.


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