During half term, schools were out and we were spending our not-a-week-off getting our heads round our first essay.
Halfway through the week, we were treated to some light relief – a three-hour session on PE for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities.
OK, so not the most fun topic, right?
Now, I hadn’t imagined that completing a PGCE might involve playing wheelchair basketball, but that’s what we did.
Picture a group of future teachers going around in circles, bumping into each other trying to find our wheels. Now add few balls to the equation. There were other activities too, but this was the undisputed highlight of the session.
The focus of the session was to explore ways that we can make PE sessions inclusive for all our pupils. It’s easy to think that because someone has a need or disability, they are unable to participate in an activity, but I was genuinely surprised at how easy it can be to make an activity more accessible.
Now, I feel the need to be honest about my assumptions before the session. As someone who grew up disliking sport because I wasn’t as able as others, I have always felt reluctant towards PE. I don’t much enjoy exercise even today unless I can incorporate it into something I do enjoy, like dancing or dog walking.
A few things strike me as I write this. Firstly, how completely I take for granted my physical ability. Secondly, that there are ‘less able’ people who are making more of their physical resources than I do and lastly, that if I found PE frustrating and disappointing at school, what is PE like for a child who lives with a physical disability or other need?
As their teacher, I suppose the answer is – whatever I make it.
Sessions like the one we had are necessary. I want to make PE great, for every pupil. I want them to feel excited before a PE lesson and I want them to grow up to be active, healthy people. After all, I enjoy exercise and activity when it is fun and rewarding.
For me, that means changing my mind about PE and opening my mind up to what is possible, rather than what is not possible.
[Thanks to my fellow student Mr Wake for providing the images]