For high school strength coaches across the country, this question is for you: “How come I’m not getting an A?”  In the modern age of Standard Based Instruction and common grading, one thing that should not be lost in our classrooms is the art of personal skills and accountability. 

I am a High School Physical Education teacher in my 21st year of teaching and coaching. I have seen several educational initiatives come and go in this time.  With 20 years under my belt and another 20 to go, I figured it was time to reinvent myself and embrace the latest.

Recently I attended a district professional development session at my high school and gathered with my other PE department members.  Our principal shared 5 personal soft skills that are incredibly important to develop in our students to make them successful in their future careers.

Top 5 Soft Skills in High Demand:

  1. Creativity
  2. Persuasion
  3. Collaboration
  4. Adaptability
  5. Time Management

Our principal listed several other personal soft skills such as grit, respect, resilience, trust etc.  I sat up and took note. 

How Not to Assess Your Strength Class:

In the past, my grading has always been very straightforward, each day is worth 10 points.  If you come late, I take a couple of points.  If you miss a day, you lose 10 points. I was very transparent.  We got by and things were working. 

I don’t pre- and post-test students in my classes.  I feel beginners shouldn’t max out until they know how to train and build strength from the ground up.  My advanced lifters may be in season or training in other manners for sports teams, so I don’t feel it would be beneficial for them either.

My New Approach to Assessment:

My new approach emphasizes the soft skills as I relate some of these behaviors to life outside of the gym, and specifically in the workforce.  My grading now includes the integration of soft skills. 

I begin the first day of class by discussing our basic principles and likened them to that of a job.  I tell my students that in any job:

  • They are going to have to show up to work on time or take responsibility if they are gone or late. 
  • There is some sort of a dress code that is acceptable or appropriate. 
  • They must work well with others and not waste time. 
  • They might have a bad day and must not let their mood affect their productivity or the productivity of others. 

Then I started to see a connection to how I could utilize this line of thinking and educating into my environment. 

Instead of just taking points throughout class, I approached the kids by asking them if certain behaviors would make them employable later in life.  I also asked if they thought that certain actions would help them impress a college coach or professor.

Strength Training with Purpose:

My goal is for students to learn the value of lifelong fitness and create a passion for strength training.  I want them to get hooked for life, rather than see a 20-pound increase across 8 weeks in my room. 

This thinking led to a standard based grading approach, with National SHAPE Standard #4 as my stagecoach.  “The physically literate individual exhibits responsible, personal, and social behavior that respects self and others.” 

With this power standard I can incorporate many of these personal soft skills into the grading and classroom management that several other educational disciplines struggle with.  We as physical educators and coaches know the value we have in relationship building by helping youth grow physically as well as cognitively.  Now I have real insight into how to apply it to my classroom in terms of behavior, safety, and personal responsibility.

You forgot your gym clothes?  Did you remember your cell phone?  Aha, personal responsibility…there is much more to come with this newfound mindset, and I am excited to embrace it and move forward in my next 20 years of teaching and coaching.

How do you assess your students? Please continue the conversation in the comment section below!