2018 Stars & Stairs

2018: Stars & Stairs

I’m currently spending time with my wife’s family here in Halifax, Nova Scotia. If ever you get a chance to visit, it’s hands down one of my favourite cities in the world. If you’re wondering why I’m not at school, it has to do with the fact that my son Ollie was born last March. In Quebec where I live, new dads get five weeks paternity leave. I took three when Ollie was born and stapled the last two onto my Christmas break. I’m a bit of a Christmas freak, so it’s nice to get to extend Ollie’s first Christmas celebrations over several weeks!

That being said, with Christmas just around the corner, this will be my final newsletter of 2018. To wrap this year up, I thought I’d share with you my Stars and Stairs of 2018.

Ok, so what the heck are stars and stairs? Well, about a year ago I hosted a #PEChat on “Assessment FOR Learning in Physical Education” (check out the summary if you missed it). In my research for the chat, I came across this idea from Rick Stiggins that had to do with providing students with stars and stairs when sharing descriptive feedback. The basic premise was that we should always inform students of what they have accomplished (stars) and what their next steps should be in order to move their learning forward (stairs).

The Stars & Stairs idea stuck with me and I’ve been reflecting on my own personal stars and stairs for the past year. Here’s what I’ve narrowed the ideas generated from my reflection down to:

I have to start off by saying the only star that mattered to me in 2018 was the birth of my son. Ollie, along with his amazing mother/my wife Jess, shone so bright that it’s hard for me to really be able to recognize and celebrate any other stars. 

That being said, one of the things I am proud of as I look back on 2018 was my ability to maintain some sense of balance in my life despite everything I knew about living being turned upside down. Knowing that I’ve cut back on work and involvement in projects in order to focus on being a good dad is an accomplishment I’m proud of showcasing here.

Mushiness aside, there were a lot of other highlights this year. Although it ended abruptly with the arrival of my son, I was ecstatic with the form that #PEChat took on in its past season (it’s sixth since I started it back in 2012). Having the chat focus on important topics, providing participants with graphics and research, and creating Twitter Moments summaries that could live forever (check them out) all brought a lot of value to the chat’s format.

To be honest though, none of this would have been possible without the support of the amazing #pechat moderator team that consisted of Terri Drain, Doug Gleddie, and Jo Bailey. I’m blessed to count these amazing people as part of my learning community and I am so happy that they all chose to be involved in season six of #PEChat.

#PEChat Season 7 kicks off on January 7th 2019. I’ll be sharing more information soon, but I can tell you that I am wildly excited – both as a moderator and as a participant – for next season’s format and focus. I really think that season seven will help raise the bar for our profession.

Another big star for the year was the launch of #PhysEdU: my online professional development academy for physical educators. Although it arrived five years later than I wanted it to, I’m so happy with how #PhysEdU has been received and I’m excited to be developing new courses for it that will launch in 2019!

On a more personal level, 2018 saw me grow as an educator. It was a tough year, given changes both at home and at work, but I definitely feel like my teaching is stronger at the end of 2018 than it was in 2017. 

So how did it change? Well, for starters, I was able to improve my understanding of what makes for effective formative assessment in physical education. Using learning targets to help my students have a clear idea of where they are trying to go in their learning, I was able to focus my assessment efforts to continuously complete the “Where Am I Going? – Where Am I Now? – How Do I Close The Gap?” cycle that I learned about while researching assessment for learning as part of my #PEChat preparation.

I also made a conscious effort to listen to my students and collect feedback from them in regards to my teaching. Having them complete an anonymous survey really helped opened my eyes as to how I could improve my program and my teaching in order to better meet their needs. 

Finally, I was blessed to be able to speak and travel a lot in 2018 and meet amazing physical educators at different PE conferences. From the amazing people in Calgary, Alberta that I met at the 2018 HPEC Conference, to the incredible people I hung with (including the OPEN family) in Stillwater, Minnesota at the PE Connections event, to the energetic, positive teachers of Colorado that I shared with at the 2018 SHAPE Colorado convention, to the friendly teachers of Nova Scotia that I connected with not too far from where I am right now at the 2018 TAPHE Conference… 2018 was a busy, incredible year. I am so grateful for all of the trust and faith that conference organizers put in me by having me come out and keynote their events and I hope that I served them well!

My next stop will be Asheville, North Carolina for the 2019 National PE and School Sport Institute this July. I hope to see you there!

2018 was an incredible year and one that also helped me better understand what I can be doing in order to continue to grow as an educator. With that said, here are the stairs I identified for myself as we move into 2019.

In 2019, I want to focus on creating more meaningful physical education experiences for my students. This is something I have been thinking about ever since the “Meaningful Physical Education” #PEChat. With inspiration from people like Doug Gleddie and Nate Babcock, I’m really looking forward to diving into this journey. 

Another element I’m looking to strengthen within my teaching is the idea of designing experiences that complement my students lives outside of school and help strengthen their connections to their community. If you haven’t followed any of the work Andy Vasily and Jorge Rodriguez have put out this year, I’d really recommend that you do! Andy’s work and support in creating meaningful physical education experiences that connect directly to students’ lives outside of school was and is incredibly inspirational to me. Along with the work of others such as Amanda Stanec (who I consider the epitome of community-based physical literacy development, check out my interview with her on The #PhysEd Show), I’m really fired up to rethink, redesign, and refocus my physical education program as we move into 2019.

All of this will require a lot of learning on my behalf if I am to successfully take these steps. Luckily for me, I’m already a part of the world’s greatest physical education professional learning network! Although I proudly ramped down my involvement online in 2018 in order to focus on establishing a healthy family life at home, I’m really looking forward to speaking up more, being more present, and learning, learning, learning from the online #physed community in 2019. If you don’t follow me online, be a part of my 2019 professional learning journey by following me @phys_educator!

The final stair I identified for 2019 is, by far, the most important one: I need to focus on staying healthy. My levels of health and wellness took a hit in 2018 for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways. This led to me feeling drained, frustrated, and exhausted (especially in the last few months). A large, beer-drinking wise man once taught me that you can’t pour from an empty cup: that in order to fill, you need to be filled. 

I try to journal every day (which has been a lot more interesting and fun with Ollie now in my life). One of the elements I always include in my journal entries are the three values I hold highest in my life. Health is right up there, second only to family. However, as I struggled to adapt to my changing life in 2018, I often found myself sacrificing my health in order to focus time and energy elsewhere. 

I can’t be the teacher, the leader, the dad I want to be unless I have my health to support my efforts. That’s why I’m making health a primary focus in 2019. I’m allowing myself to be selfish with my time, my attention, my energy when it comes to investing into my wellness and I’m encouraging you to do the same. Let’s work together to make 2019 the healthiest year of our lives!

That’s it for 2018. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for all of your unwavering support this year. If you shared a blog post, liked a tweet, purchased a resource, or enrolled in a course, you helped provide me with the motivation and the means to continue to be able to produce content, share ideas, and create resources that help inspire physical educators to be the best teachers they can be. I am eternally grateful for that.

I wish you all of the best for this Holiday season and look forward to seeing all of the incredible things you will achieve in 2019.

Thanks for reading and happy teaching!



Joey Feith is the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com. Having taught elementary physical education for 10 years, Joey is now focused on helping physical educators grow their confidence and competence as teachers.

Recommended Posts