Dance In PE class?

I admit I secretly want to be Justin Timberlake.  I mean he acts, sings, produces, but boy can he dance!  I can’t dance even close to how he does but that doesn’t stop me.  When I put on my headset at PE class in front of 120 students (grades K-5), I become JT, N’Sync, Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block all in one!  If you could see my students jumping up and down and doing all the moves with me, you’d be amazed.  How does this happen?

When students come into my class, they immediately go to a “dot’, a painted circle on the cement under the pavilion.  I or one of my paras will tell the class to go to a certain color and sit or stand if it’s time to start.  I want my class to start with high-energy!  I use my Bluetooth Steambot Mini that plugs into my stereo system so my phone now controls the music.  I like to mix things up, so I use one of options: Apple Music, Fit Radio, Garage Band, or Tempo Magic Pro.

The easiest and most used app we use is Apple Music sharing.  For a monthly fee, I can access any song without owning it outright.  We stream the music, choreograph the songs, or just make moves up as we go.  Most of the time it’s Kidz Bop, but often I’ll play my favorites like TobyMac, Newsboys and even some 80’s hits I grew up with!

Fit Radio I use for the older students (3-5) when I want pure exercise and not a lot of dance.  Some of the 5th graders especially would rather not dance so I’ll often give them a choice of dance or a lap or two around the track.  With Fit Radio, continuous mixes are created for you using popular songs with high-energy beats.  You can choose from different DJ’s, tempos and genres depending on the mood and the atmosphere you’d like to create.

Garage Band is for the mixes I make, which I call my “Music Montages”.  These songs I have to own, which I put into Garage Band, take pieces of the best portions of the songs, and put it together with a buffer sound (usually a crashing-type sound called a “boomer”) in between.  Check this out on my YouTube channel for an example-

Tempo Magic Pro is awesome!  I first learned about this app from Naomi Hartl.  If you own a song, you can download it in the app and, using a sliding scale, can change the tempo of the song (fast or slow) without it sounding like “Alvin and the Chipmunks”!  The younger students absolutely love it!  We go slow-motion to warp-speed in a few seconds! Here’s a sample of our class using it-

So what are you waiting for?  Dance in PE class is a great way to get students active and to start off your class with high-energy movement.  Check out my YouTube Channel for some dances and montages to follow along with  If you’d like my montages from my dropbox, please email me at  Happy dancing!




Are You a Knuckleballer?

One of my favorite  books is Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon, who also wrote Steal Like an Artist (a great short read as well).  In it he discusses Toronto Blue Jay’s pitcher R.A. Dickey, a knuckleball pitcher.  The thing about knuckleballers is that there have only been a few successful ones throughout baseball history.  It’s such a difficult pitch to master, hit and catch that the teams with that pitcher often have a special catcher for him.

So in that book, as well as the documentary “Knuckleball” on Netflix, some themes played out.  The biggest one I saw, and that Kleon pointed out in his book is that although most pitchers are secretive of the “how-to’s” of their pitches, knuckleballers work together and share their secrets with each other.  In fact, a good portion of the movie showed Dickey meeting and talking shop with fellow knuckleball greats Tim Wakefield (who retired a few years ago), and the Niekro brothers, who were legendary pitchers when I was growing up in the late 70’s and 80’s, along with Charlie Hough, another fraternity member from the 80’s and early 90’s.  It’s such a rare pitch that in 2014, Dickey was the only knuckleballer in the major leagues!  This brotherhood is so tight that they teach their craft so that their legacy doesn’t fade out entirely.  Wakefield said in his retirement speech that R.A. Dickey now has to carry the torch for their art.

What does this mean for our PE community?  I have to admit that when I first started teaching PE 5 years ago, I didn’t really share my ideas with anyone.  The reason?  I wasn’t connected to any social media outlet and I didn’t know the other teachers in my county.  Then, when I first started using Twitter and then Voxer for professional development, I was more of a lurker because I wanted to see what other educators were doing. I was nervous that my ideas weren’t like theirs, and therefore didn’t have value.  What I eventually realized was that our PE community is made up of “knuckleballers” that are willing to share and help their fellow professionals, even from across the globe!  Within moments, a tweet or a “vox” can formulate ideas and answers from any country in the world.  This made me more comfortable to share my work online without fear of being ridiculed, and also connected me with amazing educators from all over.  How great is it that a teacher from Ft. Myers, FL (me) can speak to an awesome and intelligent innovator from Australia (Jarrod Robinson @mrrobo) and have an answer to my question in seconds?!  And through Voxer, collaborating with Jorge Rodriguez (@physednow)from Texas, he helped me change and refine a game we now play called “Hunger Games”. It started off as a small idea for a game, but talking back and forth with him, and getting feedback so quickly, it became a brand new game.  That is the power of sharing and helping each other!

What about the people who charge money for lesson ideas?  I’m not very fond of this practice.  Ideas need to be shared, tweaked, and  built upon.  If we want to grow as a PE community, we have to be willing to give ideas freely and neither hide them nor sell them.  My exceptions to this are when educators build apps or programs, or if they write a book.  The reason for this is that the time and resources put into creating these are much greater than someone who has a lesson idea.  I understand the compensation for this, and I don’t mind paying something for the content.

So the big question is this: are you in or out?  Are you a “knuckleballer” who is eager to grow our craft or do you want to hide your talent from the world?  Everyone has something unique and creative to share.  Be a part of our community and help us take it to a new level!

GRIT: My New Favorite Word

I’m a nerd.  I admit it.  Most people read thrillers, humor, or the new Nicholas Sparks’ novel.  Not me.  After years of Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, and Stephen King, I’ve moved on to non-fiction.  Only.  To be more specific, I read books about talent versus hard-work.  The way ordinary people become legends.  The reason why circumstances, perfect practice, and 10,000 hours of laser-like focus equals champions.  Along with blogs and videos from my favorite author/speaker, Robin Sharma, these are the books (so far) I’ve read and devoured about that word…Grit:

Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin

The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Bounce by Matthew Syed

So what is Grit?  A simple formula might be: grit= perseverance+ time+focus+absolute dedication, which in turn equals greatness.

All 4 books have a few things in common.  Here they are:

1. No one is born with a “talent’ at anything.

-Tiger Woods and Mozart started really young, but they were “pushed” by their parents to excel.

2. Circumstances play a role in virtually every success story.

-If Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or John Rockefeller were born even 5 years earlier or later, they might have missed their opportunity (okay, so that was a bit of luck and not grit!).  But also, if you live in Texas, snowboarding won’t be your “thing”.

3. This was drilled into my head in JV baseball (thank you Coach Simon!): Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.

-That is why me hitting thousands of golf balls over 30+ years doesn’t mean I’m making the tour any time soon!  Having a purpose for each swing, musical note, or foot placement is more important than you’d think.

4.  10,000 hours or roughly 10 years is the minimum time it takes to “master” a craft.

-Bobby Fisher is a rare exception at 9 years.  Back to Mozart: he wrote music at an early age but his masterpieces weren’t written until he was almost 20 years old.

5.  Failing is not an option, it’s a must!

-If you want to be the best, you have to go out of your comfort zone and fail to get better.  If you’re not falling and failing enough, you’re not reaching high enough.  A gold medal skater was estimated to have fallen over 20,000 times in her career to greatness.  Derek Jeter “failed” 2 out of 3 times hitting in his career.  That’s where the learning happens: in failing.

Maybe I love this topic because I love inspirational heroes and “masters”.  Or maybe I love it because I know that an average guy like me can be great at something if I work really hard.  That is my goal: to become the best PE teacher I can be.  Why else would I keep upping my game by chatting on Voxer with incredible PE teachers all over the world, checking out Twitter constantly for cutting-edge techniques and info, and reading books and blogs with a determination to learn all that I can?

Robin Sharma said that “to reap the benefits that only 5% have you must do the things that only 5% do (paraphrase)”  So while most people are checking out what’s going on with the Kardashins, I’m perfecting my craft.

The big question: how do we instill this in our students?  It’s not easy, given that when I was their age (K-5th graders), I know I thought other kids were either talented at sports and math or they weren’t.  So I discuss this with them as much as I can.  We interview 4th and 5th graders on what it takes to be great at their area of interest.  We have cup-stackers, horseback riders, soccer players, hockey players, swimmers, and a lot of students who work hard at a lot of different things.  Maybe if they see that we have swimmers at our school that get up at 5:30 in the summer to someday possibly compete in the Olympics, it might inspire them!

It’s all about grit.  Even for a nerd like me.


Tim Notke