Body image and PE: Moving away from the emphasis on calories

With the government talking about new plans to “tackle obesity” it really had me thinking about how many people would just take these procedures with a pinch of salt and not realise the destructive effects – especially within the PE community. The vast majority of people I know have had some sort of ideal sporting image ingrained into their heads throughout their experiences in physical education- one of the most common being the idea that “fat people can’t be good at sports”. This anti-fat bias can isolate students and take away an enjoyment of movement purely based on their appearance; this is a ridiculous assumption and can do so much damage to someone’s self esteem.This is something which has never sat right with me but is still something I definitely let influence my lifestyle hugely. 

Although PE has always been something which I love, it is also where I learnt about calories and weight and led me into a self destructive eating disorder in an attempt to fit the ideal image – although it went mostly unnoticed for 5 years or so, it got to a point where I was in the PE area whenever possible to do some sort of activity to burn calories, and people really began to notice. The thing I loved was putting me in danger and causing me to miss school just because of this idea that I had to weigh less to play better. I couldn’t tell you where this idea came from exactly, but I can for sure say that lessons which involved things like “designing a meal then burning it off” or anything which reiterated the idea that food had to be burned off made my thinking so much worse. Looking at lessons like that floating around now made me wonder whether it is just a few people who are negatively affected by the lessons; but then I realised that this in itself is an issue. If a lesson has the ability to put anyone in so much mental distress then should it not be rethought?

If the government plans of including calories on menus does happen, then these lessons could cause so much more damage to students’ mental and physical health.With the government strategy announcing calorie labelling, my immediate thought was not that I will make informed decisions as the government would hope, but that I could slip back into disordered decisions; with no research to support the calorie labelling plans, this could be the case for many people.The PE community can help prevent this in others by really rethinking the way the link between physical activity and food is taught. I understand the importance of teaching about nutrition but lessons like this could easily be changed slightly to try and avoid the emphasis on calories; for example you could make students design a post workout meal based on the type of workout done (e.g. high proteins meals after strength exercise etc). 

Although the government may begin this new “fight against obesity” I think that it is really important for the PE community to recognise that at the core, what we want for all students is to get them engaged and enjoy PE. A student should not feel as if they must change their body to be able to participate; PE should be accessible to everybody irrespective of their size.

Written by Dylan A – August 24, 2020.

Image from:

A note from the BAMEPE Collective:

As a profession when we argue for physical education to combat obesity epidemic, we are weakening the need for our subject. What other subject claims to combat a societal deficit and claims to improve it?

As a movement we think the link to obesity and calorie counting is unnecessary in physical education and it reduces the impact for meaningful movement and a love of sport and physical activity.

Coming-out, and coming-out again: My journey to becoming an openly gay teacher

Coming out as a gay person is never easy. Even if you feel completely secure and comfortable in yourself, even if you expect that those around you will be supportive, the process inevitably involves a great deal of anxiety, self-doubt, and often – fear. 

When you’re a gay teacher, you get to experience this process, in all its glory, repeatedly. 

Once I had come out to my family and friends in my late teens, I foolishly imagined that was it. That I now wouldn’t have to worry about questions, judgement or awkwardness. That everyone in my immediate social circle now knew who I was and would now have to accept it (regardless of how they felt about it). In my experience, there is certainly an element of both freedom and relief that comes from your first ‘coming-out’ (no matter how well or badly it goes!) And for a while, you get to enjoy the feeling of being completely yourself and not having to hide any part of your life. As I was at university when I came out, I enjoyed finding myself in a nice, protective bubble, where everyone knew and accepted my truth.

As is life, no one can live in a bubble forever. Once I began to make decisions about my post-student life, I realised that of course the process would involve meeting new people, and trying to integrate into new environments and organisations. The fear of having to ‘come-out’ all over again, returned. 

I chose teaching PE as a career almost immediately after finishing my degree, and completed a one-year PGCE programme. Suddenly I found myself in new settings and having to interact with a whole range of people; including students and teachers, who invariably would ask me questions about my life (as people do). Having only come out relatively recently, and already feeling fairly nervous, stressed, and out of my depth in my role as a trainee teacher, I would palm off questions about boyfriends, marriages or celebrity crushes with generic answers – not lying, I would tell myself, but not just being clear about the truth. Answering questions vaguely about a ‘partner’ without using gender pronouns or mentioning their name. Or – a signature move – quickly changing the subject, checking my phone, or dashing off to do some suddenly remembered, urgent task. 

During the PGCE course, a good friend of mine, who is also gay, asked one of our course leaders if we should be open with prospective schools and employers about our sexuality. Her answer was; ‘If they have a problem with it, do you really want to work there?’ This was sound advice, and made perfect sense, yet in the eagerness to land ourselves jobs as fresh-faced NQTs, we often didn’t feel comfortable bringing it up in interviews. 

I was fortunate that my first ‘proper’ teaching job was at a school where staff were very friendly and accepting (as they should be, in an ideal world, but at the time I was unsure that would be a given). As I became friendly with other members of staff, I became more confident to be open – I would use the word ‘girlfriend’ in a conversation, or when asked directly about it, would be honest that I was seeing a woman. With the students it was another story. I would usually shut down any questions about relationships or lie and say I was single to stop them asking anything further. Intuition tells me that some of them may have guessed, but they never (much to my relief) asked me directly. I would try to deal with homophobic remarks or comments made by students (to other students) detachedly, in the hope I wouldn’t be giving anything away about myself. That was hard at times, and I often wondered if I was letting myself, and my students, down by not being more honest. Perhaps I did not give them the credit they deserved. Later, I heard that another member of staff had come out and that the students had reacted positively. I felt surprised at their reaction, ashamed at my surprise, and envious that I didn’t have the confidence to come out myself. I had assumed that many of the students would receive this information negatively, when in fact the opposite was the case. Of course, there was the occasional negative remark made about it, but generally these were said in frustration as a result of other issues in class, an easy way to be critical or hurtful about this teacher when students were upset. 

As I progressed in my career, I decided it was time to be upfront to potential employers and would go out of my way to mention my wife in interviews. Having had a close friend go through an extremely negative experience at her school after being open about her sexuality (incidentally caused by staff, not students), I decided I would much rather unknowingly lose a job at interview because I was gay, than to find out they had a problem with it after I had already begun working there. 

Once I began teaching internationally, the concept of ‘coming-out’ was challenged in other ways. My wife had moved out to Thailand with me, and in a close-knit international community, people knew from the time of our arrival that we were married and had travelled out together. By this time, I was older, and much more comfortable with myself, and had no problem with being more open. However, I was yet to have ever directly discussed my sexuality with my students. Until…

Student: ‘Ms Laura, do you mind if I ask you a question?’

Me: ‘Sure, of course!’

Student: ‘Um, so I was just wondering… I mean, I have a pretty good gaydar, so I was just wondering if you’re a lesbian?’

Me: [Wondering if the student has noticed that my heart rate has shot up to about 1000 beats per minute in the space of 2 seconds]… ‘Um- Yeah, I am.’

Student: ‘Okay, cool.’ [Casually saunters away to leave me standing in a sweaty, anxious mess]

“So, I guess I’m out at work now!” I told my wife after work that evening. I work at a relatively small international school, and this student was certainly not the shy or retiring type, so I knew the details of our conversation would travel pretty fast. Once the initial shock had worn off, I felt once again that sense of freedom and pride that comes after realising that you have been completely honest about yourself and the world hasn’t come crashing down around you. My wife would often come to visit the school to sub or guest-lecture, and students knew who she was. Eventually she began working at the school herself, and now all of the staff and students know that we’re married, in the same way as they know about the straight teacher couples that work there. We even coach the girls football teams together. No one has ever said anything negative (to our faces at least) or seemed particularly bothered in the slightest. It’s a great feeling to be able to be so open and receive such acceptance. I can honestly say that I will never allow myself to go into the ‘work closet’ again. 

I wanted to tell my story as part of this blog, not to sound preachy, or to presume to tell other teachers how open they should be in their workplaces – I know how challenging it can be, and that sadly, sometimes people will have negative experiences when they come out at school. Even when I knew about other teachers who had come out, or received advice that it might be better to, I wasn’t ready to do it until I was. Yet in these current times, with important questions rightly being raised about inclusivity in all spaces of society, I feel it is a crucial moment for teachers and schools to take steps to address issues of social inequality and injustice, and to not shy away from discussing them with students. I hope that my students will see that I am comfortable with who I am, and I want to be open to discussing issues or answering questions they might be afraid to ask elsewhere. For those of us who work in environments that are diverse in many other ways, being ‘out’ allows students, other teachers, and even parents, to have interactions with someone they may not typically choose to surround themselves with, and gives us an opportunity to challenge their ways of thinking in a positive way. I hope that by virtue of simply existing happily in a space where our sexual orientation is not considered an issue, we may even help students who may be struggling with their own identity. Although I am aware that being able to work in the same school as my wife puts us in a somewhat unique situation, I also hope that through seeing us together, students get to witness a healthy and functional relationship that may challenge their preconceptions. I certainly sometimes wonder, had I known a gay teacher when I was growing up, how it may have alleviated some of my fears, and how differently I may have felt about what was possible.

It gives me hope to see so many young people becoming more understanding, inclusive and kind. In today’s world, when it is easy to believe that hate and anger are increasing, and that these are the driving forces of society, those of us that are privileged to work with young people often get to experience the opposite. The next generation has the potential to far exceed us all in terms of their ability to create a truly diverse and accepting society, and I am often blown away by the way they turn their beliefs into actions in a powerful way to create change. And if even one person grows up having the confidence to be themselves because they got to see it when they were formulating their own ideas and beliefs about both the wider world and their own identity, it will have been worth it. 

Written by Laura Davies – BAMEPE Collective Steering Group Member – August 17, 2020.

An honest reflection…

The BAME PE collective recently launched an initiative called ‘Women Leaders’, this took form as a video series with 19 women who shared their experiences within physical education, their journey into their current positions and their advocacy for equity. The idea for this was born from the feedback received when BAMEPE presented at conferences at earlier in the year, delegates suggested that we could increase representation through the sharing of stories. All the videos in the series can be accessed on our website here: Women Leaders Series

Taking a step back from our ‘Women Leaders Series’, when I sat and watched all of the videos, I was compelled to write something. Firstly, BAMEPE, Shrehan and I, would like to say a massive thank you to all the women who took part, we really loved listening to your experiences which triggered me to reflect and consider where I am now and where I want to go. 

On a personal front, I have been quite quiet over the past through weeks and I have not wanted to speak to anyone. It does not matter how hard I try to do this; this approach has not actually worked or been beneficial for my mental health. Most people who know me personally are aware that I suffer from depression and at times it gets the better of me, which is why I choose to shut down, hide away and manage it to the best of my ability. I have also returned to counselling which has been very helpful – I have found accessing this online to be a different experience, a better one in fact.  

Recently, a decision was made that I was unhappy about. In fact, I was angry, frustrated, upset and I felt undervalued. I did not get over these feelings and I started to see signs that I was sinking into depression and that frustrated me even more as I felt that I had been working so hard to build myself back up through counselling to just be thrown off track. I just did not get why something like this could have such a profound effect. 

A couple of weeks later I understood that it was not the decision per se as I can live with it, but it was how it made me feel which was unworthy. That unworthy feeling triggered me to relive my past as it is something that I have constantly battled for the best part of my life. It has not gone but I am dealing with it. Writing for me has been a great help and whilst being at home weekly Zoom’s with my counsellor, friends and family have also helped. I cannot thank my family and friends enough for the support they have given me and continue to give me as it takes a level of patience and understanding that sometimes I don’t even have for myself. 

Going back to the videos, they reminded me that I have come a long way, I do deserve my seat at the table, I should not accept being undervalued and most importantly I can, and I have said NO.    

I really do hope that through sharing, that I encourage you to love who you are, believe in who you are and to never give up. You are worthy.  

A wonderful gift/reminder that I received from a friend

Welcome to Melanin and Me Podcast

Meet your hosts of Melanin and Me 

Melanin and Me’ explores all things health, wellness and lifestyle. Covering topics such as mental health, relationships and career progression through the lens of two women navigating the complexities of womanhood and the Black British experience. 

Rae is an educator and sports enthusiast of African descent, born in Zanzibar and raised in the UK. Ash is a sport development professional and fitness expert of mixed Caribbean and British heritage, born in the Cayman Islands and raised in the UK. Ash and Rae met whilst studying at Loughborough university and continued their journey together by supporting women like themselves by creating safe, honest and open spaces.

“The idea came together after a tweet from myself to Ash” explains Rae.

In which I expressed an interest to start a podcast. Ash had exactly the same idea in terms of starting a podcast and what the podcast would be about. For Ash and Rae, their shared frustrations of the misrepresentations of black woman led to the creation of Melanin and Me, which provides the perfect platform to get the voices of Black Women heard in a safe space. 

The podcast can be accessed via the following platforms:

Apple podcast:


Google podcast:


Happy listening! Feel free to reach out to us at: @Melanin_and_me 

Written by Raina Omar and Ashlea Smith – August 10, 2020.

Multiculturalism in Physical Education


Multicultural education is an “education that values diversity and includes the perspectives of a variety of cultural groups on a regular basis” (Santrock, 2001, p.171). Within recent years the population of schools have become more culturally diverse. According to Lievesley, (2010) one fifth of UK’s population will be from an ethnic background by 2051. However, there are not enough equitable experiences for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people (BAME) pupils. This can be put down to the lack of ethnic teachers in the teaching profession (DfE, 2018) and the lack of cultural competency of current white professionals (Harrison, Carson, & Burden, 2010). White professionals, can be unaware of their own disruptive behaviours, critical whiteness and unconscious bias when interacting with BAME pupils, the curriculum and the ‘hidden curriculum’ in school cultures (Duncan, 2019; Flintoff & Dowling, 2019; Richardson, 2015). BAME pupils often notice this blindness and can lose motivation to study and attend school and don’t feel they can discuss their health and well-being matters with teacher. Ultimately, they will disengage in the education process (Lac & Baxley, 2019). However, if multicultural education is conducted then BAME pupils have a greater purpose, attainment level and sense of belonging with their learning and enhanced wellbeing. Although, this is an issue for the whole education system, this article will look at it from a Physical Education viewpoint.

A PE lesson is the starting point of many athletes’ careers. Teams within PE and sport will be multi-cultural and need to coexist to be successful. Moreover, PE allows children to put multiculturalism into practice, rather than it being restricted to the theoretical material of PHSE. PE can increase emotions and heighten ethnic and religious differences which can serve to normalize ‘racialised notions of Whiteness= Normal; Blackness=Otherness’ (Wilkins & Lall, 2011, p. 374). Consequently, PE teachers need to have the knowledge and understanding of how to meet culturally diverse students’ needs and the multifaceted relationship between culture and learning (Flory & McCaughtry, 2011).


  • It can push political boundaries and can teach the same ethos to the children receiving such education (Docheff, 2000).
  • PE can help eradicate any misconceptions around children from diverse backgrounds (Stroot & Whipple, 2003). 
  • PE is the core area for teaching teamwork, identity, embodiment and for social difference and development (Flintoff, Fitzergerald & Scraton, 2008).
  • Developing cultural awareness enables students to become more knowledgeable, understanding and respectful of everyone (Choi & Chepyator-Thompson, 2012).    
  • Children will be able to understand, respect and how to work with people from all backgrounds in PE, in school and in life (Dowling & Flintoff, 2018)

Counter Arguments

The assumption that disengagement with PE is due to cultural negligence is misplaced. Teachers cannot accurately measure if cultural barriers have been broken down. Barker et al. (2014) reported that their participants opposed PE on philosophical grounds, disruptions and disengagement due to personal effort. 

According to, Kulinna, McCaughtry, Cothran, and Martin (2006), teachers will become overloaded with information on one-day course so will not retain the key aspects. If they do, then some may not have the time and support to consolidate their learning. Due to timetabling and pressure of subject’s teachers may not be able to put theory into practice and then reflect upon their practices. Some teachers may feel that not addressing or even ‘over addressing’ the subject of cultural diversity could prove to be counter-productive (Asare, 2009). However, teachers need to address it in a proactive manner and it should be placed at the forefront of teachers mind when considering children’s needs. 

It is worth noting that although some teachers are from a non-diverse background and will only teach in non-diverse schools, a multicultural delivery and content is still important. Educators have an obligation to widen the horizons of the children they teach and not limit them to their immediate cultural environment they know during education. Furthermore, educators are responsible for a whole generation that will move into adulthood and be the next leaders and workers of the world. We have an obligation to make and shape a better world than we currently live in for the next generation.

Some initial teacher training organization will state that they do offer training on multiculturalism and explain that education should meet the needs of all pupils. From my observations and conversations with other teachers, most teacher training providers do not provide the depth of knowledge that non-diverse educators require to understand and be aware of their own unconscious bias. Unconscious bias cannot be discussed in one lesson, and then the job is done. An educator needs consistent training and reflection for multiculturalism and unconscious bias, in the same way teaching in general requires.

Strategies to improve 

  • Make the curriculum more diverse- You could teach sports such as Kabbadi when teaching attacking and defending principles (Doolittle & Rukavina, 2014) 
  • Make your content material more cultural aware. For example- Do you show British BAME athletes when discussing ‘British’ sports? We should talk, discuss and share our ideas and thoughts (Culp, 2011) 
  • Use pupil voice and find out what sports they actually enjoy rather than prescribing said sports (Doolittle & Rukavina, 2014)
  • Reflect on your own assumptions, beliefs and biases (Culp, 2013).
  • Understanding the concepts of Critical Whiteness/Notion of ‘Other’/ Us vs Them (Flintoff & Dowling, 2019). 
  • PETE’s teaching cultural diversity within PE to trainee teachers and through training days for in-service teachers. Why should it be just an optional lecture or a token gesture? (Hemphill et al., 2012).
  • Engaging trainee teachers in professional development opportunities with practicing urban PE teachers (Hemphill et al., 2012).


I believe that PE can develop cultural awareness in the children that we teach. We can create an environment that teaches non-physical skills such as team-work, kindness, empathy and respect for others. Moreover, that it is the responsibility of ALL teachers not just those of BAME backgrounds to ensure that ALL children have a multicultural diverse curriculum and understand cultural awareness and diversity (Sliwa et al., 2017). 

With the right education and an open mind, the world can change: 

Photo credit: @LiverpoolFC
Photo credit: @EnglandCricket

Friends are made by the heart, not by skin colour, gender, or religion.

Written by Omar Green – June 2, 2020 – originally posted to:

Social justice and swimming – how we can support more BAME minorities to get in the pool?

Drowning Prevention Week – Social justice and swimming – how we can support more BAME minorities to get in the pool. By Tina Clark.

It is currently drowning prevention week (12-19 June) and I thought I would share with you the wonders of swimming and the crucial importance of water safety. Sadly, the royal lifesaving society (RLSS) statistics demonstrate that 700 people drown in the UK and Ireland every year and many more are suffering from lifelong injuries.

Having the ability to swim, can be one of the great life skills that you can learn as a child. You can learn to enjoy many water sport activities, enjoy holidays by the pool and have fun at the beach. However, some children never get the opportunity learn how to swim or are taught the importance of water safety. According to the RLSS drowning is one of the top five causes of death for people aged 1-14 years. Scientific evidence has reported that 1.2 million people around the world die by drowning every year, 50% of which are children. Despite the numerous swimming lessons and water safety measures in place, a third of children can still drown around or close to home. This can be due to unexpected catastrophes such as flooding.

Since I was a child my parents would always take me to the swimming pool, beaches and water parks. I learnt from a young age about the dangers of swimming and how it was an important life skill. One that would be beneficial throughout life. I learnt that many children and adults do not have the same privilege and some children go through their whole lives not learning to swim.

Since 1994, swimming and water safety has been a statutory element of the national curriculum for physical education in England, and every 11-year-old should leave primary school with the skills, knowledge and competence to keep themselves safe while enjoying swimming. Sadly, statistics show that only half of the pupils achieve this. When pupils attend secondary school most of the pupils will not take part in swimming. Throughout my time in primary school, we only had one term of swimming. Due to my prior experience, I was able to achieve my badges; this was not the case for some pupils who are likely to leave school not being competent in the water. Having a term of swimming is not enough time to teach a child how to swim and several factors can cause primary schools to struggle to deliver swimming and water safety lessons. This includes cost, time out of lessons, lack of confidence, facilities and a lack of understanding for teachers.

Swimming has been recognised as a sociocultural issue, as not everyone can afford to pay for lessons and the opportunity within schools has been limited. I was part of a campaign called ‘Make a Splash’ where we created a portable swimming pool and moved it across the country delivering swimming lessons to schools. This was a government funded programme which was unfortunately cut. This meant that 100,000 students missed out on an opportunity to receive swimming lessons. I believe that as a society we need to support our disadvantaged students and help to bring swimming back into our communicates. Schools who have a pool or local leisure centres should reach out and communicate with one another to support and allow more students the opportunity to learn how to swim.

Swimming is an important life skill and I believe that more can be done to help support our BAME students to become more confident in the water. The fantastic, Alice Dearing is one of Britain’s best open water swimmers and has created a campaign to challenge the stereotype that Black people can’t swim. She set up the charity ‘Black Swimming Association’ to help launch and encourage more black people to take up swimming due to not having experience in swimming and it is a pandemic that has gone unnoticed. According to swim England, 95% of black adults and 80% of black children do not swim in the UK. This alarming statistic demonstrates that there is a higher risk of drowning among ethnic minority communities as they do not go swimming as much as White minorities.


Swimming has been classed as a white populated sport. Children and adults may not take up swimming if they do not see people of their ethnicity competing. Furthermore, if we have less students swimming there will be less BAME swimming teachers. By working together, we can help support our BAME community to get in the pool and help to support those first steps in learning the importance of swimming.

Regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or ability, swimming is an important and essential life skill that everyone should be taught. It is important to start breaking down the barriers to sports being for selective genders or ethnicities. Everyone can learn to swim, and everyone should.

Take aways:

  • Swimming is not just a sport it is a life skill and knowing the key skills and water safety tips could potentially save your life one day.
  • Consider when you are out and about where is your local swimming pool? How much is it? Is it accessible to all communities?
  • How many local schools have swimming pools? have they been closed? why? what can you do to campaign?

For more advice and guidance of swimming and water safety tips, please visit the RLSS website

Written by Tina Clark – BAMEPE Collective Steering Group Member – 17.6.20

Understanding Whiteness in Physical Education

December 15, 2019quietphysicaleducatorEdit”Understanding Whiteness in Physical Education”

You may have already read my article titled ‘A Journey to Understanding Critical Whiteness’ which was recently published in the afPE Physical Education Matters autumn edition. 

If you are yet to read it, I would encourage you to for the very reasons that I shall present to you below:

As I was approaching the end of my PGCE, my final assignment was focused on subject knowledge development in physical education. I choose critical whiteness as my topic because it resonated with me. During this time, I read a lot and as I read, it forced me to look at myself, to consider my social conditioning whilst being in education as a student, and now as a trainee teacher. It quickly became apparent to me that ‘whiteness’ within physical education has largely gone unnoticed and that there is much work to do.

Before my engagement with my PGCE course, I had never heard of the term ‘whiteness’.

I have highlighted this statement because my PGCE course has changed the way I now look at my environment and how I wish to contribute to it. A thought which I still hold today, is that if I removed this course from my learning journey, would I have learnt about this elsewhere? I can answer that myself confidently and say no simply because, it is something that is the unspoken norm, deeply embedded within our systems and structures. We need to start having these conversations. The whole process changed my worldview, but most importantly, it has transformed my teaching practice for the better of my students. Thank you, Dr Lynch, for introducing me to this knowledge.

So, I do hope that you take the time to read the article and share it with those in the field, new to the field and beyond as awareness is the first step to change.

The article can be found here:

I am currently reading this to continue with improving my practice:

Before I sign off, I wish to leave you with this quote:

The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house…


Written by Laura McBean – December 15, 2019 – Originally posted to:

Reflections from the AfPE National Conference: Guest Blog

Hello Colleagues,

Welcome back to reading educational thoughts for all, this week I invited Laura McBean to share some thoughts on our recent trip to the National PE conference. Her words are powerful and I encourage you to engage with them. After reading her post, I thought of Arielle Grays recent Twitter post:

“Having a “diverse” space means nothing if the POC in the room don’t feel empowered or comfortable in bringing or being their full authentic selves…  I’ve seen/ experienced this lots in spaces that are meant to be “inclusive.” All you have to do is look around at the POC in the room- the code switching and uncomfortable/ awkward convos are a dead giveaway… Tip: if the POC in the room are huddled together and/ or talking predominantly among themselves, chances are they don’t feel comfortable and feel pressure to perform/ exhibit certain behaviors deemed as acceptable to the other folks in the room” [see here:]. But, what if you are the only person of colour in the room?

We want to work with national organisations and schools to make them better [equitable, equal and representative] spaces, work with us, and listen to voices from within:


My name is Laura McBean, I have recently completed my PGCE in secondary physical education under the guidance of Shrehan Lynch who invited me to share my views on here on our recent conference. I have never written a blog before, so I will try my best to be politically correct and all views are my own!

I just spent the last two days at the afPE national conference, which was held at St George’s Park. It cost £395. Yes, that is not a typo it was expensive! So, my first thought here, is this accessible to all? This was my first conference – I chose to attend because I thought it would be an opportunity to gain some new ideas, network with those in my new field and also because I had put forward a piece of work as a poster presentation. I was very nervous about attending and I will be honest a big part of this was due to the fact that I knew that I would be in the minority and from previous experience this can go a number of ways; fascination and curiosity like I have just come from Mars, you become the token or your just ignored. I have to say it gets easier as you get older. Before attending, I sifted through previous photos and videos and I failed to see one person of colour. I was the only black attendee – this is a problem. I would never have attended this conference by myself – this is a problem. I wasn’t made to feel uncomfortable at any point but there were many thoughts going through my head whilst I was there…

For me, this whole conference looked like whiteness in PE at its finest. I sat in one of the sessions and engaged in a discussion on my table (I probably should have looked at this person’s name badge and affiliation before making my statement). Anyway, I can’t remember how it came into the conversation, but I stated that tennis is not an activity that is accessible to many of the students where I am coming from so why are we teaching it? Wrong person to make this statement to; they listed off all the benefits of the activity and expressed that they had played this sport. Remembering where I was, I had to hold in the sigh and consciously think about my facial expressions. In my head, I was thinking privilege amongst many other things however, I politely responded with yes, I agree but, can we not teach these skills through other activities? Luckily the focus returned back to the session, a part of me thought I wish I didn’t say anything, but the conversations need to be had, you just need to be brave enough to rock the boat. There were other points throughout where what I observed was challenging what has clearly been accepted as the ‘norm’ in this environment would not be ‘tolerated’. People amaze and amuse me. There was a lot of laughter on my part – was it ignorance, fear, or that they cannot see what is right in front of them?

There was one part of the conference where I would have loved for the ground to swallow me up, during an evening ‘cultural’ dance performance. I think the most politically correct way of saying this is that what I saw came across as a mockery of culture. Who in their right mind thought this was ok? Is this what diversity looks like to you? Then I was looking around to see what everyone else was doing and the majority seemed to be having a brilliant time.

It wasn’t all bad – one keynote had me thoroughly engaged throughout; I could connect with their message, which reminded me why I am doing what I am doing.

It was interesting that the two sessions surrounding social justice topics I attended both had low number of attendees. They were both very insightful topics, but clearly not in line with the current ‘trends’ of PE as they both challenged the normative. This a problem – I keep making this statement because we all know that everything filters down from the top. This is a national conference that doesn’t seem to have inclusivity at its core I must state that I am not my intention here is not to slate this organisation, I just want to provoke thought and if you have made it this far I presume that maybe you are in some agreement. There are people out there actively trying to make physical education inclusive and accessible even if we are in the minority, these conversations need to be had – I am open to change, are you?

Thanks for reading, Laura McBean = @Mcbeanpe.

So there you have it, a call to action. In the words of one of my favourite authors, bell hooks (1996) “all our silences in the face of racist assault are acts of complicity.”

Written by Shrehan Lynch – July 10, 2018 – Originally posted to:

Do you love everyBODY? Are you an anti-fat bias educator?

Do you love everyBODY? Are you an anti-fat bias educator?

When I was teaching at the secondary level, I will never forget a specific teaching scenario and how it made me feel or the student concerned. I was teaching athletics (track & field) and within this school, all students were required to complete a lap of the track as part of an independent warm up for the content area. Now I won’t go into the debate here on why this is a monotonous warm-up and the 100 other warms up one could do, however because I was a student teacher, I was trying not to ‘rock the boat’! So, I followed the departmental routines. There was one student, let’s call her Mandy, who continually struggled to do the lap run, often walking the 400 meters and to be honest I couldn’t blame her, running in circles is most boring to me too. My school-based mentor told me that I really needed to have a chat with her about her weight and it really wasn’t good that she is not able to run 400 meters without stopping. I didn’t feel overly comfortable doing this and so she said she would speak to her so I could ‘learn the ropes of difficult conversations.’ I listened for about two minutes and when I couldn’t listen any longer, I left. I felt uncomfortable for two reasons. Firstly, I felt that the student was targeted for not looking like her classmates or fitting the ‘norm’ and secondly the warm-up wasn’t innovative, and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it. Now, to be clear, I am not saying that my mentor had a prejudice anti-fat bias, which has been called several other things such as: weight stigma, weight bias, anti-fat attitudes, stereotyping, discrimination towards people perceived to be ‘fat’ (Daníelsdóttir, O’brien, & Ciao, 2010). But, I have always wondered how this situation has effected Mandy and have always attempted to avoid such practices when I was qualified and teaching myself. Did Mandy hate physical education? Was she conscious that she looked different? Was the curriculum inclusive for all students? Was she afraid of changing in front of her peers? I always go back to what is the purpose of physical education? For me, it is not to combat health or obesity agendas and I feel strongly about keeping such agendas separate from physical education and taking a more critical approach to such topics within school. I spoke at length about this in last week’s blog and so I shall not rehearse that here:

This incident has always made me wonder about Mandy and how our biases as a teacher affect/effect our students. Considering our knowledge is socially constructed, we require students to fit with conventional beauty and body types. As Shilling (2008, p. xiii) articulated “straying too far from physical perfection damages young people’s standing with their peers: those considered obese have more difficulty making friends, and are more subject to bullying on the basis of stereotypes involving the equation that fatness = laziness + stupidity.” Those that do have a ‘normal or thin’ body benefit from thin privilege (see for a short explanation on what this entails: The extreme benefits that come with having a slender physique also have consequential detrimental effects for those that do not fit the mold. Many students end up having a fat phobia and self-loathing as evidenced later in this blog.

Our agenda system has adopted a human capital model that brings its own prejudices, biases, and discrimination towards not only our students but for us as educators. What we must be conscious of is the FACT we cannot all fit the societal norm(s) and nor should we be expected to. There is a reason that thousands of doctors are allowed to make money off of weight reduction, we have centers you can go and get your ‘fat’ shaken off (vibro machines), and we have pills you can take to make you thin. Any young person only has to pick up a magazine and see what the new size norm is now – and yes… it is getting thinner and thinner by the day the older I get. It worries me that our capitalist society benefits from making people feel like they need to look good, in turn creating a set of desires and profit off of encouraging them to buy lots goods/treatments for their self-worth. On my drive to the supermarket, I tackle driving past Taco Mama, Burger King, Mc Donald’s, Chipotle, Panda Express, What-a-burger, Subway, and Chick-fil-A, which are cleverly located on route to my final destination (and seemingly en route to any destination). I am fortunate, as my plant-based diet allows me to navigate around these stores quite easily but how many others drive into these stores only to loathe themselves afterward? How many students are taught about how clever towns are structured in their physical education class and how this effects what we consume and subsequently what we look like? How many students are encouraged to think about the fact these stores are walking distance from certain communities, whereas the supermarkets are located in more privileged communities that are a drive-away?

The time has come to be critical. When are we going to love everyBODY? and when are you going to take action regarding sociocultural issues for everyBODY in your community for a more socially-just and equitable society?

The rest of this blog takes you through some of my physical education community views on this topic. They come from a variety of perspectives, therefore, I will allow you to interpret their work as you wish. I thank my physical education friends for their contributions, their brutal honesty, and their dedication to praxis in our field. I hope you too will love everyBODY and read on.

Teacher: Justin Schleider @SchleiderJustinI have an anti-fat bias. I don’t know when it started. It might have been when I started identifying who I thought was attractive and who I didn’t. It may have been when my parents called me Gutstin when I got chunky. Perhaps it was from playing sports and wrestling where extra weight was looked at as being a barrier to success. Some of my bias comes from the idea that I used to believe that people could control their weight. I would categorize them. When I categorized someone who was overweight, I would automatically assume they didn’t control what they ate or they didn’t exercise at all. We know that this is not necessarily the truth. We also know that socio-economic class affects food choices as well. Either way, I have worked for years to see bodies as only being vessels for a soul. I try to think how does the Dalai Lama see people? He has to see beyond the vessel. I know that is a lofty goal to shoot for. What is worrisome is how this bias could affect my students. I attempt to treat all my students equally. In reality, it is impossible to do this. We naturally like some students more than others. To be honest some students are more likable than others. One thing I do know is that physically I don’t push my students to work harder than they are ready to. I am not a personal trainer. My job is to vary the activity so that each student will have to work to succeed but that the goal is never too high to achieve. This allows students to enjoy my class regardless of their physical ability which may be hampered by their weight. I also believe that I work hard to establish relationships with all my students regardless of how they look or what they weigh. I know I am successful at this because I survey my students every trimester and ask them how much they believe I like them and how much they enjoy my class. The data has not shown that my students who are overweight have a negative association with either me or my class. Either way, this is something I am aware of and am constantly making sure that I am working hard to make sure my students are not negatively impacted by my shortcomings.

Teacher Educator: Dr. Kymm Ballard @KymmBallard@KymmBallard: Believe it or not, I can’t remember having a lot of self- esteem since the 9th or 10th grade in high school. I know many of you that know me don’t really see that in my public life. I wasn’t always fat but I believe several events in my life eventually changed my opinion from taking care of myself and trying to look pretty to anything BUT that. In my life, it invited abuse. So being overweight to obese was a safety net in some ways. While it wasn’t my goal, stress eating became my savior (or so I thought). I ate to punish myself because I couldn’t say anything and drank to feel better. Being abused in many various ways not all one type of abuse – role models of all types in my life or what should have been, were taking advantage of my trust and naivety to abuse me. People I thought I could trust- I couldn’t. I associated it with being attracted to me and I remember thinking as a young girl – “I don’t want to be pretty!” I don’t want people feeling this way or doing this to me. As I aged, I quit taking care of me because I didn’t love me and vowed to keep silent. The silence became my stress eating. As I became more fat the more I felt like people saw my personality, saw me, but without the abuse. It actually was the best I had felt in a long time. I went on to make a nice career for myself except one thing – I was fat and it’s unacceptable in our profession. Abuse, lack of self-esteem, silenced all played a role in my obesity. I have currently lost 33 lbs this year in a healthy way and part of it is learning to love myself. My pastor helped a lot and is showing me how my professional life and personal life are different. Publicly I am strong, caring, and have it together. Personally, I hide away from people and have no self-esteem based on my past and my weight. That was my bias – fat was not pretty and people won’t be attracted to you to abuse you. Based on my experience. I also saw how people looked and judged me being fat and a national leader. All the while I stress ate in silence. Did they really accept me? I would walk into places sometimes embarrassed to say what my job was, my major, or my role at the time. I could see the look in their eyes because everyone who “knew” what to do should be “doing” it or they were just lazy or stupid. People forgot that knowledge doesn’t necessarily change behavior. If so, we could teach physical education in a class. I would read on social media how “we” all had to role model “fitness” all the while thinking if I did I would be abused again. No one knew of my story, until now. Every person is like a different Novel…. everyone has a story to tell and no one should be judged, even fat people.

Teacher: Kennedra Tucker @MsTuckerRocksPEI originally started my college career specifically wanting to help children who were overweight and obese. A college professor convinced me to pursue a career as a Physical Educator. She said I could help all students regardless of their body composition. Fast forward 16 years later, and I am still committed to the cause of helping children who are overweight. However, my focus has shifted to encouraging students to engage in physical activity daily and to enjoy it for the rest of their lives. Do I have an anti-fat bias? No. However, I am concerned when I see students who are overweight because I think of the health challenges that they may incur because of it. I think about childhood diabetes and hypertension. I think of other students teasing students who are considered overweight. I wonder if those students who are overweight are experiencing low self-esteem as a result of the bullying. I absolutely think there is an anti-fat bias in our society toward Physical Education teachers. I have heard people say, “how can that person be a PE teacher when they’re overweight?”  That then leads to comments about how the teacher should be working out with students and how the teacher’s lack of fitness can’t possibly motivate students. People make the assumptions that PE teachers who are not slim and do not have the traditional fit appearance of someone with bulging muscles cannot possibly provide a quality PE program to students. But, that is simply not true.

Teacher Educator: Dillon Landi @DillonLandi: I interviewed Aspen (pseudonym) as part of my research with LGBTQIA students in health, physical activity, and education. Aspen (aged 16) is a transman who recently dropped out of school. This is a story about physical education. 

Dillon         Did you enjoy PE?

Aspen         I didn’t so much enjoy PE but knew I needed to take it in order to maintain sort of a skinnier physique because my school sort of socially it wasn’t really acceptable if you were stockier and I already had a large chest and sort of large ass and hips genetically. So any weight I put on was quite noticeable. So I took a lot of PE to try to sort of play it safe.

Dillon         So you took PE because you thought it would help you get a body that is desirable at school?

Aspen         Or at least express that I’m trying to because it seems silly now, but at the time it was sort of a defense mechanism. My weight wouldn’t be another thing for someone to pick on me for because people picked on the fact that I had glasses and because my hair was too matted and messy when it was long. Then when I cut my hair I was called a dyke or a lesbo…

Dillon         So if PE was a way to defend you from body shaming, would you say that PE was focused on shaping the body?

Aspen         Well it was in my school because of the way our teacher was and the way he quote and unquote motivated people. Rather than encouraging positivity he held over us the threat of failure and looked at the consequences of failing.

Dillon         Can you give me an example?

Aspen         Well when one of my classmates didn’t want to do an activity just because he didn’t want to. He was one of the popular kids and was sitting down just on his phone and so our teacher went up to him and went, “Come on get up. You don’t want to get fat.” So it wasn’t motivation but the threat of gaining something that was deemed and constructed as undesirable was used to make people work.

As a physical educator, you may cringe reading this story. I can honestly say this was just one of many. When physical education becomes about making students ‘fit’ or forcing kids be ‘physically active’, we are no longer an educational subject. Instead, we turn into ‘health promotion’ and should be removed from schools. As Aspen noted, the way his teacher approached the subject had a major effect on how students perceived physical education. Aspen has since dropped out of school… with the abuse he gets about his body and perceived identity, could you blame him? 

*Reach out to Dillon for recommended books on this topic*

Teacher: Stephanie Sandino @smsandinoJust the other day, one of my students brought up the point about physical educators who are “fat” and how it was hard for her to find them credible from a student’s perspective. Although this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this point being made, it got me thinking. In our adult brain, we process multiple possibilities- maybe that physical education teacher has an illness in which weight gain is a symptom, or perhaps they take medication that is causing weight gain. As we grow and live out experiences it allows us to put different lenses on as to how we view people, things, places and the world in general. In an adolescent’s brain, where was this comment stemming from? When thinking about my student’s emotions I always refer back to the movie “Inside Out,” they are just beginning to experience those compound emotions intermixed with the singular emotions that you can spot right away. Our students, like everyone else, live in a society that puts a certain amount of value in physical appearance. It’s everywhere– commercials on television, ads on the freeway, magazines at the store, films at the movies, music on the radio and the list can go on and on, right? At the junior high level especially, students are receptive to the world around them as they begin to build their identity. If one student thought that about a physical education teacher, I can only imagine what they think about each other and how it affects relationships and their social-emotional domain at a vulnerable time in their lives. It can be an everlasting impact! As a constant reflector, I turned my thoughts towards my practice. What am I doing to disrupt the fat bias? How do my students interact with each other and how does that affect the culture in our class? Are the relationships that I build with my students enough? Am I meeting them, where they are? Am I pushing them too much, or too little? If there is one thing I know, I know that I want all my students of all shapes and sizes to feel as comfortable and safe as possible in my classroom. It’s an important topic that is worth addressing in our classes as it can ultimately influence our movers in moving confidently and competently.

Questions for you:

  • How are you addressing your implicit and explicit biases in physical education/your subject area?
  • Are you all your students included, valued, loved, and appreciated in your class?
  • What activities encourage stigmatization? What are you going to do to prevent this or can you change the activity? E.g. fitness testing, BMI testing, singling out students to perform.

*As with any blog I attempt to give you a bite-size, there is much more I do not know about this topic like the Socratic paradox: “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”

Videos to watch on this topic:

Plus-size? More like my size by Ashley Graham:

What Comes After Loving Yourself? Advice from a Fat Fly Brown Girl by Yesika Salgado:

References AKA further reading:

Daníelsdóttir, S., O’brien, K. S., & Ciao, A. (2010). Anti-fat prejudice reduction: a review of published studies. Obesity facts3(1), 47-58.

Shilling, C. (2008). Body pedagogics, society and schooling. Education, Disordered Eating and Obesity Discourse. London: Routledge.

Written by Shrehan Lynch – April 29, 2018 – Originally posted to:

The problem with physical education just focusing on physical activity and health/sport-based curricula

I have been meaning to write this blog for quite a long time and I feel it is needed after reading several practitioner journals that have been released this month. I have tried to keep it short in the hope you will want to investigate more independently. Firstly, I want to acknowledge that until a year or two ago I have been guilty of encouraging high physical activity levels and adopting models based practices at times in my own work and in my own practice as a teacher. I am advocating here for an education of the physical including all aspects of the physical: physical activity, socially critical actors in communities, body types, relationships, critiques of the obesity ideology, history of sport/activity, ableism… the list goes on but essentially anything physically related. This change in what I advocate for has come from an increasing wealth of personal reading (see below for some suggested reading on where my ideas have amalgamated from) and specifically realizing and acknowledging that, physical education has moved on from preparing students for military action and secondly, access to physical activity outside of school is not equal with not all students having the same resources to partake in movement, so we shouldn’t treat it as such.

What am I talking about? You may be thinking! Well, currently in physical education we privilege a sport and/or health-based curricular. Let’s unpack examples of these curriculum options: sports based units (basketball, tennis, volleyball, soccer) and health-based units (health-related exercise/fitness, the mile run). Such curricular has been said to focus on individual responsibility rather than the collective cohort. In my time working in Alabama and from my teaching experiences in England, I am yet to see a large group of individuals deviating from the above, and I have taught many of these, models based practices for multi-activity, sport education and skill themed approaches. Such formal curricula models have underlying issues that we take for granted. For example, in a study by Parker & Curtner-Smith (2012) sport education taught by pre-service teachers to middle school students perpetuated hegemonic masculinity and reinforced masculine bias and sexism within their classes. I’ve seen this myself in sport education units whilst in student teacher observations. Most notably I have seen girls completely disregarded in their role choices and sometimes not given a role at all. I have also been privy to witness two students with a disability completely segregated from a class sport education unit, wandering around the room for an hour. What impact is such a curriculum having on these students? What message is it sending? Now I am not saying all sport education units are bad but what I am suggesting here is when have you considered if your curriculum is elitist? Racist? Sexist? Ableist? Classist? Or even healthist? In turn, some students are put an advantage over others and this perpetuates an unequal system that occurs in society. Have we considered that focusing on just physical activity minutes/health based curricular and sport based curricular might preserve some of the above that seem to be prevalent sociocultural issues in our society?

How can we move forward?

  • Self-reflect on your practice, being filmed helps with this and putting yourself in a vulnerable position whereby you can look back at the footage and see how (potentially) you may have segregated groups within your lesson or provided feedback to the same students repeatedly and ignored some students.
  • Investigate your social identity, are you a male, heterosexual, able, well versed sporty individual? If so, how does this influence your practice and how/what you teach? What biases do you have? How do you recognize your privilege in your class and attempt to disrupt it?
  • Ask students what they like about the activities offered and co-construct a curriculum with them rather than for them (see @EimearEnright for more information on this approach).
  • Take a sociocritical approach when adopting a models based practice (see @DillonLandi paper below). Rather than focus on a sport and health curricular adopt adventure education (see @AdventureEdGuy for some ideas), cooperative learning (see @VGoodyear Vlogs), and cultural studies models (read paper below by @Derghill56 and Gary Kinchin). These models focus on students using teamwork, taking responsibility and ownership of the task at hand and demonstrating a critical approach to their movement experience.

Lastly, remember your job as a physical education teacher is not apolitical, you are responsible for making the world a fairer place beginning with the confines of your teaching space.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to reach out to me for more information on anything above.

Extra reading on the ideas above:

Social justice agenda in physical education paper:

Azzarito, L., Macdonald, D., Dagkas, S., & Fisette, J. (2017). Revitalizing the physical education social-justice agenda in the global era: Where do we go from here? Quest, 69(2), 205-219.

Sociocritical approach to models based practice:

Landi, D., Fitzpatrick, K., & McGlashan, H. (2016). Models Based Practices in Physical Education: A Sociocritical Reflection. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education35(4), 400-411.

Debunking the obesity epidemic:

Gard, M., & Wright, J. (2005). The obesity epidemic: Science, morality and ideology. Routledge. Find the book going cheap here: *

Hegemonic masculinity study:

Parker, M. B., & Curtner-Smith, M. D. (2012). Sport education: A panacea for hegemonic masculinity in physical education or more of the same?. Sport, Education and Society17(4), 479-496.

Cultural studies model:

Best book I have read this year:

Sensoy, O., & DiAngelo, R. (2017). Is everyone really equal?: An introduction to key concepts in social justice education. Teachers College Press. Find the book here:

*not plugging amazon in any way just providing a visual for the exact book*

Written by Shrehan Lynch – April 21, 2018 – originally posted to: