Educator Testimonials

Inclusion in school communities begins with the understanding that everyone is part of the whole and deserves an environment where they can meaningfully contribute, participate, and thrive. While good intentions and an understanding of the benefits of equity are a solid start, they aren’t enough to create lasting change. For that, we need a holistic approach that prioritizes equity and values diversity and inclusion.

The Health and Physical Education (H&PE) curriculum is based on the vision that the knowledge and skills students acquire in the program will enable them to live healthy active lives and thrive in an ever-changing world. We know that belonging is the foundation of quality H&PE. We also recognize that, historically, H&PE has played a role in Canada’s colonialism, and that it continues to be implicated in racism, ableism, and many other oppressive behaviours in the education system. This is why an equity-centred approach is more important now than ever.

This section includes various testimonials from educators of different identities, backgrounds, abilities, and experiences across Ontario. The testimonials can provide an opportunity for educators to reflect on their own practice and to guide a healthy dialogue with colleagues on the value of well-being, equity, and human rights in H&PE.

Testimonial from an H&PE Elementary Educator

“As an educator, it is critical to understand how the origins and practices of our Health and Physical Education curriculum have influenced the education and experiences of our students over time. When thinking of my own experiences, I see a very complex relationship with exclusion, especially for our students with disabilities. Growing up, I can’t think of any disabled students in my Physical Education classes. It wasn’t until I learned about our history with institutionalization that my own interest and learning about the value of integration and inclusion began to grow. To me, reflection is a necessary step of the process to better promote inclusivity and respect diverse perspectives. Knowing the history of the disabled community allows us to question and challenge the biases and assumptions that we have about our marginalized students. As an educator, I continue to make a conscious effort to use my positionality, power and privilege to support students with disabilities in my H&PE program. One of the simplest and most important steps is to prioritize building trusting and genuine relationships with my students and their families. One strategy I embed in my practice to affirm the identities of students with disabilities at the beginning of the school year is taking the time to ask all my students what physical activity means to them and their families. This simple question helps me dig deeper to learn more about my students, their interests, and how they define movement.”

Testimonial from a Generalist Elementary Educator

“When I look at Health and Physical Education and the traditional games that are introduced and taught, they are focused on activities that are widely accepted by the North American society. We have Black, Brown and Indigenous students who may have no connection to these activities, but who are growing up learning about these activities where the content being used is rooted in traditional, white, North American practices. As educators, we need to take into account the identities in our schools across Ontario. I think we are doing an injustice if we do not focus on the different cultures and parts of the world that our students come from. If you don’t have that knowledge or training, take the time to better your own learning. Learn from a community member. Get to know your students, and their cultures and backgrounds. In my H&PE class, I try to make the learning relevant to them and connect with their personal and cultural identities, to bring that to the forefront of my lessons. When I look at the demographic and needs of my own class, they are all racialized students of Asian, South Asian, East Asian descent. For example, when I teach the healthy eating topic, am I really going to show them all these fruits and vegetables that most likely won’t show up on their plate? I take the time to ask them what foods they eat at home, and how this may be connected to the celebrations and traditions they value in their culture and family. Asking these types of questions makes learning more meaningful and real for them. They see themselves reflected in the curriculum.”

Testimonial from an H&PE Secondary Educator

“In my own Health & Physical Education experience, what was shared and taught in university was a North American and Eurocentric focus on traditional sports. There weren’t enough opportunities provided to learn about games that are played in different parts of the world. Today, teachers are still giving tests on the knowledge of where basketball, hockey and soccer was invented, and the rules of how these games should be played. This approach to teaching in H&PE excludes students who might not see or value these sports as a form of physical activity. What about all the other students who are left out? The focus needs to shift in terms of what meaningful experience is for our students and learning how to provide them with opportunities to share practices and interests from their own backgrounds and cultures. At the secondary level, I feel that we need to redefine what success means for each student. When you live a life of privilege, you don’t understand the barriers that some students are feeling and experiencing. When you’ve grown up in a family that has always encouraged you to participate in physical activity, it is hard to understand students who are not like you. I am fortunate because I see myself in those minority students. Growing up as a racialized student, I was fortunate to have had great teachers who valued my differences. Someone was there for me that changed the course of my life. I believe that we will only make progress when teachers in a school community become a unified group. The responsibility should not fall on minority teachers. To reach students who are marginalized, we need to do this together. Have the courage to step outside of your comfort zone. Use resources that reflect the diversity in our classrooms. Allow students to share their interests and curiosity and determine what units to be taught in H&PE. Provide opportunities for students to share and demonstrate their skills in games and activities in which they can excel in. Teachers need to move out of their comfort zone.”

Testimonial from an H&PE Secondary Educator

“Taking the time to understand the history of disabled people and how they’ve been excluded in education is important to help us move forward to create meaningful change, and to normalize differences in H&PE. I teach the Grade 12 Leadership course (PLF4M, Recreation & Healthy Active Living Leadership) and use this as an opportunity to support students in their learning and understanding that students with disabilities are often excluded in H&PE. One of the goals in this course is to provide opportunities for students with and without disabilities to teach and learn in an integrated environment to experience the importance of playing together, where everyone, with the right supports, can have access to healthy active living.

If you truly believe in quality H&PE, then it should be for everyone. Not just for non-disabled students. Start small. Take the time to help students, with and without disabilities, to build relationships together in a meaningful way through H&PE and physical activities across the school day. As a teacher who is passionate about inclusion, I use my positionality to breakdown assumptions of what others think disabled students can or cannot do.”

Testimonial from an H&PE Secondary Educator

“Be comfortable talking with your students, their families and community members. Move beyond what you do in the classroom. When you are on duty, talk to the students. This is where you learn more about them. At dismissal, talk to the parents and caregivers. I teach in a community that is comprised of Asian, South Asian and Pakistani families. When I talked to the families, they shared a lot of their physical activity experiences from their home country such as the game of cricket and net ball. I started introducing the skills and concepts used in the game of cricket in physical education, and then it got to a point where outside at recess the students would go out of their way to get the wickets and bats and they’d be playing together. The more time you spend with the students and their families, the more you can build a relationship that will help create an environment of belonging and respect to foster growth and learning.

As a racialized teacher, I use my positionality, power and privilege to acknowledge and disrupt oppressive systems to affirm and centre the identities of students in H&PE. Sometimes I’ve had colleagues share inappropriate comments about certain groups of students. I’ve learned to have difficult conversations and a healthy dialogue to challenge different viewpoints and perspectives. You have to sit down and take the time to talk to your colleagues. I had to talk with my colleagues to call them in and express that they can’t say stuff like that and provide more context in the reasons why.”