During the 2016-2017 school year, we are presenting a series of posts about the PKS approach to learning. This installment features our school’s athletic director Carla Carbajal. Read past installments on progressive education, Mandarin immersion, Habits of Character, social-emotional learning, art, and music.
Q: In an age of standardized tests, outdoor time is often pushed to the side. Why is it so important to prioritize health and physical activity?
With today's society, with everything that's going on with technology, we definitely need that extra push for kids to engage in physical activity. We need them to be encouraged to go outside, and to play, and to have fun, see the world, see plants not through the computer, see the trees, get some air. We have PE twice per week in elementary school, outside play during recess, and scheduled play during lunch time. We offer extracurricular activities, too. So, just in case they don't feel like they're burning enough energy, we have soccer, basketball, volleyball, cross country, track and field, t-ball, baseball -- everything kids love.
Q: How do you think about athletic competition in the context of a progressive school?
Every time I have a game, I have one thing I tell my team every single time. I tell them, "Do I care if you win or lose?" And they know the answer -- I honestly don't. Then I ask them “Do I care if you try?" And the answer to that is definitely yes. So, to me, it doesn't matter about the outcome, and they know that. Regardless of the score, whether it's 0 to 100 and they beat you by 100 points, it doesn't matter to me, as long as I see you try. I don't want to see anyone just give up and say, "You know what, we're losing, and I'm done." You just try to push and tell them, "Next year we'll get better." We have a growth mindset.
Some of our children love sports and are naturally gifted at it. On the other hand, some of them need a little bit of encouragement, but we find a balance between them. We'll have a few players helping out another player. And if, for some reason, one player is just feeling really out of it, I'll have another player talk to them. I really try to focus on the positive outcomes for the growth of each child. If we play a game and lose 7-1, but a child who has never scored a goal scored, that to me is the biggest success I could hope for.
Q: How do you work to encourage kids who may not naturally be inclined to sports?
I do have some of those kids. With them, I try to excite them when they see the progress they’re making over time. If they can advance, I promise them I’ll do pushups or run laps for them, and they do love that.
Q: Why should parents consider signing their kids up for PKS team sports?
It’s great fun for them. We play hard and it’s a terrific social experience for them. They enjoy being with their teammates, hanging out after the game, talking about memories of the game, and just relaxing and having fun.
Q: You played sports for a year in college. What was that like?
I was the smallest on the team. I'm 5' 3" and so my coach pushed me, every time, "Carla, you have to be under 7 minutes with your mile. We want it at 6:30. You have to do it. If you don't do it, you're going to do it again until you get it." I definitely had to push myself to keep up with the taller players.
Q: What is your favorite part about PKS?
The families. I have to say, for sure, the families. It's just very genuine, very loving. Whenever we have a game, all the parents are there supporting their kids. They bring food, they bring laughter, they bring joy, positive energy. I love my job, I love what I do, because of the atmosphere, because of the environment, because of the kids, and the parents.
And I love working with children. If there's one student who is struggling, I'm going to focus on that student, and I say, "You know what? I'm going to make you love PE. We're going to find something that you're going to like."
At times, I will cater around a child if it's their birthday, or if they're having a hard time, to get them to push themselves. I view each child as a unique individual and it’s my job to help them grow. I know their weaknesses, but I know what they can improve on, and I know their attitude, and I know what they're capable of.
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