“If a Bee Stings You, Give it a Flower”

Perspective:  Seeing life through the lens of a child. 

Recently, we were deep into the culminating lesson of our team handball unit. After several fundamental classes based on skills and lead-up games, we decided it would be fun to break our class into teams of three to play small-sided, competitive games. The students would have a chance to apply their well-rehearsed skills plus their new and existing knowledge of strategy to a competitive setting.  We, the teachers, would also have the opportunity to observe and reinforce gamesmanship and proper game etiquette. After all, once the scoreboard is turned on, sportsmanship can take on multiple personalities. Our numbers allowed us to have four games going on at once. Three of the four games were in cruise control. We witnessed shared responsibilities, movement from each player, strategic passes, integrity, and positive communication. They were a thing of beauty.

Our fourth game was equally poetic…or so we thought.

It is customary during the closing minutes of our classes to meet in the center of the gym as a group to process the day’s lesson. On this occasion, we asked the students to comment on their games, specifically, the participation, communication, gamesmanship, and integrity. Following several uplifting comments and compliments, one student raised her hand and stated that her team was NOT nice to her.

“When I dropped a pass, one of my teammates yelled at me. It’s not like I meant to miss the ball. It made me NOT want to play anymore.” Nearly in tears, it was apparent the girl was sincerely stung by the words of her teammate.

Anticipating a rebuttal from at least one of her teammates, there was nothing but silence. With the end of our time together quickly approaching, I was about to intervene when a hand shot up in the center of the group. Eager to share, the student exuded her familiar look of confidence and determination as she calmly waited to be called upon. It was a look that said, I know exactly how to remedy this situation.

I gladly called on Celeste.

My mom was recently trying to sell our house. She spent a lot of time getting the house in order so that people who were interested in buying the house would be impressed. She even baked cookies so the house would smell nice. A man and a woman came to look at our house. They were kind of obnoxious. They were saying things that didn’t make my mom happy. They didn’t seem to appreciate our house. When they left, my mom was really sad. She had worked so hard. So I just told my mom If a bee stings you, give it a flower! Maybe they had a bad day. Maybe they need us to be nice to them. Don’t let their mean words hurt you. Instead, maybe they need our kind words. We have a beautiful house, and it even smells like cookies.”

 With that, there was a brief silence in the gym. Thirty-nine other students and two teachers were in complete reflection mode. Celeste’s words were INDEED the perfect remedy for the situation. If a bee stings you, give it a flower.  So simple. So meaningful.

“How can we apply this to our situation?”

Without hesitation, Celeste responded. “That’s easy! You look the person who was being mean in the eye, and with a smile give them a friendly pat on the shoulder, then carry on. Go about your business. When people tell me I’m short, I just shrug my shoulders, give them a smile and go about my business.”

Often in life, we’re going to get stung by a bee. People are going to say or do mean things to us. How we respond to that bee sting is up to us. You can leave in the stinger, allowing it to fester and get infected, and over time, the pain will eventually lessen then go away. Or you could remove the stinger, apply ice, and understand the bee was simply trying to survive and protect itself or its family.

In any case, we should reflect not only on Celeste’s empathetic and compassionate statement, but the action she had poised behind those words.  As parents and teachers, we are constantly looking for the perfect, appropriate, and impacting lessons to impart on our kids. But maybe next time conflict arises, we should stop our words in their tracks and allow children to share their thoughts, flourishing in their own teachable moments.


Justin has been teaching physical education for 22 years.  He began his career teaching in Washington, DC before moving to Atlanta, Georgia to teach at Trinity School.  He is happily married and has three beautiful children who are constantly KEEPING HIM IN MOTION!

Recess: Lessons From the Playground



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

On this beautiful fall day, I am one of three teachers on recess duty. A sense of calm fills the playground – ready for the children who love their time outside. Minutes later, 80-3rd Grade students explode onto the playground for 30 minutes of learning.

Recess – their daily, self-guided class, is officially underway.

As I stand on one end of our track, I’m in a centralized location where I witness the outdoor education in full swing:


In the middle of the field I observe the early stages of a football game developing. The students thoughtfully divided the teams, ensuring the balance of power is relatively equal. I can tell the players are satisfied based on how quickly the game begins. Throughout the game I witness several small confrontations, all of which were resolved through redo’s, rock, paper scissors, or simple problem solving.


Just off the track there was a game of 4-square taking place. Students were lined up, patiently waiting their turn to enter the game. Again, like the football game, there were several close calls challenging the students to resolve conflict. Despite the disputes, the game would consistently resume with no hard feelings and continued excitement.


I quickly noticed the football game abruptly stop. There was a small group of boys and girls who wanted a space to play soccer. I wanted to intervene and share my solution, however I resisted the temptation to help. Instead, I observed, and within no time the football game quickly moved to the far end of the field, creating ample space for the soccer game.


I then look beyond the track into Discovery Playground. Six students were gathering wood and branches, dragging them to a triangular structure constructed out of long sticks, resembling a tepee. To the left I witnessed two more students pretending to hunt. I soon realized they were preparing for the “long winter ahead.” Their game was based on, The Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was impressed by their connection to literature.


As I turn to my right, toward the playground equipment, I see a flurry of activity, which at first glance, seems to be chaos. There were boys and girls running in all directions. Some were fleeing while others were chasing. The game appeared to be a variation of Capture the Flag. To an outsider, the rules seemed complicated and without boundaries. To its creators, the game made perfect sense.


IMG_20151101_214113My attention is then drawn to excitement and laughter just beyond the soccer game.   A group of girls were working together to choreograph a dance. One of the girls was teaching her friends a cheer from her cheerleading team. In just a short time the girls were in sync, and had learned both the cheer and the routine.





IMG_20151101_213840I see a boy running alone on the track. His pace seems to quicken after each lap. I then noticed he was acquiring a fan club, which was standing next to another teacher on recess duty. As his peers began chanting his name, he began to sprint as if being chased by a dog. As he crossed in front of the teacher, he collapsed with exhaustion. The students exploded with excitement when the teacher called out, “7:21!” This was a new personal record for the runner. He apparently attempts to break his PR once a week. One of his buddies helped him up and escorted him to the water fountain. I appreciated his empathy and support.


Finally, the whistle blows and recess has come to an end. 3rd Grade students immediately race to their lines. Within seconds, there are 4 lines standing at the door, ready to go inside. Three students are packing up the recess equipment into their bag when they realize a basketball is missing. Another student sees the ball near the courts, hustles over to get it, and places it in the bag.

NOW, recess is complete.  Another day in the students’ outdoor classroom is a success.

From a teacher’s perspective, recess duty is an opportunity to watch students grow physically, emotionally, and socially, in an unstructured environment.  It’s a time when we put the plan book away and allow PLAY to provide the lesson.

Learner, Thinker, Writer:  Justin Cahill (@justybubPE) serves Trinity School as a Physical Education Teacher.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more of what I have to say about keeping kids in motion, follow my blog: jcahillpe.wordpress.com

Be sure to check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

The Art of Losing

I recently had the honor of coaching my son’s U9 lacrosse team.  As a culminating event, we participated in a 2-day tournament along with several other Metro Atlanta teams.  The weather was beautiful and the competition was great!  However, as I coached our games and watched several others, I began to notice a pattern develop.  When teams began to face adversity and ultimately lose a game, storm clouds would roll in despite the cloudless skies.  Parents would inevitably begin screaming at the other team, blaming the referees, and demanding retribution.   Instead of greeting their children with smiles following the game, they would instead seek out a coach, referee, or another parent to demonstrate their disgust, all in plain view of their sons.  What message is this sending their child?  Frustrated and disgusted, I was inspired to send the following message to the parents of my team.

It’s always tough to end the season with a loss.  However, losing can be such a positive learning experience for all of us.  It’s easy to make excuses and justify each loss by blaming the referees or the other team’s aggressive style of play, the weather, or the bumpy uneven playing field.  What does this actually accomplish?  Sometimes we just need to accept that we simply scored less points than the other team.  Losing is becoming a lost art form.  It’s our job to teach our gang that it’s okay to come out on the short end, even if as parents, we feel there was an unfair advantage.  Let’s use it as motivation and reflect on what we can do as an individual or team to better our chances next time. Let our children develop their own mechanism to handle defeat. Allow our players to be kids and have fun.  Let’s model gracious behavior both in victory and defeat.  Following a tough loss, the last thing our guys want to do is dwell on it.  Losing is not the end of the world.  A positive character is what will make our budding sons into great men.  That is priceless.  

The way a child handles failure can help them to face the certain failures life will throw them in the future.  The worst thing for us to do as parents is give negative advice and justify every loss with excuses immediately after a disappointment.  We need to let our children cope in their own way.  In my experience as a teacher and coach, a child generally takes about 1-2 minutes to recover from a loss.  Then they just want to play, have fun, or take a trip to Dairy Queen.  Together, let’s win back the art of losing!