Episode 67 – Helping Students Succeed with Christina Polatajko

In this episode of The PE Geek Podcast I’m joined by none other than Christina Polatajko who shares her journey to the Physical Education classroom.  Christina is a shining example of why it pays to connect via social platforms & use these as an opportunity to grow personally & professionally. We also speak throughout the episode about the importance of striving for effective use of technology in physical education & how it can help students succeed.

Topics touched on this episode include;

  1. Her PE Tech group concept working at her school
  2. iDoceo & Comic Life
  3. Video Delay & Coach’s Eye
  4. Adobe Spark
  5. Google Forms
  6. Flipped Learning
  7. Follow Christina on Twitter
  8. Visit her website here

Press play to listen to the episode below or listen here. Alternatively, download a full episode transcript here


[00:00:30] Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone and welcome to episode 67 of the PE Geek podcast and always it’s an absolute pleasure to be here. Now these are my favorite episodes particularly when we get to Australians. Now, not that I have a thing against people from other countries but my Australian compatriots are doing some amazing work and today we have none other than Miss Physical Education herself, Christina. How are you?

[00:00:54] Christina Polatajko: Thank you Jarrod, thanks for having me on today. It’s great to be here and yeah, so thank you.

[00:01:00] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, absolute pleasure. So where abouts are you joining us from at the moment?

[00:01:05] Christina Polatajko: At the moment I’m from Melbourne down in Victoria and I’ve just been my home place for the last 31 years and I’ve been teaching in Melbourne as well down at western suburbs and now in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. I started out at Taylor’s Hill primary school for six years and I started as a graduate and I was lucky enough to build a culture there as we opened up the school and I was there from day one. Last year I decided it was time to move on and develop my learnings and more and now I’m at Aitken Creek Primary School which is in Craigieburn.

[00:01:50] Jarrod Robinson: Awesome, so you’re the absolute epitome of someone who absolutely understand the power of being connected and working with other teachers and part of the Ozzie phys ed wave of innovations and things that are happening. I’m going to absolute applaud you for that. But, can you take us right to the beginning when you had that first idea of wanting to be a phys ed teacher. Do you remember what sparked that or was there a moment or–?

[00:02:17] Christina Polatajko: Well, I must admit when I was in high school I had no idea what I wanted to do. All I know that I wanted to do something sports, something with the kids. But I just never had the, I guess the marks, the motivation in a way to think oh what am I going to do. So I went back into TAIF and I did a two year course at sports development and I went back the way into uni and finally got into bachelor of education at Victoria University. I studied there for four years and I was lucky enough to get a position at Taylor’s Hill.

But in terms of making that connection I had no idea what was out there, no idea, and I had no idea that about seven years later I would be speaking to the PE Geek, to you Jarrod and actually really making difference not just to my students but to the rest of the teachers around the world and just inspire them. But yeah, I just love it, I love what I do, I love the connections that I make every day whether it be with the Ozzie phys ed or whether it just be other phys ed and generalist teachers around the world and to see how can I take their learning, their knowledge into my teaching.

So it’s just brilliant because every day something new pops up thinking oh wow, that’s brilliant, that’s simple and that’s just fantastic and that’s just all by connections. You’ve got to get yourself out of that comfort zone to put yourself out there.

[00:03:51] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah. I mean it really is, it is a comfort zone thing initially like you worry that if you’re going to be connecting that maybe you say or do something that people don’t agree with but I mean everyone’s got a different and unique perspective. So that’s the first thing that everyone can offer and there’s so much value to it, like you’ve said and it’s hard to actually realize it until you do it. Someone just recently mentioned to me it’s sort of like the matrix you don’t know what the matrix is until you’re part of the matrix.

[00:04:22] Christina Polatajko: No, that’s right, that’s right. Absolutely. That’s what it is, you have to give it a go because there’s no point just sitting there waiting for something to happen. You’ve got to get out there, you’ve got to make a difference. Well if it doesn’t work out, well hey that’s okay, why didn’t it work out, how can I change it for next time or where do I go to ask for some help and feedback, it’s okay. That’s what I always think, it’s okay to be, to have a go and if things don’t go your way, well try again.

[00:04:51] Jarrod Robinson: So what about your current school and the previous school that you were at? Was there other phys ed teachers in the department or was it just you as a specialist or how was that structured?

[00:05:02] Christina Polatajko: Yeah, so my old school I was the only PE teacher until probably about two years ago where we had part time PE teachers and part time specialists as our numbers increased. So I was running the PE department and I was also running the local district School Sports Victoria within our district and that kept me busy, absolute busy and I loved it.

Now moving onto my new school, there are two full time PE teachers which is great because we’ve got just over 900 students and so this enables for us to work together and to create that quality physical education program. I’m still involved with School Sports Victoria and helping out with our district at the moment. S

o yeah, at the moment there’s two of us and this is the first time that I’ve worked with a full time PE teacher as a team teaching process. You get your challenges but main thing is you’ve got to collaborate together and if you don’t collaborate there’s an issue, not just for you but for the students who are there wanting to learn all about the physical activity, the health side of education as well. So it’s been a great challenge, a really rewarding challenge as well. So yeah, at the moment it’s just the two of us and yeah.

[00:06:41] Jarrod Robinson: So definitely a new world. I mentioned it because lots of primary schools they do only have one sort of specialist don’t they, that’s not uncommon.

[00:06:51] Christina Polatajko: That’s right, that’s right.

[00:06:52] Jarrod Robinson: That’s what’s in elementary school and that’s just more emphasis as to why people need to go and find and get connected because you don’t have to be alone you don’t have to be at all. I’m sure you would say the same thing.

[00:07:03] Christina Polatajko: No, and that’s right. I guess you’ve got that choice though. You’ve got the choice you can go to professional development, you can on Twitter, you go on the Facebook, you can source out some emails, some context. Once that’s been given to you it’s up to you to actually put into practice and that could be a big difference between a lot of PE teachers and teachers in general that if they really want to continue to make a difference with their learning and their teaching, well hey you’ve got to take that first step.

Once you’re in that cycle you won’t get back out because I joined Voxer last year and I’ve got to give a shout out to Danny Zito who is another phys ed teacher, he got me on to it. The notifications that we get every day and the chats that will come up every day is just unbelievable and that’s run by Andy Hair as well. That’s probably the best professional development that I get. Every day there’s something new, every hour there’s something new, there’s a new question that pops up. So you’ve got to be the one to say yup, I’m in this, I’m in this for the right reasons and I’m actually going to work hard so I can get something out of this.

[00:08:24] Jarrod Robinson: For sure and I love that approach. Leading onto obviously how this eventually you got connected, where was the sort of point where you decided that technology and using that in your practice was something that you valued?

[00:08:39] Christina Polatajko: Yeah, yeah, good question. I probably started using technology towards the end of 2014. So the first four years of my teaching were very old school, I wasn’t really exposed to technology, I was just going in and out of my job thinking yup doing a great job here, kids are loving it. But I went to PD that Bernie Holland and Andy Hair were running in Geelong called iPhysical and I was blown away of what could be done in your classrooms with just a small use of technology.

So I sort of thought oh well I’ll jump on board and I’ll have a look. I joined Twitter and I then was able to purchase an iPad which was a start. From there I was just able to do some research on the apps and what would work more with my students and how it would benefit for them. From there on I’ve, as you might see on Twitter I can’t live without it, I can’t live without ICT and the students are expectant now in my class, they expect something to be wow in my class.

That doesn’t say you forget about the whole physical side of PE, but the challenge is how you can incorporate that technology side into PE so because we got to meet students half way because we must admit the students are on the devices. So how are we going to then incorporate that ICT in PE so then they continue to build on the knowledge of their physical activity and so on.

So I’ve, this year I recently started up a group at my new school called the PE tech group, this is a group of students from grades 3 to 6 who run the session on how using technology will benefit physical activity. So recently my students have just created some small flick learning. So they were able to post this onto our student drive and then students were able to complete their learning at home using technology and physical activity. So yeah, there’s just amazing, amazing out there.

[00:11:05] Jarrod Robinson: It’s rabbit hole isn’t it? Like once you go down it then you look at opportunities. I think you’ve made a really good point about it can be used to improve the physical activity outcomes that students have, I mean it absolutely can be. If you’re using it and it’s detracting from those things then it’s quite possible that you’re not using it for the right intents and purposes. There’s a million examples of what you can do. So what are your favorites? What are the things that you like to do?

[00:11:32] Christina Polatajko: I’ve recently, look the assessment side of it and keeping my assessment tools just check list on iDoceo that’s just my number one favorite, it’s a buyable for me and for a lot of teachers. I’ve recently found a love for Adobe. I went to the TeachTechPlay conference in Melbourne recently in April and I was able to get ahold of, I think his name’s Tim Kitchen from Adobe and he, the way he sort of explained the use of using these apps in adobe and how they can really play a powerful role in student learning was amazing. But I can’t go wrong with Coach’s Eye that was probably my number one source, that high sort of wow leading onto and amazing little things with Coach’s Eye. The Video Delay, that’s a huge one for the students, even just bits and pieces like Comic Life to make posters to engage students in that way. Adobe Spark, the list goes on.

[00:12:49] Jarrod Robinson: There’s endless things.

[00:12:51] Christina Polatajko: Endless things, but the most important bit is how do you use it effectively and then you just don’t use it because it’s cool and it looks good for yourself but does it work for the students and is there a point of using it properly.

[00:13:06] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, really good advice. I love the awesome mention of iDoceo and using that as your record. I mean so many teachers, in a phys ed sense, just assume so much. But you can use it to capture real data and real evidence and it becomes absolutely viable and you’re not assuming anymore, you actually got some real evidence and that’s where the tool could be really powerful.

[00:13:26] Christina Polatajko: Yes. Absolutely, absolutely. That also you can use Google Forms. I know there’s a few that keep assessments are using their Google Forms, Google Sheets. I’ve got a little passion for the Google Forms and Sheets, I haven’t used it as much as I probably could use it, but I use it more as a survey or just for the students interschool sports, what do they want to participate. So it’s just easier to collect data as well.

[00:13:56] Jarrod Robinson: Absolutely and accessible to anyone. So anyone can go and jump into it, create a form for free and there’s no barrier for lots of this stuff we’re talking about now. So I think that’s the best part. I was recently in Africa working with teachers and all the things that we were sharing they all had access too and I think that’s a real, exciting quality that we have these days.

So tech is great, I’m obviously a massive advocate and for it. But I’m also a massive advocate for making mistakes. I think they’re quite valuable for us as teachers, so can you think to any moments where you’ve gone to use something and with the tech and to hang on this hasn’t worked as well as I might have liked or because mine’s riddled with things of that. Does anything stick out for you?

[00:14:44] Christina Polatajko: Well besides if you don’t have internet connect then you’re, either your lessons just going oh no, this is not working, let’s go to back up. Just, off the top of my head. If you don’t have that engagement level with the students and you sort of plan it and you create something through the use of technology and the students are just like looking at you like what’s that for, what’s that mean.

So I think, I mean I can’t really think of an episode in a way that something’s happened, but I know there have been times where I think oh that wasn’t, no I shouldn’t have used that, that’s just made it a bit more complicated or time wasting as well. So it’s more you got to get straight to the point and that’s where I like to use my flipped learning a lot recently where I can upload it to student drive, they can access that at home and they can complete the challenge. I don’t use the word homework at all, it’s a challenge. I use what’s called active time so they complete what needs to be completed with themselves and their family so they can then share it with their family and they know what they’re learning in PE as well. But yeah, I guess probably besides the internet connection, I don’t think nothing yet touch wood.

[00:16:09] Jarrod Robinson: I think that’s, I reckon you’ve mentioned a really important thing though and it’s you go to know the why and just that making sure that what you’re doing has a real purpose. So I think that’s the big message to come from that. Like everything I look at I’ve had situations like that too where I’ve thought hang on why did I just do that, that was way more complex or I’ve just added ten extra steps to something for the sake of not much benefit. Yeah, but this is what we need to be doing, we need to be trying things and reflecting. If you did it twice then that’s the issue, but if you make a mistake and adapt I think that’s a really good quality. So I think we’re on the same page there for sure.

[00:16:49] Christina Polatajko: That’s good, that’s good. No, that’s very good.

[00:16:52] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, I mean lots of things that we could talk about. I’m a real big advocate for tech in PE and people like yourself doing amazing things, especially recently with the flipped learning stuff. So you want to just dive a little bit deeper into that like the tool that they’re using you said is Student Drive, is that a specific tool?

[00:17:11] Christina Polatajko: Yeah, so well they’re on, our student drive is what’s called Showbie so it’s a digital portfolio for the students. So I upload my videos onto YouTube, on my YouTube page then I just put the link there, easy as that. With the students in my PE tech group, they save it onto their camera roll and they just upload it and it’s just so simple for them to do. The students get a real buzz out of it because then they’re really proud of their efforts and their work and the students who are watching it think oh wow, they’re doing then I can do it. So they look up to their peers and see that it’s not just Miss PE doing it, it’s actually they’re driving parts of the lesson and that’s what the aim of the PE tech group is how can we collaborate together and how can we, like I said earlier incorporate the ICT in PE with student driven as well.

[00:18:10] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah. So the PE tech group, are they characteristic students in the group who had that leadership quality around those tools or how did you decide on who they were?

[00:18:19] Christina Polatajko: Well there was a bit of a small application. It was more a sense of interest, who would be interested in participating and the commitment. So we have weekly meetings at like a lunch time club which goes for twenty minutes then they are set a small task for the week then they come back and we complete it. So it’s more, it was more so who was more interested and who would show that commitment.

So I had about 15 students then I just started with those 15 students then as the weeks went on I had my students who were committed and said yup, I want to do this. So it ended up with eight students and they don’t miss a meeting, they’re at my office every Monday afternoon, tapping on the window I’ve got my head down, like hurry up let’s go guys. So that just shows that they’re really interested and they’re keen and they’re keen to make a difference as much as I love to make a difference.

[00:19:20] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, I love that concept. Such a powerful way to get buy in from the students and that flows onto their peers. So I think that’s a really, really cool approach. So I mean you’re doing so many incredible things we could talk forever. Where can people go and find out more about the stuff that you’re doing if they want to connect?

[00:19:41] Christina Polatajko: Yeah, so just besides the ICT work I love creating my gym into a visual gym into a big classroom and if you want to see the word wall, the goal settings, the behavior management, you can go onto www.missphysicaleducation.com you can follow me on Twitter @cpola17, YouTube page you can just type in my full name and that’s it. Actually no, Facebook, I’ve started a Facebook page Miss Physical Education. So I’m just trying to tap into all audience so no one misses out because if I see someone liking it or sharing my idea I can then see what they’re doing, we’re just making a difference for our student learning and most importantly it’s, I’m not here just for myself I’m here to just guide other teachers around the world.

[00:20:41] Jarrod Robinson: Yeah, for sure. So many ways to connect, you really have no excuse to be able to connect in today’s [00:20:46] (unclear), it’s so easy, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. Connect with the medium that makes sense to you, go and check out the missphysicaleducation.com site, have a look at all the things she’s doing, connect online with here and continue the conversation. So thank you so much for jumping into this episode and i look forward to speaking soon!

[00:21:06] Christina Polatajko: Excellent, thank you very much Jarrod, pleasure.

[00:21:08] Jarrod Robinson: You’re welcome, see you.

[00:21:10] Christina Polatajko: Thank you.


The easiest way to listen to The PE Geek Podcast is via our dedicated mobile app, which you can download for FREE for iPhone/iPad & Android. The app will let you know when new episodes go LIVE & allow you to listen to all of the episodes while on the go. We even let you store files for offline playback so you don’t need to use your mobile data. Go download here.

Scroll to Top