"The key to being a successful adapted physical education teacher is the ability to adapt. It’s having an attitude that if something isn’t working, there’s got to be a better way."
In one of the adapted physical education classes he teaches, Professor Davis asks students to get up and “stand for” someone they know with a disability.
Eventually everybody stands, and this, he says, makes a powerful point: “Disability is an issue that touches everybody’s lives.”
Adapted physical education is physical education modified for people with disabilities, and no college does a better job of preparing teachers in this important field than Cortland. Our program was recently named number one in the nation by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD). It’s the perfect field for Professor Davis, a two-sport athlete in college whose parents both worked in special education.
The range of disabilities students might bring into a physical education class is broad — they might have learning disabilities, difficulties with speech, visual impairments or physical challenges. Some are in wheelchairs. Others look no different from anyone else.
And that’s one of the field’s biggest challenges. “It’s always a puzzle,” he says. “There’s no magic bullet. You have to get to know the child and figure out what will work.”
What works might involve playing games with equipment that’s easier to handle, or using over-sized balls or balls that beep. One game lets kids practice their balance on a rocking board that looks like a concave skateboard deck. Another is a little like playing Twister on a climbing wall.
Not surprisingly, the key to being a successful adapted physical education teacher is the ability to adapt. “It’s having an attitude that if something isn’t working, there’s got to be a better way,” Professor Davis says. “You struggle to figure it out and then once you get it, you can’t get enough.”