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1% Better

Fast food – there you have it. My ultimate vice. I, Seth T. Eckler, am a FAST FOOD JUNKIE, a JUNK JUNKIE, if you will. My mantra; Curse eating habits, activity reign supreme. Those of you that have a long drive to work might be able to relate, but after a long day of grinding, attempting to shape students into adequate and effective physical educators – a double-quarter ponder with cheese, no ketchup, extra pickles, seems…right. Ashamed is not a strong enough adjective to describe my feelings towards this admission. I know, seriously, I know, I’m a physical educator, I should be better. Yet I struggle to overcome this vice each day I start my car to head home because it has become — a habit.

In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear the author, highlights the overwhelming power and influence habits play in our lives. He presents strategies to both eliminate destructive habits and foster enriching ones, with the eventual goal being self-improvement. While reading the book, specifically one of the earlier chapters, Clear presents a concept that has been on my mind for the past few months. It undoubtedly has application to my fast food habit, but for this blog I wanted to connect it to our and my teaching habits.

The concept is simple. Clear says, “that if we can get better by 1% every day that by the end of the year our results will have improved by 37 times.” He provides more detail and specific examples in the book, but the general principle is that if we can make small meaningful changes in our lives that our results, whatever results those changes apply to, will increase substantially. One analogy he provides is that of compound interest. My wife handles the finances in our household (THANK GOD, WE’D BE BROKE!), but this financial example provides us with a picture of the 1% Better principle; little incremental deposits snowball into large gains.

This semester I chose to identify an area of weakness in my teaching and make small incremental changes to my daily routines to improve upon that weakness.

I decided that I wanted to improve the feedback that I was providing my students — provide equitable and meaningful feedback that would foster learning, not just provide a grade. This meant modifying existing routines like checking e-mail. New routine; blocking off consistent time to check and respond to e-mails (8:00 AM – 8:30 AM and 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM) and silencing e-mail notifications during all other times of the work day. This has allowed me to invest time in other areas that are essential to my improvement and avoid constantly hearing the beaconing “ding” of a new emergency. Other incremental changes led me to adopt new feedback practices, such as providing feedback to my students via “blurbs” – a short vlog that allows me to respond to students in a 2020 way. For each assessment, instead of just providing my students with written or verbal feedback, I provide the entire class with a 7-10-minute vlog that reflects upon what I saw from them. Also, I ask my students to upload “blurbs” — making them not only mentally reflect upon their learning, but verbalize their experience and what could be done in the future for refinement.

Applying the 1% Better principle to my teaching has been unquestionably one of the most impactful practices that I have incorporated to date in my young professional career. Half-way through the year, still making small incremental changes and consistently using them, I can honestly say I’m seeing results. Every day, 1% Better.

Dr. Eckler is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Physical Education Teacher Education in the Department of Health & Sport Sciences at the University of Louisville. He graduated from UK KHP in 2018. He teaches courses in physical education methods and growth and motor development.