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Teachers Talking Teaching

This is an excerpt from Introduction to Teaching Physical Education 2nd Edition With Web Resource.

Tips from a National Physical Education Teacher of the Year

Teaching Duties and Challenges

Jessica Shawley, MEd, NBCT

Moscow Middle School, Moscow, Idaho


Besides teaching, what other duties have you assumed during your teaching career?

When you become a physical education teacher, you become an integral part of the school community and will be called upon to serve in many capacities. Throughout my career, I have fulfilled several additional duties on top of my role as a physical education teacher, including department chair; grant writer; after-school sports coach; helping with before-school activity clubs and lunchtime intramurals; serving on school committees such as the Wellness, School Leadership, and District Leadership Committees; serving as my school's physical activity champion; and implementing a CSPAP model through the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.


My colleagues and I help in unofficial roles, such as planning field days, setting up technology for movies and assemblies, planning family nights, and collaborating with colleagues on cross-curricular projects.


What challenges you have faced as a physical education teacher?

There will always be challenges in teaching. The following four challenges come to the forefront.

  1. Misconceptions: It is my job to educate and advocate that physical education is an essential and necessary component for a child's education. Be ready to speak with colleagues, parents, administrators, board members, and especially your students on the importance of physical activity. Through my program, advocacy efforts, and positive dialogue with all my stakeholders, I have been able to build a supportive school and district environment that recognizes the value of what I teach and how it positively influences students.
  2. Funding: It's an age-old complaint—lack of funding in education—and may never be solved, so don't get caught up with those who complain about this issue all the time. Make the most of what you have and work to secure funding through grant writing, parent support groups, and local stakeholders. Never let funding become a barrier for providing a quality physical education program. Many choose to work hard at grant writing, myself included, to supplement program needs.
  3. Shared Teaching Space: Once you start teaching, you will quickly learn your gym is not just your gym (or teaching area) and that it's really everyone's gym from the school's perspective. Work with your administrators, custodians, colleagues, and other facility users on the expectations and norms for taking care of and sharing this space; this is a never-ending responsibility. A physical educator's teaching space is utilized more than almost any other area of the school. If you share your space with other physical education teachers, you will have to learn to work with them on sharing and caring for the equipment. Be prepared when the last-minute plans of others change your plans. Remain flexible and always have a backup plan. Then, proactively work together so that the same conflict will not happen again.
  4. Professional Development: Remaining up-to-date in your profession is your responsibility. Some schools and districts have professional development funding available. Be persistent. The answer no one year doesn't mean you should stop asking next year. Thankfully there are many free resources out there that you can take advantage of, such as webinars, social media support groups, and blogs. Joining my professional SHAPE America organization at the state and national level has been one of the best choices I ever made. This gave me access to research-based materials and resources, access to grant funding, support for any issues I was facing, and connections with other teachers to improve my practice and build my support system.

What advice do you have for future physical educators as they prepare to face various teaching duties or challenges?

Participate in your profession! Professional engagement is the “make it or break it” practice of developing and maintaining a successful career. Becoming a successful teacher is a continuous process; it is not a destination. Participate, connect, reflect, grow, and serve to help support this profession and keep it going strong.


Remember your why. Why is physical education critical for my students? Why am I a physical education teacher? Then put this why into action by answering these questions: How do I provide a quality program? What am I going to do to make this happen?


Remember just how much positive power and influence you can have at your school as its physical education teacher and physical activity champion. Surround yourself with people who love what they do and offer positive mentorship.


Remember what we are about: physical activity and enjoyment so that our students are healthy and active for a lifetime. Do not lose sight of the overall goal and purpose of your class. Be positive. Be professional. Be persistent. Do what is right. Follow best practices. Understand that change takes time. Build relationships, break down barriers, and work to understand the needs of your community to gradually improve your program.