Student’s Idea of PE versus the Reality

When I became a PE teacher it wasn’t my first professional job. I came about being a PE teacher through an alternative route after having another professional career for about 10 years. I knew coming into teaching that my methods and ideas of how to teach Health and PE would be different that the way that I experienced the class in school. I didn’t hate PE but I can’t remember loving it, or honestly learning anything either. Little did I know that I was up for a tough assignment due to the PE culture at my school.

The summer before I started in the classroom my colleagues and friends that had experience with my school kept telling me “anything you do will be better than what they had”. I wasn’t sure what that meant until I got in the classroom. The previous teacher would take the students to Chic-Fil-A EVERY SINGLE DAY. Here I am trying to get them moving, grooving and learning and I was battling students who had heard their PE would be fast food every day. Needless to say it was a culture I have had to overcome and are still overcoming.

The school I am at has a lot of siblings and even after 4 years I still hear that they wish they were just going to Chic-Fil-A every day. That’s hard to hear as an educator when you have big hopes and dreams for the things students will learn in your class.

So how do I deal with that? and the students who just want to play (insert sport here) every single day? My simple answer is communication and expectation.

I understand that high schoolers have an expectation that PE is a class where all they do is play and don’t put much value into the class and what they can get out of it. This is another blog post I could go on and on about as how PE educators have let students down by allowing that in their classrooms, but I won’t right now. Since students have this expectation of what they think the class will be, I communicate from the very first day how I run my class. I make sure they understand that we will be learning important topics, give them some examples, that they will have projects (we are a project based learning school), and that they will do things other than play sports for an entire class. Of course I get some moans and groans, but now they know what to expect and what NOT to expect.

I wish I could say that openly communicating early; and giving them an idea of how their year would go, would stop the “can’t we just play basketball” comments, but unfortunately it doesn’t. Each year I get less and less of that and more “I love that we are learning ……..” and that is my goal. I think I will continue to battle PE culture and past culture at my particular school for a little while longer. My hope is that if I keep doing what I know is best for the student’s my way of teaching will become the new culture and I will continue to get more and more buy in.

If you are a teacher reading this who does things differently in your classroom, no matter the subject, I would love for you to comment and let me know how you handle this?

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