Gym Teac Sorry, physical education professionals are not given the respect they deserve. There’s the old joke, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym.” Nothing could be further from reality, though. Despite the spoofs and stereotypes, they quietly do about the most difficult job in education.
Let’s start with debunking the joke. Most teachers both can and do. They just teach on top of that. Phys ed teachers in particular are almost all very good athletes, or at least were when they were young. Even if the occasional klutz sneaks in, there are other ways to “do” phys ed. They might be great coaches or motivators or trainers.
Now, think about what physical education teachers actually do while they teach. Most teachers are doing everything in their power to get kids calm. Not these teachers. Part of their goal is to get kids moving, get their heart rates up. And they keep control of the whole class while doing so. Even with the current practice of mainstreaming everyone, no other teachers have to deal with a greater discrepancy between kids who are good at the subject and kids who are bad at it; kids who like it and kids who hate it. Phys ed teachers need to keep everyone involved despite that. If a regular teacher fails to keep the kids engaged, maybe some kids will be bored and their grades will suffer. For the phys ed teacher, kids will get hurt.
Plus, as much as LA and STEM teachers like to talk about the importance of their subjects, the most important thing kids get out of school is the social and emotional learning. No one teaches those lessons better than physical education teachers. It’s not just teamwork, how to win, and how to lose either. The kids learn how to accept people regardless of ability level. They learn how to cooperate with others, even others that they don’t like. They learn how to handle pressure and time management. These are important life lessons.
It’s often said that teachers deserve more respect. If that’s true, then none deserve it more than the folks who teach physical education. We think of school as reading, writing, and arithmetic, so it’s easy for them to go unnoticed. It’s time we changed that.