by: Aaron Hart
I’ve spent much of my career working with and talking to hundreds of physical educators around the United States. As a result, I’ve collected some important words of wisdom over the years. Most of those gems focus on the importance of building a network of support with parents and like-minded colleagues.
For many physical educators, parents come into our classrooms with deeply held preconceptions – both good and bad. Some adults enjoyed physical education, and others have memories that they’d rather forget. There’s nothing we can do to change any of the negative experiences that adults endured as children. However, we demonstrate the many ways that our physical education programs are drastically different and truly valuable for their children.
Here are 3 tips for building a parent and colleague support system within your school.
Number 1: Be Consistent as a Professional
Show up to work every day with purpose and enthusiasm. Make it obvious that you have a plan, and that plan is focused on student engagement and learning. It’s not necessary to be obnoxious with your professionalism and rudely correct every parent who calls physical education “gym class.” However, people are watching what you do and how you do it. The more you show up as a physical educator, the more support you will receive from your non-physical education community.
Number 2: Invite the Community into Your Classroom
In many school buildings it would be easy to shut your door and do your thing. That level of isolation may seem comfortable in the moment. However, over the months and years of a career it will make the time much more difficult. Decorate your doors and keep them wide open. Let other adults know they’re welcome to observe or even participate in your program. Family PE Week is the perfect opportunity to either start or continue this practice!
Number 3: Be Patient
Great physical education empires are not built in a single day. Like all relationships, your physical education support system will take time. Be patient with parents who call you the “gym teacher” – reinforce the term physical education and teach them the difference over time. Be patient with colleagues who treat you as their prep rather than as an academically focused peer. Show them that you’re building a culture of learning and have rigorous expectations of your students. They’ll catch on eventually. If some of them don’t catch on, stay focused on the allies that you are making.
The last thing to add is the importance of finding physical educators within the larger community that you can connect with for inspiration and understanding. Join state and national organizations and groups. Stay connected with advocacy groups. Be an active member of the national physical education community. Active Schools and OPEN are two great places to get started.