Finding a Mentor in Physical Education

Episode Transcript:

On today’s podcast. I want to talk to you about the topic of mentorship and the important role that mentors can play in helping develop the next generation of physical education professionals.

Welcome to the PE express podcast two to three times a week, a PE expert will share a tip, activity idea, or teaching strategy to help you become a better PE professional. Today’s host is a passionate physical education teacher leader from Geneva, Illinois. He is a national presenter and the 2019 Illinois APHERD Elementary PE teacher of the year, Mike Graham.

Let me set up a little bit of a the story for you. Picture with me, a college freshmen entering school for the first time. They study hard for four years. They complete their student teaching requirement and they graduate. Now, most of those kids are going to apply for several jobs. They’re going to go online and complete all the applications. They’re going to go through an extensive interview process, and if they’re lucky, they’ll get the call offering them their first adult job and they accept. Now the question is now what? You know, where do I start next? What do I need to do to get myself ready for that first year of my career? Well, my advice would be to connect yourself with a good mentor and you’re probably thinking, wait a minute, there’s a million other more important things I need to do then find a mentor and I get it because you’re out to change the world.

You want to impact future generations, you want to make a difference. You’re on fire and that’s great, but the problem is that somewhere along the way, those flames that are burning bright right now as a young professional, they start to die out and whether that stems from an administrator’s critical evaluation or maybe overbearing parent interactions, just dealing with difficult students in general. Perhaps you have a colleague or maybe you work in a department with people that have different, a different philosophy than you do. I mean, you name it, it doesn’t take long and you start to feel those signs of burnout from the stress, the long hours, the lack of sleep, just that unhealthy working and home balance. I mean, you name it, it leaves a lot of young teachers doubting their career choice. A recent studies show that teacher dropout rates are ranging anywhere from 40 to 50% within those first five years of teaching.

Now, to me that’s an alarming statistic. I mean, let’s face it, new teachers are in survival mode already when they begin, you know, they’re just learning the ropes and they don’t need a map. What they need is an experienced guide on hand. Someone to help them navigate those first few years of their teaching journey and they’re going to need someone to bounce ideas off. You’re going to need someone to share those frustrations with and you want someone there in your corner to celebrate those successes and be your cheerleader. I mean, there really is no book out there that’s going to adequately prepare you. College is not going to have adequately prepared you for what you’re going to encounter. What you need is a real life person who’s been in the trenches, who’s done what you’re doing, and they have your best interests at heart, and that’s really what a mentor can offer.

I mean, there’s no doubt in my mind that many young teachers coming into the profession today are well intentioned. They’re eager to take risks and they want to teach creatively and those are all great things and a good mentor is going to recognize those qualities and they’re going to be a source of encouragement along the way. They’re going to help guide you when you get off course, they’re going to share their experience and knowledge with you to help you experienced success. They’re just going to be someone who’s there to kind of lead you through and navigate those waters. Now if you’re wondering where can I find a person like this? Well, all you need to do is go to our national professional organizations webpage, go to, type in the word mentor in the search box. You’re going to find directions and how to search through the mentor directory and hopefully find a compatible mentor for you. If you’re on the other end of the spectrum and you’re an experienced teacher and you’d like to be a mentor yourself, there’s directions to enroll there as a mentor as well. Either way, our profession needs mentors and it needs young teachers to take advantage of this often untapped resource. Being a mentor or connecting with one just might be one of the best professional decisions you make.

One Response

  1. I couldn’t agree more that mentor is a key part to being successful as a new teacher. If you can find a great one they can help you navigate so many pitfalls and really help you get your career off to a good start! Thanks for sharing!

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