Physical Education and movement classes rely heavily on spatial parameters to teach effective and safe lessons. Adequate PE teaching space is typically feast or famine in the physical education universe. For example, most high school and middle school physical education teachers typically have adequate space for reasonable class sizes. The vast majority of secondary schools have a gymnasium or large indoor space they can utilize. On the other side of the coin, many elementary or multilevel schools (K-8, K-12, etc.) do not have the adequate space set aside for traditional physical education classes.
So, what do you do if you do not have adequate space for your physical education classes?
Regardless of the spatial road blocks and hurdles, I would encourage you to “think outside the box” and find a way to identify space so that you can offer quality programming for your students. Your students deserve the professional programming and your Principal may or may not understand your dilemma, however I can guarantee they expect YOU to figure it out.
Tips for Identifying Suitable Teaching Space:
Become the best spokesperson for PE and the need for adequate space. Respectfully and professionally talk to anyone and everyone who might be able to help you and your students. The Principal, other colleagues, your department chair, PTA parents, booster clubs, community members, and so on. You never know where and when the cavalry might arrive to help you.
It is critical that you consistently and constantly advocate for adequate and professional space. It could be weeks, months, or even years before your requests are heard. But I can guarantee that if you are NOT vocal, your chances are greatly diminished. On the contrary, if you are professional, respectful, and perpetual in your request, you might find yourself with some form of space in the future.
Try to be creative with your space and with your planning or programming. You’ll need to be prepared to teach in a classroom with desks that can’t be moved one period, instruct in the cafeteria the next period, and then facilitate some other sort of activity in a hallway during lunch because it’s too cold or hot to go outside and there is absolutely no other space available in the school. Your ability to be creative and flexible will be paramount to avoiding professional paralysis and frustration as you tackle the spatial challenge.
Use what you have available to you, scour your school! Figure out if you have any large hallways, big storage areas, or spots that have been assigned for some “other” purpose. If so, request to have them repurposed to a Physical Education teaching space.
Hallways, foyers, and large areas can be transformed to be suitable programming space. If not, are there classrooms that are open during a particular period where you can move furniture quickly and use the room during that period? Are you able to use the cafeteria at any point during the day? What about any paved areas or stable/level walkways? Travel your school and its surrounding grounds with a new lens to see if anything could work.
Plan, Plan, and Over Plan
If you are teaching in limited spaces then it will be critical for you to have an unlimited and somewhat bottomless repertoire of activities in your educational arsenal. You’ll need to be ready to teach activities that might be somewhat unorthodox. The best defense to small spaces is to have an unlimited number of activities that work in all sorts of spaces.
Make the Best of Your Space ALL the Time
Be positive ALL the time! Never let them see you discouraged or upset about the space you are in. Instead, be sure to be energetic and enthusiastic for every class! You have the BEST job in the world being a Physical Education teacher, let the kids know it!
Students will naturally follow your lead and adopt your positive attitude. When you demonstrate that you are genuinely excited to be spending time with your class, they will respond and participate accordingly, regardless of the space!
So, if you are spatially challenged, do your best to find a suitable teaching space and be enthusiastic about it. Be creative to provide professional programming for your students.
Have you experienced a spatial challenges? If so, how did you clear your hurdles? Check in and let us know how or what you did!