To Play or Not to Play? That is the Question…

It’s probably becoming apparent that I welcome PE/Fitness topics that are debatable and encourage some thought and “spirited” discussion and this blog is no different; I am encouraging and hoping it causes some thought and professional conversation.

Should PE Teachers Participate With Students?

So whether you are a veteran or brand new PE teacher, I am certain that if you attended a reputable teacher education college then you can certainly recall a few critical “do’s” and “don’ts” that your college professors instilled in you related to instructing Physical Education classes.  The one that I struggled with the most, and flip-flopped on many times during my 25+ year career, is considered one of the “ten commandments” of Physical Education instruction:  To NEVER play/practice with your students during Physical Education class.

Generally, there are two steadfast camps involved in this ongoing debate and there is usually a solid line drawn in the sand. Some teachers and administrations feel that PE teachers playing during class inspires and encourages the students to participate while professionals on the other side of the line feel that it is a gargantuan liability and typically can only bring potential physical/emotional injury or worse…and both sides have validity from my perspective.

Textbook vs. Reality

The professional disagreement seems to mirror the age old argument of “textbook vs. reality”. You know, the argument where we all learned the textbook application, which is typically in opposition to the real life application.  Obeying the speed limit, textbook law vs. trial law, the legal alcohol drinking age of 21, Cliff’s or Spark notes vs. reading the book for a book report, “do as I say not as I do”, etc… There are too many to mention here but I am sure everyone can conjure up some sort of textbook vs. reality struggle…

I can share with you that I flip-flopped on the subject more times in my career than I care to count.  Many of my perspective changes occurred during specifically identified stages of my career.  In my first 2-3 neophyte years I followed all the college’s expectations and didn’t play during PE classes.  Once I grew more comfortable and confident (4-5 years into my teaching career) as a teacher, and became embedded in the school culture, I did begin to play and help physically facilitate classes as a participant.   The kids definitely loved it and certainly looked forward to those classes when I played.

An Administrative Perspective

About 15 years into my career I chose to take a job as a K-12 Wellness Director at another district and part of my responsibility was to set policy and teach a few classes too.  You can bet as a part-time administrator I saw things a little differently (I was also a little older and wiser too).  I definitely felt that a teacher playing during class was a liability for the district and for the individual teacher who chose to do so.  But this doesn’t really settle the disagreement, does it?

So I am curious what our readers and professionals think on the subject; which side of the fence do YOU identify with?

Do PE Teachers who play during class encourage and inspire their students to participate at a higher and more enjoyable level  or do these participating PE Teachers only increase the potential injury to themselves and possibly their students?

The disagreement remains:
Should teacher participation in PE be encouraged or even allowed during PE classes?  What do YOU think? 

Furthermore, does your district have any policies in place that prevents teacher participation in PE?  Please share your thoughts in a comment or response…

One Response

  1. I am a second year PE Teacher, second career, retired military. I was given no instruction from admin, neither for or against. Because they do not respect PE Teachers in my district. I feel, personally, it’s my job to teach, not do. After all, I DID for 30 years as military, it’s why I’m fit. I use several types of instructional materials to aid my students. However the prior PE Teacher was a 20+ year old, who acted more like a kid than adult. He swung students around, piggy backed girls, shot hoops, let the students climb and run on 8 foot high bleachers and destroy everything they touched. There was no equipment, no structure, zero discipline and it’s been a solid two years of readdressing and restructuring the program. The older students 5th/6th grade want a playmate. I was handed keys and told, “….good luck.” It was difficult at first, older students hating the new game plan. Teachers in this school, on average are 100+ pounds over weight, 80% of all students are obese. But when the smart elick 6th graders say, “YOU do this!” I need a response. It’s not my job to do it with them. It’s my job to teach them how to do it properly and become Fit for Life.

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