What I’ve Learned: A PE Teacher Clears Up a Few Misconceptions About "Gym" Class

dp45871-copyEducators may spend their careers preparing lessons, but often the most memorable are those they learn themselves.  With that in mind, NEA Today asked school staff –  everyone from classroom teachers and bus drivers to guidance counselors and school nurses – to share the everyday lessons they’ve picked up along the way in a series called “What I’ve Learned.”

Jen Roddel, a physical education specialist at Central Elementary School in Ferndale Wash., emphasizes that she teaches children, not “gym,” and she’s learned that it sometimes takes a bit more of an explanation for people to truly understand the difference her position makes in children’s lives.

What I’ve Learned

“You get to play all day!”

Do you consider giving 25 – 30 elementary- aged children hockey sticks “playing?” I teach the students how to be safe while they learn how to play a game or sport that will engage their brains and their bodies. I teach them how to work together. I assess their skills while monitoring their behaviors, interactions, and level of involvement. I don’t play, I teach.

“I could do your job.”

How much schooling have you had on the biomechanics and kinesiology of throwing a ball? Did you take pre-med classes in college? Do you know what it means to be proficient in a skill? How would you determine that? Can you keep the attention of 5-year-olds? Can you calm and improve the self-esteem of a fifth-grade girl who feels like her world is falling down around her? Can you challenge the athletes in the class while giving individualized attention to the ones who don’t know how? Can you clean up a bloody nose and a peeing accident while your boss looks over your shoulder? I can.

“I wish I could teach gym. I loved that class in elementary school!”

Well, then go find a “gym“ and teach it. I teach children. I teach them how to make decisions that impact their bodies and their lives. I teach them that winning isn’t everything and losing can be a learning experience. I teach them how to treat human beings with fairness and thoughtfulness. I teach them that not everyone gets to “win.” I teach them that competitiveness doesn’t have to be a negative thing. It can create a great leader. I teach them that quiet students often have the best ideas. I teach them that it isn’t just the boys who kick butt in athletics. Just because I’m using a game to do it doesn’t mean that what I do is easy or less important.

I’ve learned that I have the best job in the world. Please don’t assume that since I play games every day that I don’t impact these kids’ lives. I have a hard job. I’m a teacher.