Tips & Strategies for First Year PE Teachers

first year pe teacher

If you’re reading this, chances are you just got your very first physical education job. Congratulations and welcome to an amazing profession where you get to change lives and make a real difference in the world. The sky is literally the limit when it comes to what you can do as a physical education teacher. Whether you’re just out of school, changing careers, or transitioning from the classroom to a gymnasium, you’re entering this profession at a time when what we do matters more than ever.

You will have the most lasting impact on a child’s life and mental well-being. As if this prospect was not overwhelming enough, you are starting a job that comes with many new and exciting experiences, procedures, and protocols. The first year of teaching is very important. It is during this time that you are indoctrinated into the world of teaching through on-the-job training. Everything you learned in your physical education program will align with the reality of the school and district you are now a part of. As a new teacher, there will be many variables out of your control that can make it hard to achieve that altruistic goal all teachers strive for: positively impacting lives.

It is hard to articulate all the intricacies that come along with being a new physical educator. One way to look at what you may encounter is to look at why teachers quit in the first place. According to We are Teachers, teachers quit for one of the following reasons, which are explained in more depth on their website.

  • Challenging working conditions
  • Not enough support and respect
  • Testing and data collection
  • No longer looking out for the kids’ best interest
  • Family taking priority

The teaching profession can be a hard and unforgiving landscape where reality trumps vision. You may wind up in a school with all the right resources, a fantastic administration, and an involved and supportive parent body. But not all teaching situations are this fortunate. Many differ drastically based on geography, socioeconomic makeup, and leadership. Thus, it is hard to say what you will walk into. The bottom line is that you must be prepared to work hard to have a positive impact. And in order to do this, you have to make that first year a successful one that you can build off of. But how do you do this while also learning names, procedures, and protocols and how to work with colleagues, manage behaviors, and communicate with parents for the first time?

How do you make a difference when everything you are facing is new to you?

The answer is not so simple. While there is a ton of information on the internet that may help you out, it can be a burden to sift through and make head or tails of it all. With this in mind, below are five things you can do to help make your first year a success followed by a resource that can help you thrive in your career.

Find a Mentor

Hopefully your new school or district assigns you a mentor. And if they do, know that it may not always be a match made in heaven. Find someone who possesses the qualities you want to have as a teacher and ask them how they did it. You want someone you know will be supportive, nonjudgmental, and trustworthy. Be careful not to go to just anyone and start venting your frustrations or concerns. You are in a professional environment where tact and decorum matter. The right mentor can help you navigate tough situations and avoid even tougher ones.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Hopefully you created detailed lesson plans in your physical education program. You cannot make it through your first year by the seat of your pants alone. You need to deliberately plan your lessons and how you will handle behavior, engage the school staff and community, and so much more. It will take a lot of work and a good amount of resources as you are doing this for the first time. Not planning ahead of time will cause you a world of trouble.

Make Time for You

You are going to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Even in ideal situations, teaching can be exhausting. Make time for yourself or you will burn out and it will show through in your performance. Think about what relaxation means for you. Make time for that. Whether it’s going for a run every day or spending time with family, do something you enjoy to escape and de-stress from the task of being a new teacher.

Long-Term Perspective

Becoming a master teacher takes time. Your first year is about learning the ropes and becoming comfortable in your school and district. As you progress through your career, you will build a toolbox of teaching resources and hacks that you can pull from. Just like you wouldn’t learn to kayak by hitting the harshest rapids, you can’t jump into a new position and expect to get everything right the first year. Keep the long term in mind during this time. Imagine how good it will feel once developing lessons and figuring out ways to handle situations that are new to you becomes second nature.

You Are the Adult

This may not be practical advice, but it is invaluable. Many new teachers work to find the line between respect and friendship with their students. Keep in mind that you are the adult, and when you discipline or are interacting with the children, they are not your friends. There is a big difference between being friendly and a friend. Once a child views you as a friend, it is hard to toe the line and be seen as a teacher once again. Err on the side of caution. It is good to get to know your students and be kind, but being professional is more important than being liked. Your aim should be to gain respect, which takes a host of tools you will learn over time.

Teaching in today’s data-driven environment, and with an obesity crisis in full gear, can drown out the exciting altruistic drive of a new physical educator. Combined with all the new things a first-year teacher will experience, this can make that initial year seem like a mountain of gigantic proportions. The good news is you do not have to scale the mountain alone. Using the suggestions above and resource below, you can have a great first year to build a solid career from.

Refer to these tips by downloading this free Infographic: 5 Tips & Strategies for First Year PE Teachers

About the Author:

literacy in physical educationCharles Silberman is a physical education and health teacher with 14 years of teaching experience. He has become a leader and advocate for incoming physical educators by running workshops on teaching in limited space at staff in-services and conferences, assisting with new teacher orientations, and other initiatives. He has experience writing curriculum from scratch and writing published information specific to physical education in state and nationally recognized publications and websites. Charles has also created a niche as a physical education specialist who fuses technology and primary instructional subjects into physical education lessons.

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