This is an excerpt from Dynamic Physical Education for Secondary School Students-9th Edition by Timothy A. Brusseau,Heather Erwin,Paul W. Darst & Robert P. Pangrazi.
CASE STUDY: Advocating for Your Physical Education Program
"If it's to be, it's up to me!" This aphorism is the harsh reality for many physical educators when promoting their programs in this day and age. Budget cuts, time constraints, and academic pressures often curb the amount of time, resources, and energy devoted to physical education programs in schools today. Knowing that this was the case in his school district, Mr. Conn, physical education teacher at Warrensville High School, decided to be proactive in advocating for his physical education program. In his efforts, his most important step was ensuring that his physical education program was of the highest quality. After all, why would an administrator or the public support him if he offered inefficient lessons that the students did not enjoy? The next step he took was to make his administration look good. When he received accolades for participation in outside programs (e.g., Active and Healthy Schools, Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Healthy Schools) or going above and beyond, he always gave credit to his amazing administration and colleagues for their support. By doing so, he believed that they would be more open-minded when he approached them with ideas.
After Mr. Conn established that he offered a quality physical education program and earned respect from his administration, he began reaching out to the public through media outlets. He sent physical education newsletters to parents through email. He offered open-gym opportunities for students who arrived early to school. In collaboration with the instructional technology teacher, he created school-wide competitions for students to create and record themselves leading five-minute movement breaks. These videos were streamed through the school public address system during passing periods. He contacted the local newspaper crew to inform them of family and community nights that he hosted. He collaborated with the local YMCA to provide free Pilates and yoga classes for staff after school for six weeks. Finally, he worked with two other physical educators in the district to host a 5K walk-run to earn money for his school physical education program. He was able to fund a paved walking track on school property.
Other tips that Mr. Conn deemed important for garnering support for his program include the following:
- Demonstrating to his administration that he exhibited excellent behavior management by rarely, if ever, sending students to the office. Principals and other administrators appreciate this practice, and it instills confidence in the teacher's ability to control students in their classroom.
- Starting small. The student-created movement breaks began as assignments for students in one of his physical education classes. They became a hit, and he eventually opened the invitation to all students in the school to enter the contest, if they chose.
- Involving staff and community members. Mr. Conn understood the demands placed on teachers and other staff in the school. Thus, he wanted to give back in some way and show them how much they were valued. Providing a means for them to relieve stress was an effective way to get his colleagues on board with his physical activity promotion plan.
- Raising money. With budget cuts, physical education often suffers repercussions. Equipment breaks, and replacing it is not cheap. One effective way to replenish supplies is to conduct fund-raisers and host events to gain resources.
Mr. Conn is obviously a seasoned teacher who understands how to advocate for his program. If you start advocating when your teaching position is on the chopping block, it is often too late, so being proactive is recommended. What other ideas can you provide to advocate for your physical education program? How much time and what resources might be necessary to get those ideas in place?