I have been a physical education and health teacher in Prince George’s County Public Schools for nine years. For the last five years, I have had the honor of being a physical education teacher. Our kids can’t wait for more funding.
As a teacher, I want my students to have a healthy learning environment. I want to teach my students the importance of creating healthy habits while they are young. Quality physical education programs have been shown to have positive impacts on student achievement and behavior. I believe that we show up every day to teach the whole child and physical education is an integral part of that.
Unfortunately, I have observed highly qualified physical educators leave Prince George’s County Public Schools. These teachers are leaving to seek fair compensation, proper teaching spaces, and better building conditions. These are the same reasons that our kids can’t wait for consistent, quality educators and improved building conditions. Any time an elementary P.E. teacher says they are moving, they are asked the same question. Will you have a gym? Our P.E. teachers have found ways to teach in any space they are given. However, that is not best practice and it does not help demonstrate the importance of physical education to our students.
Due to the overcrowding and age of our building, it feels that we never have enough working bathrooms, working water fountains, or teaching space. In our building, physical education and music classes are regularly taught in the students’ classrooms. This means that planning time is spent getting equipment together and moving it around the building. In our building, it also means carrying equipment up and down the stairs because we don’t have an elevator. This can be time-consuming for teachers as well as physically exhausting.
Now that it is warming up, we can use the park behind our school to teach. My students can finally run during our warm up and have more space to work on skills. However, I now have to battle for my students’ attention from the heat, wind, bees, recess, birds, helicopters, airplanes, squirrels, and strangers walking through. I can’t imagine a classroom teacher being asked to battle those same distractions day in and out. Additionally, even though it is nicer out, there is always a chance for rain or other weather complications. When I plan my lessons, I look at the standards and objectives for the students just as any other teacher would. Then I look at the weather and try to plan accordingly. I end up with multiple lesson plans for the same lesson. They do not change to meet the needs of my students. They are different for every situation of weather. I have a lesson plan for if it’s a perfect day outside, and a lesson if it’s cold — I need to limit their time standing still — and a lesson if it’s wet.
I plan to retire from Prince George’s County Public Schools many years from now. I will stay because I love our students and believe they deserve the best. The staff, students, and families need and deserve fairly-compensated teachers, healthy learning environments, and spaces to properly teach for all content areas.
Physical Education Instructor at Calverton Elementary in Beltsville
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