Teaching Physical Education in Urban Schools

Article excerpt

What Was the Question?

McCaughtry, Barnard, Martin, Shen, and Kulinna (2006) analyzed how the environment of urban schools influences the emotional understanding and rapport that physical education teachers have with their students and how it affects their teaching.

What Was Done?

Over a period of three years, the researchers conducted multiple interviews with 61 elementary physical educators from an urban school district with about 162,000 students (88% African American, 7% Caucasian, and the remainder mostly Hispanic) in the midwestern United States. The subjects were interviewed from one to five times (N=136) using interpretive methodology.

What Was Found?

The teachers reported five unique challenges endemic to their urban schools that significantly shaped their thinking about students and their careers. Some also shared the strategies they employed to meet those challenges.

First, these urban teachers expressed frustration and anger about their lack of instructional resources (equipment, time, and facilities) and often felt guilt and regret due to the "second-rate" instruction they were forced to provide to the neediest of students. Some teachers quit, others learned to live with their emotions, while others attempted to move beyond their constraints by writing grants, soliciting donations, or purchasing supplemental equipment with their salaries.

Second, the teachers struggled to provide culturally relevant pedagogy by offering a meaningful curriculum that connected with urban, minority youths, while also exposing them to curriculum beyond their geographical and cultural borders. They also struggled to provide coherent instruction to the growing number of immigrant, ESL (English as a Second Language) students. To face these challenges, teachers modified pre-scripted lessons to reflect students' language and culture, thought deeply about the activities they taught, displayed images of diverse activities and athletes in their gymnasia, translated important curriculum documents, formed culturally diverse "buddy-teams," and learned key phrases in other languages for the benefit of the ESL students.

Third, these teachers dealt with community violence as it filtered into physical education classes. Concern, sorrow, and frustration were the most commonly reported emotions when discussing violence, as it had become students' predominant means to resolve conflicts, to relate to one another, and to interact with teachers. This was cited as the number one reason for teacher attrition by those who stayed focused on social development and a conflict-resolution curriculum. …