Physical Education Job Security: Saving Our Jobs and Programs

Article excerpt

We physical education teachers have struggled for years to prove to other educators, parents, and administrators that our subject is a viable academic discipline. Opinions about physical education and what it teaches primarily result from the experiences people have during their elementary school years. Often physical education and coaching are not equated with other, "true," academic subjects such as science or math. The reason for this assumption, in part, is our own fault. We have too many physical educators trained only to play games with their students, instead of teaching fundamentals inherent in skill development. Pangrazi and Dauer (1995) define physical education as "a part of the total educational program that contributes [,] primarily through movement, to the total growth and development of all children." If we want physical educators to be viewed as a part of this total program and an important academic subject, then we need to conduct our classes in a way that demonstrates to our colleagues that we truly have a viable academic focus.

Many teachers value the contribution that physical educators make to the enhancement of learning in every child, yet each year we find a number of physical educators seeking job security in other fields. We also find many physical education positions being delegated to non-credentialed individuals. The Shape of the Nation Report (National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 1993) determined that 36 states continued to permit classroom teachers to teach physical education at the elementary level. Year after year, it seems that we continue to struggle to demonstrate that credentialed physical education teachers are best equipped to teach in this specialized field. At the same time, physical educators will be the first to admit that we have not done a very thorough job of training teachers over the years. Some teachers rank coaching as their first priority and simply teach on the side. Only in the last few decades have we learned that we need teachers who make it their first priority to teach children about movement and physical activity.

Research about the present status of physical education reveals many of tim current problems in the field. Grineski (1994) summarized many of these inherent problems in a paper he presented at a conference on the future of physical education. He cited the National Children and Youth Fitness Study (McGinnis, 1985) as a prime source of information regarding more than just the status of children's fitness. This study revealed that the average physical education program lacks a variety of curricular content and contains mainly large group, competitive games and races. In highlighting the work of Placek (1983), Grineski examined the attitudes of teachers involved with inservice learning, who presumed that successful teaching in physical education simply consisted of keeping students "busy, happy and good." They failed to suggest that student learning, individualization, or a varied movement curriculum were necessary components in a valid physical education program. Grineski, using the work of Colby, Jenson, and Stier (1994), examined the teaching practices of physical educators and found that many physical education teachers do not think it is important to plan daily lessons, to use assessment techniques, to vary teaching styles to be more effective, or to provide for sufficient teaching and practicing of skills within a daily lesson. Grineski also highlighted Graham, Holt/Hale and Parker's (1987) research, which demonstrates that children are not acquiring motor skills in physical education. Skills must be taught sequentially, assessment and feedback must be provided, and time must be spent learning the fundamentals inherent in a game before playing or participating in the actual game.

This research reveals only the nature of the problem, however. The crucial question is one of action. We must ask, how can this unfavorable image be transformed into a favorable one - one that respects the value of physical education? …