Ideas Exchange: What Are Some Suggestions for Overcoming Any Unique Found in an Urban Physical Education Class? How Might We Better Prepare Physical Educators for Teaching in an Urban Setting?

Article excerpt


First and foremost our expectations for disadvantaged school districts remain consistent with our general expectations for any district or setting that we teach in. Understanding that each student is an individual and taking the time and effort to talk WITH (instead of AT) each student will allow you the opportunity to utilize different strategies to reach the goal of creating a lifestyle of healthy choices for all students. Physical Education is inherently a social subject, which should be utilized as an advantage for both the teachers and students to overcome the barriers to physical activity such as enjoyment and self-efficacy. A lack of space and equipment cannot be an excuse for a lack of expectations. The good teachers find a way to gain space and equipment to enhance their physical education curricula. Teachers are increasingly needing to "think outside of the box" in order to enhance their diminishing budgets. In physical education, we should be incorporating community involvement and access in our curricula, as this is where we will be sending our graduating students and is where, most likely, they will be continuing their physical activity and their life choices. Partnering with community programs, facilities and equipment is a tremendous strategy for overcoming some of the unique challenges faced with in disadvantaged districts, while concurrently teaching valuable lessons for our students as we send them into the community as adults.

Matt Vollum

Coordinator for PE/Health Teacher


University of Minnesota

School of Kinesiology

Minneapolis, MN

Students in urban schools need dedicated teachers who respect children and youth, who actually believe they can and will learn if properly taught, and who understand the types of homes and cultures in which their population resides. Prospective teachers need more than a general education. Reed and Simpson stated that new teachers need specialized knowledge of the lives and learning styles of the urban child, firsthand experiences in urban schools, and an understanding of the community from which the child comes. The majority of new teachers who have received their field experience in the suburbs are hired to teach in multicultural, inner-city schools with little preparation to serve this population of children and families. Schools and universities need to identify situations that can provide realistic learning environments for new teachers. These should be in schools which present a plethora of challenging situations, but which are still good teaching arenas. These schools should be collaborative, supportive and professional environments, where teachers, who have been identified as superior, can act as supportive mentors and role models. These practical experiences would ideally be more extensive and appropriate in-school experiences. These experiences should include a greater variety of placements; longer, more intensive periods of time, and opportunities to develop an awareness of the community from which the child comes. Universities need to develop an admissions process that goes beyond academic requirements and includes consideration of the characteristics (empathy, respect, flexibility, patience, humor, and collaboration) which make for successful teaching in all schools, but are crucial for success in more challenging environments.

First Lady Michelle Obama has recommended that state and local educational agencies increase the quality and frequency of sequential, age- and developmentally-appropriate physical education for all students. Physical Education classes must be taught by certified PE teachers. Our new teachers may have the credentials to teach physical education, however they lack the characteristics that an individual should possess in order to handle the urban school setting. We can better prepare our physical educators for teaching in the urban setting by focusing on empathy, respect, flexibility, patience, humor, and collegiality. …