What is a Physical Education Teacher?

Physical education teachers, commonly known as Phys Ed or P.E. teachers, are responsible for the education of primary and secondary school students in physical activity and psychomotor learning. The physical education class was once little more than an organized recess; however, Phys Ed teachers now engage students in much more than game play. Recent developments have steered the physical education curriculum towards the goal of overall wellness and teachers now incorporate health and nutrition topics into their classes.

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What does a Physical Education Teacher do?

Generally, physical education teachers instruct students in a variety of physical activities relevant to curriculum requirements. While teachers are typically allowed to create their own course syllabi, those outlines must adhere to school guidelines as well as the curriculum standards set out by governing bodies in the state, region or country.

When planning course outlines, physical education teachers include sports games and physical fitness techniques. A growing number of institutions will also require teachers to include classroom instruction on general physical health and well being as well as proper nutrition practices. Course content varies by age group.

After creating a lesson plan, a physical education teacher's responsibility is to motivate students to participate in prescribed activities. Teachers then evaluate the student's performance, attitude and level of physical fitness. These factors affect the student's grade, with attitude traditionally having a much greater weight than inherent physical ability. Teachers must be able to effectively evaluate these attributes in order to fairly grade their students. In addition to daily or weekly grades, students are evaluated in periodic tests that give teacher's a better picture of the student's overall health and level of athletic skill.

What does it take to be a Physical Education Teacher?

The minimum requirement for physical education teachers is a bachelor's degree in health, physical education or a related field. Relevant classes include kinesiology, health and wellness and exercise physiology. Undergraduates will also take aerobics and similar sport-specific classes in addition to program courses focusing on teaching methods unique to P.E. classes. Most undergraduates will complete teaching internships as well.

As in any other teaching position, physical education teachers must obtain certification after graduating from a bachelor's degree program. Requirements vary by state, region and country, but typically candidate teachers must pass a standardized exam in order to qualify for a teaching position. Private schools may waive this requirement, but typically only if the candidate possesses many years of experience in a closely related profession.

For both legal and safety reasons, many institutions also require teachers to hold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. Even in situations where this certification is not required, physical education teachers are highly conscious of safety procedures and methods of preventing injury during activities. They should also be highly observant, with a knack for recognizing when students are showing signs of heat stroke or other ailments.

In addition to a degree and certification, physical education teachers should be highly skilled in child care, supervision and psychology techniques. Good P.E. teachers know how to engage timid students, as well as how to tactfully discipline unruly students. Moreover, they have a positive attitude and easily handle all aspects of caring for and instructing large groups of students in organized activities.

In today's school systems, teachers might face overcrowded classes - some having an almost unmanageable amount of students. It is important in these situations that a physical education teacher have the ability to command students' attention while maintaining discipline and an overall positive classroom environment. Teachers must now also avoid "pick me" games that alienate some students as well as dodge ball games, which can result in physical and mental harm.

What is the workplace of a Physical Education Teacher like?

Physical education teachers benefit from a very regular schedule. When not instructing students in the gymnasium or in the school's outdoor recreation area, teachers work in their office or attend school meetings. P.E. teachers also benefit from summer and mid-session breaks, depending on the school system's unique schedule. Usually breaks are long enough to allow teachers the opportunity to pursue other pursuits, such as coaching organized sports.

While P.E. teachers do spend much of the time in their office engaged in meetings and completing paperwork, they must maintain a moderate degree of physical fitness in order to effectively teach in their area of the curriculum. Phys Ed teachers are often given the responsibility of moving and maintaining heavy exercise equipment and, furthermore, teachers who are in good physical shape act as positive role models for their students.

Other responsibilities Phys Ed teachers must also accept are duties delegated between all teachers in the school such as lunch room and recess supervision. Teachers must also monitor the hallways, participate in after-school events and perform bus duties when necessary. Periodic faculty meetings and parent-teacher conferences are also mandatory.

How much does a Physical Education Teacher earn?

Physical education teachers' salaries fall somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 annually, on average. Starting salaries are between $30,000 and $40,000 and the pay increases by around $1,000 per added year of experience. Teachers who coach or devote some time to after school activities may earn a small stipend. Additionally, most schools offer benefits like health insurance and retirement.

Learn more about being a Physical Education Teacher