Confessions of a PE teacher: Breaking the mould

Children's Mental Health Week 2016Ben Baines

This post is part of our series of articles focusing on the mental health of young people – marking Children’s Mental Health Week 2016. It is written by Ben Baines, assistant principal at The Duston School and was originally posted on his own blog.

There is nothing worse than listening to ultracrepidarian comments about your subject – “It’s alright for you PE Teachers, all you do is organise a game of football.” “It’s not like you have to plan your lesson.” and “Those who can’t teach, teach PE.”

For the most part, the comments are said in jest, but the reality is that these comments reinforce a certain PE Teacher stereotype. On top of the onslaught of comments suggesting that PE Teachers are less worthy than other teachers, the government constantly places PE at the bottom of the priority pile which can make it very difficult to stay positive.

I won’t be the only PE teacher who has sometimes questioned why I went to university for 4 years of my life to complete a degree in a subject which for some people actually has very little status in education.

The stereotype that PE is somehow for a ‘lesser’ teacher because they weren’t capable of anything else saddens me, as does the low currency that some schools place on the subject and its value to students.

We all know the positive impact that playing a sport can have on our students and in my experience, it is not often the case that I see successful leaders who have not at some point in their lives participate in sporting or other creative activities.

It also seems odd to me that despite all of us being aware that we are in the middle of an obesity crisis, there is little recognition of the huge part that PE as a wider subject has to play in raising students’ awareness of the importance of healthy living – particularly those students who come from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

To dismiss it as something which is a luxury if the budget can afford it seems short-sighted to me.

PE is not just kicking a ball about. It requires acute critical reflection, the tenacity to deliberately practise skills, the resilience to persevere, and the ability to think strategically and quickly under pressure.

On top of this, there are huge benefits for students in terms of teamwork, confidence and, crucially for me, competition.

PE teachers consistently teach some of the largest ability spectrums within the school. It is common to have a group with a county footballer at one end of the spectrum, with a student who can barely make contact with a ball at the other end.

Regardless, PE teachers still ensure that all students make good progress.

Being a PE teacher has taught me much and given me the skills to undertake all the leadership positions I have held. It has helped me build relationships with even the toughest students. It has allowed me to witness some truly inspirational sporting performances.

But ultimately, it has allowed me to retain my passion for teaching because it is a subject that I truly believe in.

Exercise and mental health – resources from YoungMinds.

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