How to become a PE teacher (and why!)

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Grab your whistle and prepare to top up your ‘teacher’s tan’; becoming a PE teacher can be a hugely rewarding way to make a living while using you love of sport for good.

If you’re not playing sport for a living, then perhaps passing on your love of sport to generation after generation of kids in the school sports hall or on the playing field as a PE teacher is the next best thing.

Here, a senior PE teacher in Hampshire, gives us the run-down on his route into the profession. He also explains the best and worst parts of the job and reveals what gets him out of bed on a freezing morning in the middle of winter.

Spreading the love of sport

I scrapped through my GCSE’s and decided A levels were not for me. I ended up doing a BTEC in Leisure & Tourism, although I still wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do. My Mum had been a teacher all her life, though, so I thought I would give it a shot. I had always enjoyed sport and had played cricket and rugby to a pretty high level, so the thought of supporting others to improve and find enjoyment in sport was something that really appealed to me.

To be honest, if you haven’t got that passion for sport then teaching PE really isn’t for you. You cover such a variety of activities that you have to enjoy working on a sport that’s often as new for you as it for the pupils you’re working with. That’s part of the excitement of the job and you need to be able to convey that excitement to those you’re teaching.

Encourage and inspire

I can’t say I was particularly inspired by a PE teacher during my time at school, but I set out to ensure that I did everything I could to make sure that the children I worked with were encouraged and inspired to get involved in sport and that they really appreciated the benefits that it could bring, not just at school but in life in general.

We currently offer the more traditional sports but in Key Stage 4 (KS4) we also give pupils the chance to get involved in sports such as benchball, uni hoc, table tennis and yoga. We recognise that participation is crucial for mental, social and physical fitness. For me that’s more important than simply running winning teams.

What makes a good PE teacher?

If someone asked me the attributes you need to be a success in the profession then I would probably say adaptability, organisation, a willingness to learn from peers and pupils and the ability to work through the ridiculous amount of time it takes to analyse academic results and paper work!

I’ve been doing this job for over 20 years but I still get the same buzz in a lesson when a pupil achieves something that makes them happy and proud. They could be a gifted sports player or a pupil who finds things harder but if they keep battling to achieve to or beyond their perceived potential then that’s definitely something that puts a smile on my face.

It’s also great in extra curricular if you see a team succeed by performing well together and where you can see pupils working together and developing a comradeship, sometimes in the face of adversity. It is always nice to gain success, whether winning a tournament, or simply competing against a team that is stronger than yours.

Positives and negatives

Of course, it’s not always 25 degrees and sunny outside and, let’s face it, winters can stretch out over months and months in this country. So what gets me out of bed at 6.30am every morning? Paying the mortgage and good base layers!

The amount of paperwork we now have to deal with has grown enormously in recent years, as has the continuous accountability for pupils reaching targets that, sometimes, are just not realistic. In my opinion it should be about each pupils’ effort rather than the final outcome – that’s the best way to measure progress in my opinion. Not every academic pupil has practical skills but if they work at their best and enjoy what they are doing, then that’s huge for me.

Career development

There is always an opportunity for career development in this area. There are roles as second in department or head of department, or you could go down the pastoral route and take a job as head of year or house. You could also decide to go into senior management, with an eye on becoming an assistant head or, ultimately, a head of school. The chances are there if you choose to take them.

For further advice on becoming a PE teacher, including profiles of teachers, click here.

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