Case Study: PE Teacher - Neil

What do you do?

I teach PE and health to secondary school pupils. My classroom teaching responsibilities involve about 25% of my time. I teach health, which covers everything from the muscular system, to heart rates, birth control, and the effects of drugs and alcohol.

However, the majority of my time is spent teaching sports, including badminton, hockey, football, track and field, volleyball and cricket. Depending on the time of year, I also supervise other activities that can include rock climbing and golf.

My job often doesn't end when the school day does. On average, I spend between 6 and 10 hours a week coaching after school hours. Also, if one of my teams is involved in a tournament, I work some Saturdays.

What is your background?

I have always been interested in all kinds of sports. In high school, I coached younger kids and found that, in addition to playing sports, I really enjoyed teaching.

After high school, I did a sports science degree followed by a PGCE. Whilst at university, I got some experience working with disabled children.

I was attracted to this field because I was interested in a variety of sports. I also thought that teaching was a good job, offering a reasonable salary and good job security.

Over the course of my career, I have changed schools and jobs three times, but have always remained in PE teaching.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in your job?

Teachers must have excellent communication skills. Different students learn in different ways and the ability to teach them in a manner that works for them will give students a greater chance to succeed.

Patience is essential because some students can be difficult to manage. It's important that you enjoy working with children and understand how they think and work in a variety of sport settings.

You should enjoy all sports because of the wide range of subjects that you will be required to teach.

What other jobs could you do using the skills from this job?

Other occupations that a PE teacher could pursue include a variety of positions in the recreation field, including jobs as sports administrators, personal trainers, coaches or trainers for sports teams.

What changes will there be in the future?

The use of technology is changing the job slightly because training programmes are available on the internet. The use of heart rate monitors is another way technology has already entered the physical fitness field.

Economic changes can also affect PE teachers. If there is a funding shortage, some teachers may lose their jobs and subsequently transfer to other teaching positions.

I anticipate the demand for PE teachers to be strong for quite some time, as society continues to place a high value on health and fitness.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

Dealing with difficult students (and parents) is the most challenging aspect of the job. Student behaviour can sometimes be unacceptable or disrespectful and you have to let parents know about the situation, which can be stressful for everyone involved.

Are there many opportunities to enter this career?

Opportunities are good for up and coming PE teachers because large numbers of teachers may soon be retiring.

In addition to a physical education degree and teacher training, getting some experience working with children as a coach or trainer will increase your chances of being hired.

What do you like about your job?

I enjoy working with students on sports teams because I work with them on a slightly different context than in the classroom. I'm able to work with students who all want to be there and are interested and like the activity that we are doing. This often allows me to develop a different relationship with the players and to have fun with them.

Teaching PE classes and seeing students improve is gratifying because many students work hard to improve and it feels good to be able to help them achieve success.

Developing positive relationships with students is very rewarding. Many of the former students still interact with me in the community - years later - and it's satisfying when they show you respect or let you know that you have had a positive experience on their lives.

What do you dislike about your job?

Dealing with unmotivated students can be difficult because it often involves conflict with the student, their parents, or both.

I don't enjoy dealing with unreasonable parents. Some parents don't realise or believe how their child behaves and want to blame someone else.

As someone who enjoys physical fitness and activities, attending an endless variety of meetings is not something that I really enjoy.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

If you want to become a PE teacher, try to experience working with children in a variety of activities while you're still at high school. Try coaching a team, or help with kid's football, or any other sport that you enjoy. These experiences will enable you to be reasonably sure that that's what you would like to do for a career.

A day in the life

8:00 am - 8:30 am

Arrive at work; turn on my computer; check and return emails; contact other schools to arrange referees and game times; check on my lesson plans for the day.

8:30 am - 8:55 am

Supervise the gymnasium during recreational time before class starts (there can be between 10 and 30 students in the gym).

8:55 am - 10:00 am

Teach a PE class to students. Focus on football.

10:00 am - 10:05 am

Break between classes.

10:05 am - 11:10 am

Teach a PE class to students. Focus on cricket.

11:10 am - 11:15 am

Break between classes.

11:15 am - 12:20 pm

Teach a PE class to students. Focus on volleyball.

12:20 pm - 1:20 pm

Organise and supervise activities in the gym while students are on lunch; today students are playing basketball and badminton.

1:20 pm - 2:30 pm

Eat lunch at my desk; return phone calls from coaches from other schools; check and return emails; arrange bussing and referees for a variety of team sports.

2:30 pm - 3:35 pm

Teach a PE class to students. Focus on track and field.

3:35 pm - 8:30 pm

Prepare my lesson plan for tomorrow; mark health assignments from yesterday; grab a quick dinner; coach football team (fortunately it's a home game tonight); go home.

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