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Begin the year effectively with these preparations

This is an excerpt from Survive and Thrive as a Physical Educator by Alisa R. James.


Get practical guidance for day-to-day challenges with Survive and Thrive as a Physical Educator.

One Month Before School Begins

You should begin getting ready for the school year about one month in advance of the start of the year. One month will provide ample time for you to complete the tasks that will enable you to begin the school year effectively. One of the first things you should do is learn your daily schedule and post it in your office. In addition, you should inspect the equipment and facilities that are available for physical education, taking an inventory of the equipment. Resource 2.3 is a sample form that can be used to record your equipment inventory.

Facilities and field spaces that are used for instruction should also be inspected. Inspect the gymnasium floor for areas in disrepair, and ensure that the lighting is adequate and that lights are secured to the ceiling. In addition, make sure that the walls of the gymnasium do not have anything protruding from them that a student can run into. Crash mats should cover the walls.

Indoor and outdoor spaces for teaching physical education vary greatly. Some schools may have ample indoor and outdoor space; however, other schools may have minimal facilities and may even lack outdoor space. Fields that are used for physical education should also be inspected. Fields should be free of debris and free of divots or holes that students may step into and injure themselves. Resource 2.4 is a tool you can use when inspecting indoor and outdoor facilities. Make sure you follow the proper procedures to have any necessary repairs done to equipment or facilities before the beginning of the school year.

Next, you should review the district’s physical education curriculum guide. The curriculum guide should be provided at the time of hire. If not, make sure you ask for a copy. The curriculum guide provides a framework of the content that you are expected to teach at your school. You should ask questions about any aspect of the curriculum guide that is not clear. After reviewing the curriculum guide, you should develop a full-year plan for each grade level that you will be teaching. For example, if you are teaching in an elementary school that has grades three to five, the curriculum plan would include all the content units that you will teach at each of those grade levels. Creating a full-year plan will be discussed in detail in chapter 3. The curriculum plan should be kept in a plan book so that it is easily accessible when you are creating unit plans.

After creating full-year plans for each grade level that you will teach, you can begin planning the first units of instruction that will be presented to students. If time permits, you may want to plan the first two units before the beginning of school. This preplanning is beneficial because paperwork and other duties that you will need to perform at the beginning of the school year could interfere with your ability to plan the units during the first weeks of school.

Finally, a month before the school year begins, you should create a set of professional goals to help motivate you throughout the school year. Professional goals are important because they serve as a map of where you would like to go as a professional. For example, a professional goal may be that you would like to do a presentation at a conference or serve on the school wellness committee. Whatever your professional goals, you need to create an action plan to reach those goals. In this action plan, you identify specific steps you will take to reach your goals and record your progress toward meeting those goals. Setting professional development goals and developing a plan for reaching these goals are discussed further in chapter 10. Be sure to place a copy of these goals in your employment folder (which was discussed earlier in the chapter). This will make it easy to examine the goals along with the documentation of your professional development activities in order to evaluate the degree to which you have met your goals.

The following list presents other tasks that need to be completed a month before school begins. Perhaps one of the most important tasks is to decide on classroom rules, routines, and expectations. This will be discussed in detail in chapter 5.

  • Create visual aids such as signs, posters, bulletin boards, and so on.
  • Create a sign with rules to be posted in the gymnasium.
  • Inspect your teaching wardrobe to ensure that it is appropriate for a professional physical education teacher.
  • Enter scheduled events from the school calendar into a personal planner.
  • Join your professional organizations—both at the national (American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance) and at the state level.
  • Check with the school nurse about any student health concerns.
  • Review students’ individualized education plans (IEPs) and speak with teachers and aides about any concerns or questions. Plan how to provide modifications to lessons for students with IEPs.

Two Weeks Before School Begins

Two weeks before the school year begins, you should be setting up your office and desk. The organization of the office is very important. You will want to secure several supplies. Typically, supplies will be stored in a storage room or the main office. Ask the school secretary how to obtain supplies and how to order any needed supplies that are not available. Some important supplies that you’ll need include a planning book for planning lessons, a grade book, and an attendance book.

During this time, you should create a library of resources that will be kept in your office. Your library should include methods textbooks, activity notebooks, books describing various assessment techniques and curriculum models, and books that contain information about how to perform and teach various activities.

You can use several methods to find resources for your professional library. First, you can use a search engine such as Google to search the web for physical education titles. Second, you can go to websites such as Amazon.com and Abebooks.com to search for resources. Finally, several publishers such as Human Kinetics (humankinetics.com) specialize in physical education and physical activity titles.

Another useful resource to have in your library is professional journals. Professional journals provide cutting-edge information regarding physical education, as well as thought-provoking articles that further your professional development as a teacher. Two of the most commonly read professional journals are The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance and Strategies, which are published by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) and are available with membership to the AAHPERD. AAHPERD is the national professional organization for physical education and will be discussed in more detail in chapter 10.


Read more from Survive and Thrive as a Physical Educator by Alisa R. James.


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