How to Ease Into a New Year of Teaching Physical Education

I have been teaching physical education at the elementary level for more than 22 years. But every back to school season, I still put exorbitant amounts of pressure on myself. 

Weeks before school starts, I can’t stop thinking about everything I need to do to prepare my PE class, such as:

  • Go over scheduling issues and concerns with my colleagues
  • Unpack and itemize new PE equipment
  • Hang new posters on the walls of the gym
  • Create a new physical education bulletin board
  • Get new attendance/plan books and begin to work on them
  • Transfer new attendance/plan book material online to Google
  • Shred last year’s medical information

The list goes on and on. You get the idea.

This school year, I have decided to slow things down. I am going to trust my feelings more and rely on experience to get me to where I wish to be. 

Top Tip for Physical Education Teachers: Take It Slow

Here are some of the things I’ll be doing to start the school year off with a bang, while still taking things slow:

  1. Prioritize what really needs to be done versus what you want to do. In my opinion this is the most important thing you can you when creating your “to do” list. Some things need your attention first in order to have a smooth start to the year. Remember that all other less important items can wait until later.
  2. Do one thing at a time. I have a friend who is a master of multitasking. She can easily concentrate and do several tasks at a time. Not me. So, I’m going to work my “to do” list and check items off as they get done, one by one. This can be just as efficient as trying to do several things at once.
  3. Ask for help. There are some tasks for my physical education class that can only be done by me. However, I’m going to look for opportunities to have others tackle some items on my list. For example, every year I run a before- and after-school running program with two colleagues. In the past, I handled all the paperwork (permission slips, data input, communication to parents, etc.) Now, each of us has a few items that we are responsible for — and I have less to worry about.
  4. Organize your surroundings. At the start of each school year, I declutter my office, desk, work bag, and PE equipment closet. And more importantly, I have learned to keep my surroundings as neat as possible as the weeks go by. I only keep items that are important and used on a regular basis. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Is this so important?” If the answer is no, toss it.
  5. Don’t forget about self-care. Have there ever been days where you are constantly on the go at work, and by the time you get home you are utterly exhausted? This is very common among physical education teachers and educators in general. It’s important not to neglect your health. Find something that works for you — going for a walk or run, weight training, riding a bike, meditation, yoga — and make time to do it. If you don’t take care of yourself, your productivity, job and family — and your health — will suffer.

Additional Resources


Donn Tobin
Donn Tobin

Donn Tobin is the 2019 SHAPE America National Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year. He is entering his 23rd year as a K-5 physical education teacher at Lakeview Elementary School in Mahopac, NY. Donn also serves as an adjunct professor at Manhattanville College and will begin serving on the NYS AHPERD Board of Directors. You can follow him on Twitter @donntobin.