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Advocating for Physical Education

I just retired from teaching elementary PE in the San Francisco East Bay Area, California. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED my job! I have worked in four school districts at schools at both middle and elementary levels. My experience even includes being an itinerant teacher seeing 1,000 students a week! I have been a department chair in two districts. In that capacity have tried to help motivate, guide and mentor several teachers.

Advocating for Physical Education

In my most recent position, I served as a member of the leadership team for the elementary PE teachers in my district (about 21), where I organized monthly meetings, resources, information on workshops, activities, and more. Through attending workshops, conferences and seeking the many resources available in books, online and on social media, I have always tried to provide the best program for my students.

Even though I did everything I could think of to keep “up to date” and provide a good program, I kept running into educators and administrators who did not understand what I understood about Physical Education. As a result, the respect Physical Education should

get is just not there. This lack of respect manifests itself in a wide variety of ways: scheduling conflicts, teachers pulling students out of PE, priority given to classroom teachers on different things, subtle (or not so subtle) comments, lack of funds for equipment, lack of professional development for PE, etc.

Advocating for Physical Education

There really is quite a long list. It can get very frustrating. My own district does not meet the mandated minutes for grades first through fourth and excuses it as the classroom teacher making up the difference. However, that does not happen. I was lucky in that my district had PE specialists at each school, knowing that many districts don’t.

It became clear to me that while PE teachers are getting educated and better at their job through seeking their own PE professional development, those that make decisions about PE are not. Their views are based on either their own experience or what they have seen from a variety of PE teachers over the years. I really feel there is a need to change that.

I decided to put together a presentation to help educate others about Physical Education. I was concerned about how I would do that since I’m not very “techie.” I’m not knowledgeable on the latest and greatest tech tools and apps, but I tried just the same. I am willing to try to figure things out and experiment on the computer. It took some time and I did consult with a couple of top notch teachers for advice and feedback. Everything I used (Google Slides, animation, iMovie for video editing, screenshots) was my first time doing it.

I am forever grateful for YouTube and to the inventor of the “undo” button. I included photos from the students at my school (for direct connection), statistical information, screenshots from a variety of studies, videos explaining physical literacy, changes to the brain from exercise, and a highly successful PE program documenting improved student test scores. For the purpose of trying to keep the presentation somewhat short, I edited the videos.

I started by presenting it at a staff meeting and it was well received. We were crunched for time so I wasn’t able to show the last part of the presentation. I talked to a couple of teachers after and got feedback that they loved it and “got it.” I even had a teacher ask for my advice for adding more movement in his classroom, more “brain breaks” (ahem, brain boosts). Yay! I shared the presentation to the assistant superintendent of curriculum. He loved it and is interested in having me show it to others this fall. I learned that my presentation also made a difference for my principal in his approach to hiring a new teacher to take my position. He did tell the new teacher “you have a hard act to follow.” Yes, we can make a difference.

I am not a NBCT and don’t have a Master’s degree but I don’t think that means I cannot advocate for what I do. We all need to advocate. We need to help change the perceptions about PE. We need to show that it’s not only important but one of the most important activity for children.


My presentation is called Physical Education: The What and the Why. I think it’s not just important to say that PE is important but show why. My presentation includes audience engagement, with the audience being able to contribute their own PE experience. I wanted them to see how PE today may be different than what it once was. The What is showing what PE is (or should be) today. The Why is the documentation of the benefits from PE to the classroom and data. I also wanted to make sure others know that I/we know about the money available to PE through ESSA. PE should be included when funds become available. The How is up to the district, administrators, principals, and teachers. But it’s important to stay on top of what’s going on within your district and speak up where needed.

Some screenshots from the presentation:


We all need to advocate for our students; for their brain, their health and their life. They need it and deserve it! We need to get the respect our profession deserves. Here are ways to advocate:

  • Start small

  • Communicate to student body, staff, parents through bulletin boards, newsletter, displays/videos at Back to School Night and Open House, etc.

  • Share what you do: Website, Newsletter, Family Fitness Night, Bring Your Parents to PE Week

  • Collaborate with classroom teachers to include their content in your classes and your content in their classrooms.

  • Have “clubs” that involve physical activity (morning moving club, running club, dance club, includes all students and staff.

  • Seek out and use resources from Shape America and many other websites for supporting information.

  • Be involved in your professional organization

  • Attend workshops

  • Collaborate with other PE teachers.

  • Be a squeaky wheel but be professional.

  • Show a presentation

  • Meet with school and district personnel.

Click the following link for a template of my presentation where you can fill in your own photos and information pertinent to your situation:

I have three videos within the presentation that I edited. The links to the videos are provided in the template and also below:

Hands up for Physical Literacy from OpheaCanada

Paul Zientarski TED Talk


Barbara (Kreiss) Grattan taught Physical Education at the middle school and elementary school levels for 18 years after leaving teaching for many years. She was on the Elementary PE Leadership Team at Hayward Unified School District, a Committee member of the Elementary Physical Education Workshop (EPEW) at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Barbara has presented at the Bay District (division of CAHPERD) and EPEW. She has a number of lessons published on PE Central and is a co-creator with Julie Miller and Pete Charrette of the Dance Fidget Spinner activity sold on TPT. I received my Physical Education degree at UC Berkeley and was a member and captain of the UC Berkeley’s Women’s Gymnastics Team.

You can reach Barbara through email or Twitter:, Twitter: @lovepe


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