Teaching PE during and after Covid-19

Have you ever thought how is to teach PE during the Covid-19 pandemic? What is lost (or gained)? Have you ever imagined what would be the future of PE after the pandemic?

PE has always been a very ‘hands on’ subject. However, we are now seeing that many aspects have changed in PE because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. We are seeing more individual activities, some online delivery of the subject and less physical contact. Teachers also seem to have added extra responsibilities and tasks to their roles as teachers, such as the cleaning of equipment and making sure that students keep their distances and wash their hands frequently. The added roles that PE teachers now have incorporated into their jobs (e.g. acting as school cleaners to disinfect equipment, or police officers to check the distance kept between students) could potentially increase PE teachers’ stress, anxiety and emotional exhaustion. These factors can thus eventually contribute to PE teachers’ burnout as a result of job stress caused by the new restrictions and rules implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A whole atmosphere of fears and insecurities has arisen with the pandemic. Fears about being infected with the virus, and insecurities from the teachers regarding how to plan the best possible classes given the circumstances. However, not everything is on the negative side of the spectrum. Some teachers see some advantages in using more technology for their classes, and some others, took this as an opportunity to conduct more classes outdoors and emphasise content related to nature and outdoor education. Teachers are also feeling nostalgia – that is, a wish to go back to the delivery of PE in the way it was done before the pandemic.

Nevertheless, we cannot avoid wondering if we are witnessing a change in the nature of PE? Are we facing a radical change in the constitution of the PE field? What would be the future of the subject? Change has been a common historical trend in PE, however, changes are now happening at a rapid and uncontrollable rate. Changes usually involve fears and insecurities, that is, fear towards the unknown. These changes are occurring in regard to content and context of the subject, as well as behaviours, tasks and responsibilities of teachers. We are now witnessing a PE subject where there is little or no physical contact, more individual activities, and added tasks and responsibilities for the teachers.

Understanding how the pandemic has impacted (and still impacts) the subject of PE and its delivery could create opportunities for more discussions and possible solutions for dealing with PE in regard to the Covid-19 situation, and thus help facilitate necessary adjustments in the subject.

Written by: Dr Valeria Varea, Örebro University, Sweden, 25th of Feb 2021: https://www.oru.se/english/employee/valeria_varea

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