SHAPE America and the Importance of Professionalism

Collaboration Sign - Getting Professionally Involved in PEAs you probably know, this year’s biggest professional event was the national AAHPERD convention in St. Louis. Any kind of convention or professional meeting is something I eagerly anticipate and get on my schedule. It’s not so much the presentations or formal meetings I look forward to – although for the most part these are fun – but the people I get to meet. Turns out the more I go, the bigger my group of professional friends develops. And chatting with people about what they’re doing professionally (and sometimes personally) is really the best part. It gets you recharged and re-energized and more often than not gives you something new to try when you return home. In honesty, I don’t get how so many physical and health education teachers never go to professional events; in fact intentionally choose to avoid them. How do they keep inspired? How do they keep up with what’s new? And how do they truly serve the best interests of the students they teach?

I understand being professionally involved can be expensive. But I also know that it can be done because every year I see the same teaching colleagues from around the country negotiate ways to get their school districts or universities to help fund them. Seems that where there is a will there really is a way. And not surprisingly these same people are the ones who are most active professionally, making presentations, advocating, and generally inspiring their colleagues and the public by what they do in their classrooms.

Now, I’m not suggesting that good things are not happening in the classrooms and gyms of the thousands of teaching colleagues who choose not to be professionally involved, but I do find it shortsighted. Every month on pelinks4u we report news from around the nation of PE and health program and position reductions and cuts. In too many places we just “don’t get no respect.” Unfortunately, we have to ask ourselves, “Why should others respect what we do if we don’t bother to share the good news?” It’s one thing for us to know that our students are learning a lot from our teaching, and an entirely different (and often false) thing to assume that others know about it. It’s like a business creating a great product and not advertising. You can imagine the consequences. But this explains why it’s so important for all health and physical educators to get professionally involved in addition to teaching well.

We may not need to teach the world to sing but we sure do need to promote ourselves and our profession. This involves public relations and marketing in our schools and supporting our state and national professional associations. If you’ve never been to your state legislature or Capitol Hill, here’s what happens. Each and every day a procession of lobbyists and special interest advocates stops by the offices of your elected legislators. They try to persuade these key decision-makers to support their interests. And of course the more often legislators hear the same message the more they listen. What does this mean for you and me? Simply stated it means that if we don’t have a seat at the table we find ourselves on the menu! No champions to defend us or support what we do. It becomes a self-fulfilling behavior and explains the perennial struggle we face for professional respect.

So, in conclusion, if you aren’t already a member of SHAPE-America (the new name for AAHPERD/NASPE), or your state professional association I encourage you for your own self-interest to join both. These are the groups who do their best to represent us in our states and capital. They try to do what most of us don’t have time or expertise to do. But they need your support. There’s a reason that AARP, the NRA, and others wield such power: Membership. Size does make a difference when it comes to influence. Sadly, less than 10% of the people presently teaching health and physical education belong to AAHPERD or their state professional association. Maybe you are one of them? If you think about it, the cost is trivial in comparison to what it would mean to you, your family, and your colleagues to lose our jobs. For us to move forward successfully into the 21st century we all need to be TEAM supporters. Please join us and get professionally involved today. Together we can do great things.

Steve is a Professor Emeritus of Physical Education at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA. He is also the former 2015-16 President of SHAPE America (formerly AAHPERD). Steve was the 2008 NASPE President and 2007 Washington AAHPERD President. He is also the creator and publisher of PHEamerica.org.

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