In the face of adversity: four physical educator’s experiences of resilience in high-poverty schools

Douglas W. Ellison, Amelia Mays-Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Emotional resilience can be vital to longevity in high-poverty school settings. Equally important to staying the course is the ability to remain motivated despite the unique challenges presented by teaching in high-poverty schools. Students within these schools need teachers who are able to manage their emotions and remain positive and optimistic, persist, remain confident, and continually focus on learning and self-improvement no matter their work environment. This study explored four PE teachers’ perceptions of their resilience teaching in high-poverty schools through the lens of resilience theory. Research design: This study utilized an exploratory multiple case study design (Yin 2003). The main premise of the case study method is to better understand complex educational and social phenomena, while retaining the holistic and meaningful particularities of real-life circumstances (Yin 2003). Teacher interviews and teacher shadowing were used to examine the experiences of PE teachers in high-poverty schools. Findings: Results indicate that several psychological factors (relating to positive personality, motivation, focus, and perceived social and administrative support) protected the PE teachers in this inquiry from the potential negative effect of stressors by prompting their metacognitions and challenge appraisal. These processes promoted facilitative responses that proved to be key to developing and maintaining their capacities for resilience. The teachers demonstrated a sustained commitment to self-improvement and student success by implementing effective teaching practices. Conclusion: The teachers in this study possessed strong individual dispositions and were able to demonstrate behaviors that facilitated an elevated level of resilience. School administrators must establish a strong culture of support to enable teacher resilience. Identifying ways to increase the resilience capacity of physical education teachers has the potential to decrease the concerns surrounding teacher attrition and increase job satisfaction for teachers working in high-poverty schools. Implications also indicate a need for physical education teacher education (PETE) programs to identify candidates with the individual dispositions that aid in resilience and provide them with experiences in high-poverty schools. This partnership may assist in minimizing the effects of reality shock oftentimes experienced by new teachers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-72
Number of pages14
JournalPhysical Education and Sport Pedagogy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019


  • Resilience
  • physical education
  • physical education teacher education
  • poverty
  • teaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Education
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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