PE Teachers – Last-Minute Halloween Costume? – Search No More

Halloween has always been tough for me as a physical education teacher. Don’t get me wrong. I love the holiday and the enthusiasm it infuses in the kids. I’m sure you can relate to the energy generated when we introduce Halloween-themed games!  More than anything, I enjoy listening to the kids’ banter about their dress-up plans and then seeing them proudly wear their costumes on the big day.

So…why has Halloween been so tough for me throughout my 25+ years of teaching?

Two Words.

The costume.

Every year it seems ALL teachers come to school donned in well-thought-out costumes they have been planning and designing since November 1…THE PREVIOUS YEAR.

That’s a lot of pressure!

Then, there’s my approach. I ALWAYS wait until the last minute to decide what I’m going to be. I’m the guy scrambling through Goodwill, the weekend prior to Halloween, hoping to discover any source inspiration! Once that fails, I nervously scroll the internet. Nothing! Then the seasonal costume shop, the attic, the basement, the bottom of my drawers, back to Goodwill! Still nothing.

There were several years early in my career when I would reach in my closet, grab my go-to orange flannel shirt and a pair of Timberland boots and call myself a Lumberjack. Other years, I would wear an orange turtleneck with black pants. I would hear, “Are you a pumpkin?’ or “What are you?” Lame. Finally, back in 2000 something with about 10 hours before the School’s Halloween Parade I became a Google costume genius and tied a leaf to the bill of my baseball cap and called myself a “leaf-blower”. I can definitely do better than that.

Planning ahead really works!

For some reason, one year, my team and I decided to plan our costumes for Halloween. By planning, I mean we brought up the subject as early as October 1st. As a team, we’d dress up based on a common theme. One time we each dressed up as four iPhone apps including Twitter, Evernote, Facebook, and Bleacher Report. It was cute, maybe even creative, and pretty well received. But we needed something new, something funny, something easy, something unforgettable. What to do, what to do?

You never know when inspiration will strike!

One night while watching the Goldbergs TV show, I saw the following clip.

Once I saw Coach Mellor in action, I knew what we had to do.

We unanimously decided to go retro. We would dress up like the physical education teachers who taught each of us when we were in elementary school. Each of us recalled similar outfits: tube socks, white sneakers, tight polyester shorts, snug polo shirts or 3/4 length sleeve baseball shirts, wrist bands, and dark or mirror-lensed glasses. We each had a month to put together our outfits.


The result was legendary. We each concocted our version of Coach Mellor. The moment we stepped into the gym, heads spun around and stared. The kids were more confused than anything else. After all, how would they understand the context? The only PE teachers they ever knew were us, the ones they’ve seen every day. It was our colleagues and parents who looked on with either pleasure or the “What the hell?” look. Some were laughing hysterically and others with jaws dropped, did not know what to think. As funny as we looked, our costumes stimulated conversation. Our peers shared stories about their own PE teachers growing up, which ultimately lead to stories or their experiences in “gym class”, as PE was often called back in the day. Not only did we look the part, but as we were getting more and more attention we began an over-the-top, completely stereotypical impersonation of the old-school “gym” teacher. According to our memories, all PE teachers spoke with a slow, southern drawl, loved to play dodge ball, wore sunglasses both inside and outside, and NEVER smiled. This was, of course, according to the fictional characters we were portraying.

By far, this was the absolute best costume I’ve ever worn as a teacher!

If you’re stumped and need a costume that will be a SMASH hit, then consider the RETRO PE TEACHER! You’ll have a blast. In fact, you’ll be totally tubular!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Polyester PE Shorts

Vintage 3-Button Polo Shirt

3/4 Length Sleeve Baseball Shirt (my personal favorite)

Multi-Color Mesh Trucker Cap with Foam Front
Retro White Seaker
3-Stripe Tube Socks
Sweatband Set
Champion Stopwatch
Stainless Steel Whistle with Lanyard

October’s Pumpkin Dice Latte Challenge

It’s time to Flourish with Fitness by taking the Pumpkin Dice Latte fitness challenge. In order to take this sweet challenge students, parents, teachers, and staff will need the following:


  • Pumpkin – With the help of an adult, find a pumpkin you can safely lift off the ground and over your head. You should be able to hold the pumpkin with extended arms in front of you for at least 10 seconds. If you are unable to find a pumpkin, use an alternative like a ball.


  • Dice – Go to your game closet to find a single dice.dice
  • A desire to get fit!

Once a pumpkin has been selected, it’s time to get pumped using the pumpkin as a weight.


Check out this awesome video for a demonstration of each exercise!

Thank you Jedd Austin (@jeddaustin) for your incredible videography/editing talent. This video will, without a doubt, be a useful resource for everyone who takes the challenge.

  • Spooky Squats – Hold your pumpkin by your chest. Slowly complete a squat. Remember to keep your shoulders back and push off your heels.
  • Jack-o-Lantern Jacks – Complete jumping jacks holding the pumpkin over your head.
  • Pumpkin Press – Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Push your pumpkin above your head then down to your chest for one repetition.
  • Pumpkin Seed Sit-ups – Lie flat on your back holding the pumpkin on the ground with extended arms over your head. Lifting one leg, curl up and touch your toe with the pumpkin. Repeat this move while alternating legs.
  • Boogedy Boogedy Burpees – Complete a burpee while holding your pumpkin with two hands.
  • Frankenstein Kicks – Hold the pumpkin out in front of you with extended arms. Alternating legs, gently kick the pumpkin with your toes.

I spend the week prior to the challenge introducing the workout and practicing each of the exercises during PE class. This allows me to help students with form before setting them off to do the workout at home. I’ve incorporated rest days this year as well. Students need to know that giving your body a break is an important part of any workout regiment. At the end of the month, participants turn in their calendars. Anyone who completes ten days or more receives an award certificate with a two-inch gold sticker and a plastic shoe token.

For access to the challenge click PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE!

BTW – Don’t forget about the yummy pumpkin seeds when the challenge is over. They make a super, yummy, healthy snack. Click PUMPKIN SEED RECIPE for directions on how to roast them. I like to make several batches, each with a different seasoning. Here are a few of my favorites (season prior to roasting):

  • Salt and Pepper
  • Salt and Vinegar
  • Barbecue
  • Ranch – Envelope Hidden Valley ranch seasoning
  • Cheddar or Parmesan – use packets of powdered cheese from a macaroni and cheese box

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Stop! Pay Attention! You’re on Recess Duty!

Unstructured Recess Does NOT Equal Unsupervised Recess

In some instances educators confuse unstructured recess with unsupervised recess. While students are being challenged by the real life lessons recess naturally provides, educators must be present. Recess is NOT time for a break, to grade papers, to sit and chat with colleagues, or to catch up on social media.

Too often, adults on recess duty forget their purpose or simply don’t understand how vital their role is during a child’s free and unstructured play time.

What is the teacher’s role while on recess duty? Top 10 tips to guide you



1. SPREAD OUT  – Supervisor zones

Teachers need to spread out and observe. Much like lifeguards at a busy beach or water park, adults on recess duty need to separate themselves from other adults and keep their heads on a swivel. We need to resist the temptation to sit or stand in a group socializing throughout recess.


Every school should have a clear set of recess expectations and boundaries. Teachers on recess duty must not only know them but also consistently enforce them. It can be frustrating for teachers and students when some teachers adhere to the recess rules while another group of teachers has loose interpretations, barely enforcing them. As teachers, we need to be consistent and fair.


There’s no doubt conflict runs rampant during recess. Whether it’s a heated football game or a group of students excluding someone from their tribe, conflict is inevitable. It’s also necessary. It helps foster resilience and assists in developing problem-solving strategies. It’s important for recess duty teachers to allow students the opportunity to resolve conflict on their own.

On some occasions, a teacher may need to step in to facilitate and give students the tools necessary to resolve present and future issues.



While on recess duty, there are always areas on the playground that need more of a watchful eye than others. For example, if the majority of a class is playing in the Gaga pit, then obviously this area needs direct supervision. One, because of the volume of students, and two, Gaga ball tends to be a game that challenges student integrity (stay tuned for a future post called, Gaga! Welcome to the Integrity Ball!). 



Scan the playground from your post. Even if you’re on fifth-grade recess duty, be prepared to assist students from other grade levels on different parts of the playground as needed. Just because students aren’t under your direct supervision, doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for their well-being.


Hypothetically speaking, let’s imagine a group having difficulty playing football on a daily basis. They can’t agree on teams, and the games are out of control.

Teachers can become frustrated with the students and ultimately ban them from playing. A better idea would be to monitor the games daily and give the students ample opportunity to resolve conflict.

When and if necessary, provide them with the tools to make teams and strategies to resolve conflict during the games. It may not be easy, but it’s a teachable conflict that will take time and patience.


Take advantage of your recess duty to learn something new about each of your students. You may already know a certain student loves to read, but struggles in math. However, did you realize the same child enjoys running and catching insects? Use this knowledge to build connections with your students.


Punctuality is a must. Never give the students an opportunity to be unsupervised. Whether picking up your students from a classroom or meeting them on the playground, students deserve the entire allotted time to run, play, and explore on the playground. When recess is over, make sure all your students have safely lined up and made their way back into the school.


Kids are inquisitive. Many, if not all, have an innate desire to explore, even if it pushes beyond the recess expectations and boundaries. In many instances, children are so engaged and hyper-focused on what they’re doing, they don’t realize they may be doing something wrong. You might find a group of students organizing a soccer game in the middle of a preexisting football game. After giving the two groups ample opportunity to resolve the overlap, you may have to help the soccer players find another safe place to play.

It can be easy to assume bad intentions when you notice a child or children breaking rules or overstepping boundaries. Take a deep breath, and calmly approach the situation.  Have a conversation to discover the true intentions. If necessary, redirect them to appropriate activities. Often, the original idea can be tweaked in order to make it acceptable for recess.


Student and teacher safety is of utmost importance during recess. All teachers need to be ready to react to any given situation.

Here are my top 7 Emergency Readiness Strategies:
  1. Know the protocol for minor and serious injuries.
  2. Memorize your nurse’s phone number and/or program it into your phone.
  3. Keep your CPR and First Aid certifications up to date.
  4. Be able to locate or direct another person to your school’s Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
  5. Study your school’s emergency guidelines in regard to severe weather and intruders.
  6. Be sure your colleagues are on duty with you, an appropriate student-to-teacher ratio is a must.
  7. When an emergency situation presents itself, be proactive.

For teachers, recess duty is a job in itself. I’ve been extremely fortunate to currently work in a school where recess is taken seriously. All students in all grade levels receive recess daily. Our administrators begin each school year with a reminder that all recess duty teachers must spread out and supervise the outdoor classroom.

So next time you’re on recess duty, remember “duty” isn’t just a word that makes your kids laugh (like mine). It is a critical responsibility to ensure children are safe and given an opportunity to blossom in their outdoor playground. Make sure you’re qualified, follow my 10 tips, and keep those kids in motion!

This post is dedicated to Maryellen Berry. An amazing teacher, administrator, friend, and yes, recess monitor. Maryellen, thank you for consistently reminding us that education happens everywhere, even/especially on the playground. Recess

“Recess Makes Kids Smarter | Scholastic.” Scholastic Publishes Literacy Resources and Children’s Books for Kids of All Ages

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