Saturday, January 12, 2013

A rant about recess . . . or the lack there of

January 11

Okay, for the record, my little one and I were outside a lot today, a bike ride, a nature walk, driveway play, walking to get my older daughter. Yes, we were outside, and it was great. But . . . here's the thing, my first grader was at school the entire time. Not a problem, I love school, I loved being in school, I became a teacher so I could work in a school. I am very happy with my daughter's school . . but WHAT HAPPENED TO RECESS? Oh, feels good to raise my voice just a bit.

When I was first teaching we had three recesses in the school day: 10 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes after eating lunch, and 20 minutes in the afternoon. That didn't seem like a lot. Amazingly that ten minutes in the morning was very very helpful. Kids who came in sleepy finally woke up. Those who came in wiggly got settled into school. Nowadays how much recess does my daughter get? Twenty minutes. Not at each recess, but total (in a seven hour school day). Do I have to use all caps again? In seven hours they can only carve out 20 minutes for outside play time? Here's the thing, when I ask about her day, what she consistently tells me is what she did at recess. Here is a sample: "Today we built squirrel houses out of leaves." "Today I was a pet dragon," "Today we played pirates." "Today I was the fastest runner." "Today I was the puppy dog." This time is not a waste, it is not frivolous, and it is not expendable. Do I need to get into brain research about how kids need movement and unstructured time to allow their brains to transfer the short term learning to long term knowledge?  Do I have to talk about how kids focus more after they have had a chance to play and run, climb and yell? And do I really have to say out loud that it doesn't make any sense to keep anyone sitting for six hours and 40 minutes? When is the last time you tried it? Yes, you sit at work, but I bet you can get up when you want, take a stretch, use the bathroom, grab a snack. And you probably don't get in trouble for talking to your friends. . .

Maybe it would help if recess were called it something fancy. How about Cognitive, Social, Motor Skill Integration Time? It could even be on the report card. "Well Mrs. Smith, it looks like Little Johnny is doing outstanding in CSMSI Time!"  News flash: kids need to run around outside at school. They need RECESS!

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