A colleague of mine shared this article by Valerie Strauss discussing how schools ruined recess and it hits a nerve with me. I have forever not understood why we take away recess so students can have more tutorial/practice sessions. Yes, as an educator, I understand the need to use every minute to the fullest to prepare our children….hmm, but what are we preparing them for? You see what the real problem here is TESTING. I guarantee if you walked into any class in which students were held back from recess to work, it would be because they needed help with passing the state/national test for that grade level. That would be the underlying reason. Yes, they may have gaps. Yes, they may be below grade level, but the driving force of “punishing” that student is standardized testing.
This article makes me think of this sweet student my mother taught. This little girl was stripped of all recess, downtime, before school time and after school time. Every minute of her day was spent in class and in tutorials for extra help. She accepted it, but would ask why she couldn’t go out. She was promised from administration that she could go out every Wednesday and then that was taken away. She then was allowed to think there was light at the end of the tunnel and after testing she would be allowed recess again. Testing came and left and when she was supposed to go out and play, she was told no, that they better start preparing for next year. My heart broke for this little girl and my mother. My mother had no control and would bend the rules when she could. What are we really teaching here? I think we are teaching this little girl and others like her to hate school and to hate learning.
This can be likened to school breaks in the upper grades. I know teachers that will assign projects over a break. It is a break. A break is a pause in work or during an activity or event. Do students not deserve a break as well?! These same teachers would throw a fit if they were given an assignment from their district to complete over a break.
I do love how the article gave steps to fix this situation. Check them out! Here is my favorite quote:, “When the rules left, so did their ‘behavior issues.’ He saw more independence, improved creativity, healthy risk-taking, less falling, better coordination, and improved attention in the classroom.”
There is much research out there that supports the need for recess and active play. Let’s let kids be kids.