Recently, a child of mine returned home from school upset. Apparently, the day before, the class had a substitute teacher. And, as often happens in these situations, not all children in the class acted very well. As a result, the sub wrote up a bad report to my child’s teacher, and punishment efforts naturally ensued.
As a former teacher, I understand that when behavioral issues take place, action must be taken to correct the behavior. However, the punishment placed upon the entire class was not a natural fit for the crime committed. Rather than having the class talk about the inappropriate actions, and/or perhaps write an apology note to the substitute, the entire class had to stay inside for recess, working on other academic-related things.
In my experience as a mom of several school-age children, this has not been the first time when I have heard of recess being taken away. I have had children told to stay in because homework was not completed. I recently had a child miss recess because she spent “a little too much time in the bathroom” — something my young daughter did because of a situation that was out of her control.
The worst of them all is when recess was withheld from children who were struggling with a certain academic concept. In these instances, I was told in meetings that it was done to “catch them up because there is no other time to do so.”
While I understand the need to teach a lesson or to maximize time, taking away recess in each instance deprives children of something they need badly: to get out and play.
Recess is a time for kids to be free to run around and play without the need for constant adult supervision. It is a time for them to not only expel energy, but to gain energy after hours of needing to sit still. Recess serves as a venue for kids to forge friendships and, yes, even to get in arguments.
When I was a child, recess taught me lessons in science, such as standing under a tree will keep me cool, running on that icy blacktop will make me slip and hurt myself and constant friction on the skin from monkey bars will cause blisters that later turn into calluses. It taught me English skills, as I had to learn how to communicate with friends to either retain friendships or find a polite way to tell certain ones to stay away. It taught me math skills, since I was always counting how many times I could jump a rope or move my body around a monkey bar.
It was while moving my body around those monkey bars that I learned that foreheads and metal bars don’t mix well, especially when going forward at full force. Nearly 30 years later, I have the scar to show for it and a story to share with my children when they have their own recess injuries.
Finally, as a former teacher who remembers finding myself in that dilemma of “Should I keep the kids in or not,” I think back on how awesome recess was for me. It served as a time to recharge my battery while the kids were out playing.
If I was on recess duty, it gave me the chance to see my students in a different light. I could see the little athletes who could run around and kick a soccer ball or who had obviously honed their skills in gymnastics or tumbling outside the world of school. I could also observe the children who had friends and those who struggled, so I could have more compassion.
Through all my years of experience as a child, teacher and parent, it has become very clear to me that recess is not free time that can be taken away at will. Recess, just like any other content area, is necessary to the academic and overall development of our students and should never be used as a privilege or punishment.
Arianne Brown is a mother of seven young children who loves hearing and sharing stories. For more of her writings, search “A Mother’s Write” on Facebook. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Twitter: A_Mothers_Write