The Alliance for Childhood just printed Olga Jarrett’s research showing the importance of research http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/sites/allianceforchildhood.org/files/file/Recess_online.pdf.
I admire the good work of Olga Jarrett. I even posted a tribute to her awhile back. There is a lot of other great research out there to show the importance of recess, along with books on the subject. There’s Susan Ohanian’s What Happened to Recess and Why are our Children Struggling in Kindergarten? written back in 2002. Anthony D. Pellegrini’s insightful book Recess: Its Role in Education and Development was published in 2005. The Alliance for Childhood has much more on recess too http://www.allianceforchildhood.org/.
Not long ago the American Academy of Pediatrics jumped in to holler about the importance of recess http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/AAP-Considers-Recess-a-Necessary-Break.aspx. They emphasized students do better in school with recess. I’d say students just need a break! Not ever being given time to step away and play, without adults breathing down your necks, must be hell for a young child.
So why, you have to wonder, did parents ever kiss recess good-bye to begin with?
My husband and I fought for recess years ago. When our daughter was denied recess for heavy test prep we went head-to-head with the teacher. We eventually had her changed to another class (a feat that was hard to come by) with a teacher who liked to take breaks to play kickball with the students. It wasn’t giving children true freedom to do what they wanted on the playground, but it got our daughter a break. By the way, she scored exceedingly well on the tests without so much test prep.
You can’t, however, rely on teachers to save recess. They’re pressured to focus on test results and instructed to micromanage the child’s every move. Many teachers could lose their jobs if students test poorly. Having additional time to use for test prep might mean, in their thinking, that they will be able to buy groceries for their families next year.
Back when recess first began disappearing, or when the loss of recess began being used for punishment (oddly students who act out probably need recess most), I did speak to parents about the loss of recess. They either whispered they didn’t like its loss, but they couldn’t take a stand. Or they liked not having recess! They’d bought into the idea that schools needed every minute for instruction because schools were failing and their child needed to learn…not play.
Then there was the principal who once indicated to me that the children got PE. Make no mistake. PE is not recess. It’s structured. The child never gets to take a breath and do something on their own. Their time is monitored.
But parents? Still today, one must wonder why they ever allowed for no breaks for their children. Don’t they raise questions when they wind up having to put little Billy or Susie on Adderall for ADHD? Couldn’t there be some other reason why their children can’t sit still? Now that so much research has come out about the importance of recess, why aren’t parents running to the schools to demand it for their children?
I see a lot of parents who are committed to turning things around when it comes to schools on FB. The mention of competition came up today. Parents might still worry whether their child will score high on the test. .
I think parents also worry their child will get hurt or bullied with recess. But sports are dangerous too. Parents don’t seem reluctant to let their children play sports.
Children need safe playground equipment with good soft material on the ground and good supervision. Preferably, teachers should watch students. They can learn a lot about them by observation. They can check on how students use their gross and fine motor skills. They should also be on hand for breaking up fights and for noting social interactions. Helping children iron out differences is a good thing about recess.
But I’m afraid that no matter how much I or others sputter about it…no matter how many people post their support on FB or Tweet about it, and no matter how much more research is done to show recess matters, recess is, still, either gone, or on its way out.
But wait! There is always a non-profit waiting in the wings to help. Playworks will partner with schools to provide supervised structured recess http://www.playworks.org/. Again, this seems more like structured PE and one wonders why outsiders must come in to provide recess when schools, for years, before the current education reforms, did it quite well.
Some places like Virginia have actually restored recess. In fact, in schools that have recess—funny thing—test scores are usually better! But a lot of schools still forgo recess.
The majority of parents didn’t speak out for recess before, so I doubt they will speak out for it now. While it’s true there are a whole lot of worries about public schools these days, the loss of recess, for me, is a worry that should be at the top of the list. It can be likened to child abuse. I’m just afraid the recess issue left the station a long time ago, and while more and more research comes out in its favor, it doesn’t look like anyone is going to bring it back fully anytime soon.