The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is creating behavioral standards for preschool through high school across the country. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is both trendy, and controversial, and is being reported a lot in education news.
As I have written before, I am suspect of behavioral standards for children, but some of the issues CASEL notes, bullying for example, are worthy of consideration, and some programs they review have activities that might be helpful to children.
However, no mention on the CASEL website do I see advocating for the reinstatement of recess in public schools. When it comes to social-emotional behavior in children, this is a serious omission. It raises questions as to what CASEL is really all about.
Are schools that get grants for social-emotional learning providing their students with recess? Is recess a state requirement for such money?
CASEL does discuss “embedding” SEL skills into recess.
But they are embroiled with establishing cookie-cutter standards referring to:
- Self awareness
- Self management
- Social awareness
- Relationship skills
- Responsible decision-making
They refer to “promoting recess,” but they don’t seem to recognize that many schools still don’t offer recess. And by embedding skills, they seem to be structuring recess to teach skills.
Recess should be unstructured play.
CASEL tweeted an article about Austin ISD’s consideration of 30 minutes of daily recess. Austin schools did approve recess. The researchers must know that getting recess for children in schools is still a struggle. But why don’t they highlight it as a necessity?
Shouldn’t they be leading the charge that children deserve natural breaks during the school routine? Shouldn’t the need for recess be a big part of what CASEL is about when it comes to social-emotional learning?
CASEL emphasizes “evidence-based instruction” for SEL learning. Isn’t recess evidence-based? Haven’t there been enough studies to demonstrate its importance to children?
Here’s my favorite recommendation from The American Academy of Pediatrics.
Most parents realize the importance of recess as evidenced by Maria Guido’s slamming of pedal desks for young children. Guido’s post had 282.2K Facebook likes.
And parents around the country have organized in recent years to demand recess, like Recess for All Florida Students led by Heather Mellet. Students there are to get 20 minutes of recess (many believe 30 minutes is better).
The seriousness of the loss of recess has been documented for years. Susan Ohanian wrote about it in What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten? (2002).
For the serious CASEL researchers, I guess recess doesn’t match the step-by step instructions meant to teach social and emotional competencies across the five core competency clusters-on age appropriate topics such as labeling feelings, coping with anxiety or stress, setting and achieving goals, developing empathy and compassion, communicating effectively, resolving conflict, being assertive, and making responsible decisions.
Whew! That seems like a lot of lessons for a five year old, even an older student, but if you look closely at those skills, you will find every single one found on the playground! Children might demonstrate all of these behaviors during recess.
Teachers don’t need to be told such skills are embedded in play. This doesn’t call for fancy standards. How to evaluate behavior on the playground might be of some help.
But good teachers who carefully observe children during recess, know when to stand back and observe, and when to intervene. Children learn to relate. They unwind. They learn on their own to get along. It is as simple as that.
Or, the older one. HERE.