Everything is going smoothly, and all the kids are on task.  All, except for little Johnny.  All the other kids have written essays.  Johnny has written nothing.  All the other kids have clean desks.  Johnny has doodled all over his.  While others are focused Johnny seems bored and plays with a piece of string he found on the floor.  While it is supposed to be silent reading time, Johnny thinks it is hilarious to talk to his neighbor. Ugh!  What’s a teacher to do?  The usual answer here is to take away recess.

boy on monkey bars at recess

Kids need recess to think better. Image: Shutterstock

More and more recess minutes are lost every year to students who seem to need recess the most.  Yet, how often has a teacher said, “No homework, no recess.”  Why?  Well, the obvious answer is that you never did your homework and need to do it.  Or, you committed any other number of grievous error, on an elementary school level.

Some kids miss recess every single day.  It seems like there should be some kind of alternative to taking recess away for two reasons.  One is that the kids need a break.  They need time to play.  They need exercise.  When they are able to go get some of their energy out, they actually come back more refreshed and ready to learn.  Plus, recess is one of the only times they are actually allowed to be social.  This is time spent forming bonds with other kids and learning how to communicate.  It’s essential.

The other main reason is that teachers need a break.  No teacher really wants to spend any minute of their free time dealing with a discipline issue.  Besides, teachers’ breaks are not breaks at all.  During the time kids are out, teachers photocopy papers, return parent or school district email, write letters to be sent home for field trips, grade papers, draft new curriculum, hang up student papers or artwork on the walls, meet with other grade-level teachers to discuss difficult students, share ideas for projects with other teachers, hand in school photo money to the office, etc, etc.  Teachers generally work about 9 – 10 hours each day.

Kids get their energy out at recess. Image: Shutterstock

Kids get their energy out at recess. Image: Shutterstock

There is so much emphasis to make every minute count in the classroom.  Now this is coupled with high stakes testing with which teachers feel the pressure to perform even more.  What do most school districts do to schools that are “failing?”  They simply require more and more testing to make sure they are making “progress.”  Who is forgotten in this equation?  The kids…and the teachers.

It’s as if a company were not making much money.  Instead of really trying to figure out the problem, the employees just had to fill out more paperwork on top of their regular work.  Instead of look for what’s broken, the company hires a group of “experts” to lecture to the employees about how lucky they are to be chosen as the “focus” group that will be examined and tested.  Can you say stressful?

Bottom line: Everyone is less cranky if they get recess.  Let’s fight for it.