School Is Useless Without Recess (No, Really)

Mom Moment 28

hopscotchAnother school year, another season of back-to-school commercial LIES. That's right, lies. I just read a post in The Atlantic about how all those happy school-time commercials showing rosy-cheeked children frolicking around expansive schoolyards are just selling us a dream that doesn't exist for our kids. Nope, in reality we're sending our kids off to the Gulag for endless indoor test prep.

Forget jumping rope: Now it's all about jumping through hoops. Picture lines of children burdened by 300-pound backpacks singing "We Don't Need No Education," trudging into the school building never to see daylight again, their hopeful little brains squashed by the imagination-crushing demands of NCLB.

Oh my Geometry, is it really that bad?!?

I don't know! You tell me. A few years ago when my son was in Pre-K at our local elementary school, this was exactly what I feared. The principal is a very ambitious, determined administrator with a clear vision: High test scores. Every time I asked about more "progressive" programs and stuff like phys ed and recess, I'd get the same answer. None of that hippie stuff, we're here to serve The Tests. (Okay, gym class once a week but that's it.)

Well screw that. My vision was completely different, so now we haul our son off to a school far outside our neighborhood where the learning is hands-on and the kids are forced outdoors to run around and PLAY like the children that they are every single day (unless it's pouring rain or dangerously cold). And then they get a decent amount of time to eat their lunches (sugary foods aren't allowed). So their brains get a rest and their bodies are nourished enough to support an afternoon of rigorous thought.

Meanwhile, we heard from our friends who stayed at the Testing School that kids went hungry because lunch lasts 10 seconds, felt pent up, and generally had that rat race feeling that's so NOT conducive to learning. I mean, even if you love the testing you have to admit, taking a few mental breaks during the day is going to help kids focus and perform better in the long run. And no, moving from classroom to classroom and spending the first 15 minutes of each period yelling at everyone to shut up doesn't count.

I think deep down a lot of parents suspect the heavy emphasis on testing and endless stupid worksheets aren't doing squat for preparing our kids to become future leaders and innovators. Maybe we're too busy to demand better, or we're not sure what exactly better even looks like, or we don't feel like we have the authority to challenge teachers and principals. But I think, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, demanding a little more recess time is a good place to start.

What would you change about your school if you could?


Image via Wootang01/Flickr

back to school, education, elementary school


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nonmember avatar jb

this is what we get from the no child left behind act.

Chris... ChrisakaMama

OMG yes, I am constantly ranting about this (in real life & on my blog )! Things like kids as young as 6 or 7 with recess 2x per week is crazy and it makes them act crazy too. However, you exaggerate lunch is an entire30 mins long (yes that's sarcasm) not mearly 10, however they have assigned seats and aren't allowed to talk. Argh. They wonder why the kids have trouble sitting still and then get mad when you won't put them on ADHD meds. Since I can't sit still for 8 hours, I've never been worried about it when I find out that a seven year old can't either. Also, have you seen the "How to take a test" coloring book? It's like those coloring books they give to the little ones for Fire Safety week, except it's about filling in bubbles all the way so the kid in the coloring book's teacher will know how smart he is. Completely disturbing.

jagam... jagamama0710

ChrisakaMama - Holy moly! @ a that how to take a test coloring book. 

I only have one kid in school right now and she just started Kindergarten a few weeks ago. They do get 2 recesses every day (15 minutes each) and PE on monday and tuesday (30 minutes each). They only get 18 minutes for lunch, but truthfully, by the time she gets through the line to get her lunch box and sits down, it's 10-15 before it's time to pack it up and put it back in the wagon. It bugs the shit out of me. She is almost never able to finish it in time and it's not as if I pack a feast for her. She always finishes the rest of it when she gets home or is ravenous for a huge "snack". It started affecting how she eats her meals at home as well. I have to remind her that there's no time limit at home, she can relax and enjoy her food. 

The school you described that your son is at sounds wonderful! I wish we had one nearby like that. 

jagam... jagamama0710

I would say that if our school decided to drop recess altogether or any of the special classes (art or music - she LOVES art and music), she'd be out so fast their head would spin. 

early... earlybird11

But wait. If its public don't they have to have mandatory physical stuff daily etc ; I don't know if its state by state etc. And I didn't go to public school, but its an honest question. 18 minutes for lunch ? We would be gone. I went to private school and one semester the principal decided to adopt the assigned lunch seat, no talking. Parents went bat shit crazy and that lasted a week. Guess there was some perks to private school there

Evaly... EvalynCarnate

Wow, my kid's school somes awesome compared to some of those asylums. Geez. O.o

Lilyp... Lilypad523

Teachers are often blamed for schools being this way, but let me clarify that this is NOT a teacher's idea of a conducive learning environment, and that teaching-to-the-test is not the way to help students become critical thinkers. It absolutely disgusts me how much pressure the states and the government put on public schoos. But if public schools don't agree to do things the states way then guess what? No more state funding. The states are making it impossible for public schools to succeed; they want public schools gone. And already, they're accomplishing that by taking away things like recess, forcing teachers to teach-to-the-test, and cramming so much into one school day that the students barely have time to catch their breath. I don't blame any parent who pulls their child out of a public school because they're sick and tired of all the pressure that their child is under but please, please, please understand that teachers do not want it that way. Teaching-to-the-test is the worst idea ever; all state tests do is measure how well a child can regurgitate information that was taught to them, and most of the time the children do not understand the practical application of what they've learned. It breaks my heart.

Aunt_... Aunt_ning

I was the rare child who hated recess. I never went outside unless they forced me too. If I did go out I sat in the corner and read a book. I normally spent my recess sitting in the library either reading or talking to the Librarian and helping to straighten the shelves and order new books, and check other books in. That was my happy place. I hated going outside and being forced to play. I even sat by myself at lunch and read a book, I still do in fact.

jagam... jagamama0710

Lilypad - Oh, I don't blame the teachers at all. I have some teacher friends and they've told me pretty much what you just said. It's really sad. 

mamivon2 mamivon2

idk.. my kids school is pretty good.. nice staff, teachers etc

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