Last week the news was full of whether American public school students are given enough “play time” or physical activity during the school day. Having taught 29 years, I saw recess time slowly disappear and behavior problems grow. Are they related? Could be! The entire debate has been grinding in my craw for several days.
Children today, do spend more time in front of video games, TV, and computers and less time using their imagination and spending time outside, in my opinion. As far as public education, two years ago when I left teaching, students had one 15 minute recess, which included time getting outdoor clothes on and off AND playing outside. The lunch period was 30 minutes which included eating time, getting clothes on and off, and playing. You ought to try that, students don’t spend much time eating so they can get out to play, plus it is just too much to shoved into 3o minutes. Special classes, like music, gym and art daily replace unstructured play time. If you had a special in the afternoon or morning, then you didn’t get recess.
Now that winter has hit, I remember in the 60’s being able to run out to the community ice skating rink across the road from our school, lace up my skates, and skate, all within a generous 20 minute recess. When I came in, my blood was flowing, my mind was re-energized, and so was my readiness to sit down and get back to learning. The American system is now so caught up in not being equal or better than other countries, we are taking on their approach to ruthless time on task and considering adding minutes to the day. The high expectations continue to be dropped into lower and lower classes. Did you know that you learn to read in Kindergarten now and learn part of the multiplication facts in 2nd grade? Instruction, as I left it, was definitely teaching to the annual assessments given each Fall. You paced to the top students. The slower students hopefully would catch on as the curriculum spiraled. I believe as per the last federal mandates from the last administration that by 2014 ALL students, yes, 100% of the students are expected to satisfactorily succeed on the annual state assessments, yes special education, at risk, and of course the general population of learners. All I can say, that would be a major miracle or perhaps slight of hand by the examiners.
I told a friend the other day that students are learning much more than their parents learned at the same age, and that trend of higher expectations continues as each decade or new federal expectations comes on the scene. So to answer whether student expectations are being dummied down? In fact the bar continues to be raised. With the raising bar, the pressure and time on task increases. I personally found giving students time to burn off some energy gave better results in the classroom. But I too was under the gun to cover the expected material, so one gave in to the other. So come on America, let kids be kids and give them back a morning, noon, and afternoon recess and see what happens. Are we more concerned with the world economy and competition or quality of life?
OK, I am not stepping down from my orange crate. If you think I am in error, let’s hear your opinions.