My Drones Need Re-wiring – and Recess

My kids do not have recess during their school day and that is ridiculous.  I have lived with this lunacy for two years but have had enough.

In typical Good-Bad Dad fashion, I had accepted the status quo because I was too busy to do otherwise.  I have been an obedient steward to rules and the mentality that the “legislative machine” must know what they are doing – after all, they are the professionals, not me.  My impatience with the “machine” has now boiled over.

A fight is now taking place in Florida that deserves a broader audience.  Parents have asked for state sponsorship of twenty minutes of daily recess for our children.  Although many reading might be having the same “Duh” moment I experienced a few years ago, parents supporting the action locally have been headed off at every pass by bureaucracy and flag-bearers of the complacency that is hurting our kids.

There seems to be general agreement about the value of physical activity in schools but no path on how to agreeably work it in.  Additional discussions are being had about where such a mandate should come from – from the state level or lower.  Those talks are resulting in delays and lack of traction for the mandate’s support.  The thought of red tape derailing this movement is unacceptable.blogSpan

My wife and I have informally asked our kids’ school several times about the viability of recess.   I have heard the same obstacles repeated by teachers and administration alike-

1.  Kids get the wiggles out in P.E.

The argument cannot (and should not) be made for trading more Physical Education (P.E.) at the cost of having a free-form recess.  The two are not equitable.  With all due respect to P.E., recess provides enrichment that instructor-led gym class cannot – creativity to play new games, ability to self-govern rules to be followed, social interaction with other kids that might not be in your kids’ class and the cultivation of silliness created by playing imaginary games or chasing butterflies.  Kids may very well use the recess time to extend the same games as P.E., however, they do so at their own terms, their own pace and under rules which they police.

2.  There is no time for recess given the curriculum requirements.

I’ve come to understand that a teacher’s day is jam-packed with requirements which leaves each minute of my child’s day accounted for precisely.  This robotic existence should change – installing recess can help do so.  The 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. drone behavior is a necessity allowing teachers to get through enough material to meet standards set for them – it must have time for a short break.  This “droning” leaves no time for passion, curiosity or going off-script for kids or their teachers.  This check-the-box mentality is dangerous for teacher engagement and destructive for children requiring a battery recharge to be effective late-day learners.

3.  Schools have no funding for recess to be staffed.

Given the scarcity of resources allotted for schools, I see this as a legitimate obstacle to having recess mandated.  There are two ways to deal with this in my view: (a) teachers agree to work a rotating schedule of supervision or (b) parents step up or pay up.

The first option taxes those folks that need recess as much as our children – not a great option at all.  The latter is the “special sauce” that could push this idea closer to reality.  This requires more of me than simply shaking my fist at the big, bad legislators from afar – it requires real action.

If recess for my kids mean so much, I’m called to action to make it so.  Could each GBD sign up for an hour of recess volunteering per year?  No problem – in fact, playing dodge-ball with a bunch of fifth graders could be cathartic after a tough morning at work.

From my seat, these obstacles do not seem insurmountable.  Quite the opposite, the objections provided give me a playbook for how to get our kids moving again – that is, if given the forum for an open discussion with those people that can grant our schools the power to act.  Enough of the finger-pointing regarding what level that decision can and should be made – my kids deserve better and fast.

When I confine myself to signing my children up for a daily drone existence, I have been successful at getting much done at the cost of trying to raise creative, social, passion-filled “pushers” of the envelope.  My little robots can get A’s in math, but need an adult to tell them what painted line to stand on to wait for the bus.

I understand the value of order and efficiency, but refuse to understand how a small amount of “do whatever you want” time undermines either.  If I am serious about raising well rounded members of a healthy community, it’s time to step up and reprogram my drones.

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