A few months ago I was visiting a friend of mine who teaches high school English. We were in his classroom and he showed me his grade book. I noticed that in some of his classes, most of the students were missing most of their assignments. I asked him about this.
“There’s really not much I can do about it. I assign work, collect it, grade it and post the scores on-line. Some kids just don’t turn in their work. Other than giving them an F, there’s not much else I can do, since some kids simply couldn’t care less about their grades.”
I explained how things work in my classroom. I assign work and then collect it. If a student doesn’t have it, they do it during recess. Period. No questions, no yelling, no discussion. Their names go up on the whiteboard and they come back to the room after lunch to get it done. I’m in the room anyway, taking care of paperwork, and I don’t mind the company.
And if someone misbehaves or wastes time during the day, I put a tally next to their name on my clipboard. Each tally mark equals one minute of lost recess during our second recess, which we have toward the end of the day.
I use first recess to take care of missing assignments and I use second recess to take care of misbehavior. And it works beautifully. I have the best-behaved class in the school with literally no missing assignments.
But then I came across this article in USA Today. Basically, a bunch of pediatricians want us to leave recess sacred; don’t make kids do schoolwork when they should be out playing and don’t withhold recess as a form of punishment.
In other words, don’t do what I do.
I can see their point. Recess is an important time for kids to blow off steam, get some exercise, mingle, and just “be kids.” For most children, it’s their favorite time of the day. It certainly was for me, when I was young.
But pediatricians aren’t teachers. They deal with one kid at a time, for ten or fifteen minutes, with their parents in the room. They’re not trying make 25 to 30 kids work quietly at something most of them would rather not do for seven hours a day.
At a certain level, teachers need leverage. For those of us at the elementary level, recess gives us that.
What do you think?