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I Can't Believe Our School Banned This Word

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My daughter was excited as we headed to orientation for 1st grade, recently. We'd heard good things about her new teacher. She was thrilled to have her own desk for the first time. She burst with so much positive energy she could barely contain herself.

I sat down with slightly less enthusiasm as I faced the large stack of forms I would need to fill out. But I was happy she was excited, and looking forward to the start of the school year.

The teacher began a Power Point presentation to cover a few key things. One involved the class schedule. As I looked at my printed copy of her slides, I was just coming to the realization as these words came out of her mouth:

"There is no recess this year."

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Um, what? My child is only 6 years old. Since when is there no recess in 1st grade?

There was no recess on the schedule, but there was something labeled "Teacher-Directed P.E." That was in addition to the regular P.E. the class would have with the school coach.

The good news is my daughter really does have 'recess.'

There was no further discussion on the topic. The presentation moved on. But I could not move past the concern my child would have no opportunity to play at school, something that has been proven to be critical to her development.

That night, I ranted. To my husband. To friends. To fellow parents I know from my child's school. I. Was. Livid.

Then I took a deep breath. I decided to wait and see what my daughter's experience with Teacher-Directed P.E. was like. As well as to email the principal of the school for clarification on the new policy and reasoning behind the change.

My gut told me what this whole thing boiled down to was nomenclature. Somehow, it was the words—not the actual block of time on the schedule and how it was used—that were the issue.

After the first day of school, my daughter told me her class had spent Teacher-Directed P.E. time on the playground. Playing. With no direction. And that continued to be the case all week. From my 6-year-old's perspective, Teacher-Directed P.E. was recess.

I was relieved.

Then I received a reply to my inquiry from one of the assistant principals. She confirmed my suspicion that it all boiled down to the use of words. According to her, the state has been working to ban the word "recess," feeling it led to "images of unsupervised students running everywhere."

The initial buzzword used for the master schedule was "planned physical activity." Which went well with the state legislature's mandate that students at the elementary level have 150 minutes per week of it. Then the term "Teacher-Directed P.E." was developed.

Administrators are not permitted to enter the word "recess." The master scheduling system won't permit it.

To me, this is a classic example of people who understand nothing about education dictating how it should be managed.

I literally have my face in my palm as I type this.

The good news is my daughter really does have "recess." Regardless of what technical term the state insists be used, the administrators of her school have assured me:

"We agree children need time to simply play on the playground, run around with friends, or shoot hoops on the court. These are exactly the activities we would expect to see happening during the teacher directed P.E. time. Occasionally, a teacher might try to organize a game of kickball with some students during this time. When it is too hot or wet, the students might have free-time in the classroom to play games, do some exercises, or use a program called Adventure to Fitness.

My 1st-grader's experience reflects that, for which I am grateful.

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But I cannot for the life of me figure out when, how and why "recess" became a dirty word. Good educators understand its role and importance in the development of young children. I personally don't know of any parents who take offense to the word.

To me, this is a classic example of people who understand nothing about education dictating how it should be managed. It's a dangerous practice, one that is far too common and has the potential to be damaging to our children.

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