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