Matt Pearl

I have an unpopular opinion to share, so half of you need to brace yourselves: you’ll be upset with me in a few hundred more words. So here it is:

Kids need more recess.

The research agrees with me, but the educational trends that are rooted in higher test scores and competitive development of students in comparison to other districts and other states – well, those are tends that can’t survive on my kind of thinking.

And since I’m dropping unpopular views, here’s another closely related one:

Language arts and math are being overemphasized, which makes kids hate them even more.

Man, I’m on a roll! This is the kind of stuff that will get you into hot water if you don’t justify your views with substance. I’ll try.

As I said, the research I have encountered states that kids are less fidgety and more focused upon their schoolwork if they have experienced adequate recess time during the day. It doesn’t have to be an hour: it can be 20-30 minutes.

Education is a field that makes its justifications for everything based on research. But what is a school to do when your state and country are fussing about low math scores and poor communication skills? The research says to let the kids play, but the state says to keep them learning. How do you break the gridlock?

Well, educators and administrators, I’m going to simultaneous annoy and empower you. The state doesn’t know your students – the career’s worth of data they have collected on kids isn’t exactly the same as having an actual human relationship with them, you see. Your community has entrusted you with the lives, educational futures and daytime wellbeing of their kids: don’t screw it up to make a remote educational governing body happy with you.

I’m an English teacher. I believe in the overwhelming importance of literacy. Math is also dear to my heart, and it needs to be n other high priority. These are the first and most frequently tested academic areas for public school students, so they naturally receive the lion’s share of our attention.

But focusing on a couple of subjects for hours on end, without the chance to get some fresh air, to move around and simply to be free of adult structure and commands for a few minutes here and there, is just crazy.

And what are we sacrificing? I teach English, and I use the literacy skills of reading, writing and speaking on a daily – hourly basis. But I love music in ways I can’t love language. I have appreciation for art that rivals my respect for a well written novel. The communities I serve wouldn’t dream of eliminating the arts from their respective curricula – but the national trend towards language-math-language-math has caused other districts to allow the ‘non-core’ curriculum to erode.

And don’t ask me who made a bogeyman out of recess. That makes no sense to me at all.

We can be an insanely stupid bunch when we put our minds to it. We’re a society that can simultaneously defy research in order to create more sustained minutes of language arts and math instruction, all while wondering why kids seem lazy, short of attention and bored in school.

Spoiler: it’s because you killed recess. You killed it, and now you wonder why activity levels, leadership, teamwork and all those other wonderful skills recess taught your kids are now lacking. It’s like putting all the weight on one side of a teeter-totter and wondering why the other end can’t stay on the ground. Of course, your kids may never understand that metaphor, what with the slow demise of recess time. You can explain it to them later.

Ok, so you either love me right now, or you’re rolling your eyes. I can handle either. But for goodness’ sake, think about what recess did for you as a kid. If that doesn’t work, consider the fact that recess didn’t hurt your academic progress too much. Maybe we need to give it another chance.

Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.

 

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