recess revisited

I wrote a couple posts back about the new recess program at our school. That post focused on where I saw the problem. This one is about where I would look for a solution.

Here’s the quick recap and current scoop- There is a new recess program at school, and I don’t like it. I blogged about it, the principal read it, and she invited me down to check out the program for myself.

There is one thing I regret- not going and seeing the program for myself before taking my complaints public. That’s like burping really loud at Applebees or something. Not very mindful, not very gracious. As it was, I misunderstood two of the rules I mentioned in the previous article, for which I’ve since written corrections. I apologize for that.

So we watched recess, the principal and I. Observed recess. Talked about recess. Discussed our philosophies about how to best promote the shared values of our school. We agreed on almost everything. Between the principal, the recess program, and me, we all sought to foster very similar values.

But it’s not the values I struggle with. I struggle with the underlying belief that guides the program’s implementation. They believe that kids need more adult involvement to protect them and help solve their problems. But there is such thing as too much safety.  Our kids don’t need bubble-wrap rules before going outside to play.

Kids are brilliant. They are flexible with their minds, their bodies, and their emotions. They are built to find creative solutions, to work their way out of tight spots, and to be passionate about stuff. That is where the solution lies. Let them solve the problems they create. How do kids learn to be tidy? By cleaning up their messes. How do students learn to solve problems on their playground? By building and maintaining a recess model of their own. (Check out this school’s bold solution to recess issues.)

Kids are highly capable of solving problems. I see this every time I am invited to do a writing workshop, with the end result always being a fun story. What’s the trick? Recognizing that my job is most definitely NOT to provide answers. My job is to ask the right questions. I don’t have to have all the answers. Collectively, they do. So the kids create characters, and problems, and clever solutions that I would be hard pressed to come up with on my own. Sometimes they create story problems that stress me out midway, testing my faith in my system. But they always find a way out. Always. And if kids can figure out how to get a duck out of jail using a raisin and a ladybug, I think they might have a few suggestions for making recess better.

***Update at our kids’ school-

The student who started the petition at our school, and some others who supported her, delivered her packet of signatures and quotes to the principal. The principal invited her in, listened to her concerns, and appointed her as the leader of a task force aimed at creating a better recess. And tomorrow morning, there is a question and answer session for parents who want to learn more about the recess program.

Awesome stuff! We now have 450 creativity machines, energized by this idea of taking part in creating a better recess. We have a supportive principal, committed to fostering the growth of kind, intelligent, and socially engaged students. And in the background, non-intrusively, there are families and friends in the community, cheering for our kids to succeed. Exciting stuff!



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