One of my students told me a pretty horrifying story the other day. I was asking how her week was, whether she was able to go outside for recess in between all the rain our town has been getting.
Student: Yeah, I got to go outside. But we can't play anyway.
Me: Why not?
Student: Because the yard duty is always looking.
I've had my fair share of yard duty during student teaching. One school even saved a whole morning recess for all the student teachers - and only the student teachers. That was a fun recess time. Kids fought, they ran, they fell, they shouted, they argued with each other on who gets the tether ball.
Some did get hurt, because they fell, they bumped into each other while running. The office bandage station was always busy on the day the student teachers had yard duty.
The students had a lot of fun, got a lot of exercise, and some were able to concentrate better in the classroom during the days when the student teachers had yard duty.
There are a myriad of rules for recess. Walking only in certain areas, tattling vs. telling (which is a really good rule, IMO), alternating days for the jungle gym equipment to limit the number of students in a potentially deadly area (which is the single most telling piece of evidence for over-crowding in schools that I have ever heard).
The rules are there because apparently, there has been legal precedence where parents have sued the school for bodily injury of their student during recess times - and the parents won. I haven't actually read these cases, I don't even know where to begin looking to find out more about these cases. However I think the following points make my stance clear:
- kids are kids, they will break things, including themselves.
- kids are kids, they can heal much faster than some people think they can. definitely much faster, and with less scaring than an adult.
- kids are kids, they can handle much more physical activity than some people think they can.
- exercise is good for the body and the brain.
- let them play, damn it!
Later the same day, I saw another teacher (pre-school) support the arms of a 5-year-old as the 5-year-old carried a toy from the play area to the toy shelves. Are. You. Freaking. Kidding. Me? This kid is notorious for not putting away her toys. This kid does not do anything if she knows an adult will do it for her.
So here's my question to end this post: is it more harmful to prevent students from getting hurt, or is it more harmful to allow them to use their bodies the way it was made for?