Lost Outdoor Recess Leading to Childhood Stress..?
This year hasn't started well in my children's school. The snow days add stress to teachers who are trying to get everything taught by the time of the state wide tests. And lost recess on cold days increases bad behavior in the classrooms and adds stress for children because they don't get their break to play and relax during their six-hour school day. Recess is Fundamental, and some of the parents in my children's school started a blog with the same name to bring attention to this matter and to organize parents to fight for it. Here is our personal story how lost outdoor recess leads to anxiety, stress and sleepless nights.
Dealing With Snow
My 9-year-old daughter comes home from school today with a note from her teacher asking the parents to read the daily journals the 3rd graders write at school everyday. I hadn't read the journal the past few weeks, it has been sort of crazy ever since Christmas break, with so many snow days and all. My daughter has also been complaining that she hasn't been sleeping well the past few weeks, and we have been trying to make it work with all of the weekly snow days kids have been having, and I've thought all of the sleepless nights and stress has been partially because the routine is off.
"Mommy, Teacher is Giving Me Too Much Pressure"
Now reading my daughter's journal I realize that the past few weeks have taken a big toll on her. The little girl's notebook is filled with disappointment and anger, the school is referred to as prison, students as prisoners or slaves, and the teacher is asked repeatedly not to pressure the children in her class as much. "My heart is sick and dead", I sadly read from my daughter's notebook, and she is even pleading with the teachers to go to music class to listen to the music they had heard about slavery, so the teachers would understand that she feels the same way as the slaves did. I am starting to get a feeling that whatever she was taught around Martin Luther King Day has also had a deep impact on her, and she can not get it out of her mind. I start asking why she feels this way.
"I'm afraid I'll Lose Recess"
My daughter tells me that children in her class lose recess almost daily and she is very mad and stressed about it. She doesn't feel her teacher is being fair about it. When the children lose recess they need to sit down in their chair like detention. The reasons you can lose your recess are talking during class, forgetting to do homework or not behaving well. On one day a total of eleven children in my daughter's class lost the right to recess, and almost every day someone loses it. My daughter worries almost daily that she will lose it. I ask if the children really behave badly, and if it helps. She says that it doesn't help to cut recess from the children who don't behave well - they keep behaving badly even if they get their mid-day detention. She tells me she has lost recess twice, for forgetting her homework home, and she has been afraid to tell me so I wouldn't get sad or mad. My heart sinks, and I hug her, and she continues telling me she can't sleep at night because she is so worried about losing recess and worries about how much the teacher is pressuring her.
Now with all of the cold weather, the school has been canceling outdoor recess for all students on most of the days. On these days "good kids" will get to play on the classroom floor and the "bad kids" will have to sit down quietly in a specified area of the classroom. There are children that haven't had outdoor recess for almost two months.
Children's Right for Recess?
This all saddens me, and I want to fight for my children's right to have recess, during bad weather or even if she forgets her homework! My daughter is in 3rd grade, her behavior at school "exceeds expectations" in her report card on all levels (follows rules, cooperates in groups and acts responsibly). I know she is a good kid. She isn't even just stressed for herself, she is sad because some of her classmates never get to go outside anymore.
How has your child taken all of the snow days and no recess days? How does your child's school handle this? Do you have any ideas how to fight for children's right to participate in recess? I would love to hear from you, and I am hoping to follow up with some experts on the importance of outdoor play. Meantime - go outdoors and enjoy the brisk weather, even if it's just taking the dog out!