Does your kid know how to play hopscotch? Mother May I? Dodgeball? Is she in peril of spending her recess period lounging under a tree with a friend, not playing any games at all?
Never fear. A recess coach can teach your kid how to play, and make sure she does it every day.
So I’m really torn about this. My anarchy-loving heart recoils at the notion of a recess coach to structure kids’ free time. But it’s hard to argue with their numbers: disciplinary issues and playground injuries drop off to almost nothing with the introduction of a cheerful adult with a whistle and a rulebook.
Even the free-range queen herself, Lenore Skenazy, has weighed in on the side of coaching recess, saying, “I’m all for free play, as you know. But if what’s really happening is free-misery, it makes sense to reassess recess.”
She suggests keeping the recess coaches, but giving kids the option to opt-out and go play Dragons vs. Space Robots on their own if they want to. That would be even harder to argue with than the trend towards mandatory playground games the Times is reporting on.
I remain dubious about the entire prospect, though. I can’t help but feeling like a little free time in the middle of the day is worth a few skinned knees and hurt feelings. Kids really need a chance to decompress, to be on their own schedule instead of someone else’s, even if its only for a few minutes.
And it is only a few minutes: the school profiled in the Times has 15-minute blocks of recess for their kindergarten through 4th grade students. No wonder the kids are going a little crazy, with only 15 minutes to play.
There’s also a class issue at play. The schools using these recess coaches seem to be urban schools with small play areas and poor students.
My daughter goes to a small private school with a rolling green hill just outside her classroom that features trees, a garden, a little stream and a big varied playyard with a lot of toys. The kids getting the attention of a recess coach are banging around a paved basketball court with a high fence.
While I can’t imagine that taking away their 15 minutes of freedom is really the best solution, I’m ready to believe that 100 kids milling around a basketball court is a different prospect than 25 running wild on a grassy hill. Still, these recess coaches cost almost $25,000 a year. Couldn’t that money buy some trees and a few raised garden beds instead of another authoritative adult telling the kids what to do?
Photo: Luis Argerich
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