This week me and my wife received a note home that our daughter (who is in first grade) after she grabbed another child to get him to line up at the end of recess and he fell and got hurt. As you can see from the note home below, the 'consequences' for her 'misbehavior' was that she lost recess for one and a half days. This has happened before at my two children's previous school and my son also told me he had lost recess at this current school, too. I therefore turned to Twitter to see what other people thought. I posted the original tweet last night (27th Sept 2017) about 11pm EST, and by this evening (Sept 28th 2017) at about 8.15pm I have received the most engagements I've ever had from one single tweet! Anyway, back to the issue.
In the parents comments section, my wife and I made a complaint that recess was being taken away from our daughter. I also called the school after reading some information sent to me by @AaronBeighle. Others also advised that in some US states, removing recess was also not permitted. My following also made comments such as "taking away recess is counterproductive", "Goodness gracious, where do we boycott", "handle the punishment at home", "find another consequence", and "ask the teachers if they'd like to have their prep time taken away every time they make a mistake".
Possibly due to our parents comments on above form, when I called the school to speak to the assistant principal, she told me that my daughter was actually allowed outside at recess but not allowed to play on the playground. In our discussion, however, after disclosing the nature my profession and therefore my investment in the issues surrounding the importance of physical activity for children, I made some points about the value of recess and how using it as a consequence was "counter productive" and lacking in creativity on their behalf (an overview of which can be found at this link). I also questioned how this was allowed if it contravened their school wellness policy. The assistant principal advised me that "privileges" (yes I did say "privileges") such as recess were taken away for misbehavior. She suggested that she would be welcome to hear any ideas "I" had. I suggested to her that maybe convening a meeting of her faculty might be more productive for her and asking them to come up with some alternative ways to manage infractions other than those listed on the sheet above. One of my Twitter friends also suggested sending her "a book on democratic schooling" and the even more radical idea of involving the students at the school in the discussions! As if we can do that!
However, some suggestions that I was offered by colleagues on Twitter and beyond were related to attempting to motivate children to do what they are supposed to be doing rather than taking away or losing anything. Some ideas included using reward points that were built up in the week by good behavior with rewards earned from that a bit like we do with stores rewards points, credit cards or with air miles. Another great suggestion was to write a note to the child who they hurt apologizing for the infraction or maybe ask the pupil (my daughter) to assist the other pupil with something they needed? Asking the pupil (my daughter) to write out a list or draw a picture of what good lining up after recess entails was also suggested. And I wondered about asking her to line up early (30 seconds before everyone else) might work and then being the line leader or having her assist the teacher in gathering the group safely (and reinforcing what is safe and not safe) at the end of recess.
In sum, I think we can all see that there are many strategies that are eminently more productive that losing whole recesses. Yes, being allowed outside to walk is better that losing recess altogether. I'm just not sure that is the answer. Let's not allow our children to miss out on valuable opportunities to be physically active, especially when we know from research how important movement is because it "affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize" (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2013, p. 183). Where's the research saying using punitive measures and taking things away from pupils actually works? If you want to offer more suggestions for my daughter's school beyond what I suggest in this blog then please, please, please, add a comment.