“Teachers Taking Away Recess as a Disciplinary Measure”

I have seen it time and time again, for what I would consider quite trivial reasons, a child has their recess taken away from them as a punishment in school. I once spoke about this on our Instagram and was surprised to find that this is a quite common practice. Given all we know about exercise and play, it’s amazing to me that this is still a tool in a teachers arsenal. It makes more sense to me that recess would be required if the teacher would like compliant and attentive children for the remainder of the day.

Taking away recess seems to be a pretty common practice when teachers are not getting the behavior they are looking for. While some teachers might think that it is a great idea and effective way to handle poor behavior, perhaps they don’t understand the important role that recess has on the development of a child emotionally and physically.

Scientific research has shown time and time again that recess is much more than just play. Recess gives children a break from their studies, and teaches them how to interact socially. Recess encourages children to be imaginative and also, equally as important gives them a positive way to release their stresses in a physical way and gives them exercise.

Certainly I sympathize with a teacher’s frustration when a child is off task or misbehaving. Trying to corral many students and have them all pay attention seems like a task that I will not quickly sign up for. I know that teachers can feel like they have a few options for controlling their classroom, but it is the responsibility of the teacher to care for children in an appropriate and effective way.
If teachers are wondering why taking a way recess doesn’t work, I am surprised that they are teaching at all. When a child is too antsy to stay on task, recess is precisely the release they need to help them stay on track.

Recess can be the time out that children need to be able to return to class and stay on task. Perhaps you think this is one parents suggestion, but the American Academy of Pediatrics has got my back on this one. Not only do they put emphasis on the idea that recess should not be taken away from a student for a disciplinary reason, the national Association for sports and physical education agrees as well and goes as far to say that students shouldn’t be denied recess just to complete classwork. Additionally many researchers advise against replacing recess with PE. PE is a class where as recess is a unique opportunity for children to explore their creativity and how they relate to their classmates socially.

Recess helps teachers more than they would like to admit. When students misbehave because of excess energy or boredom, recess is exactly what they need. When a child that has an already high energy level is made to miss their only release of the day, it just doesn’t make sense as a punishment, unless the intended recipient is the teacher themselves.

Lastly, recess has a benefit that is even more critical to the school as a whole. When children have fun at school and recess they have a more positive perception of their school overall. Now instead of taking away recess, which is really punishing both parties, it’s been suggested that it would be more effective to re-ward positive behavior instead of taking things away. Also, it is not the job of the teacher to enforce their ideas of what appropriate discipline should be, there is a commonsense approach to misbehavior. If someone is mean to another student, they apologize, if they don’t get along, the real life approach would be to rearrange where they sit instead of trying to punish them into getting along.

I know that it is hard enough for a teacher to focus on the challenging curriculum they are teaching without having to worry about these type of social issues, but it is the job they signed up for. If they want positive children, they must focus on the positives and positive reinforcement. If they want a negative classroom then certainly they can continue to perpetuate the cycle that does not work.

Fortunately many schools are implementing changes to their policy that will require recess time. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost if your school still takes away recess. Sometimes it is that simple as meeting with the teacher, or the principal. Other times you might have to take it as far as the school board, it might seem trivial but to a child it is an important factor in their success at school. Bring up how important do you feel recess is, explain the people who support your side like the American Academy of pediatrics, talk about the effect it has on a child when they don’t have a break, but be considerate and work together with your teacher.

I agree that there have to be disciplinary measures when a child misbehaves in school, however think of how many of those issues might be related to an excess amount of energy, and a recess could solve them all.


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