Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Taking Breaks are Important shared the article Recess Makes for Better Students in last week’s Carnival of Education.

The article states, "Children learn as much on breaks as they do in the traditional classroom, experimenting with creativity and imagination and learning how to interact socially."

I think this is so true no matter what age the student is and play time is very important. I was always amazed that we only gave our students 27 minutes to eat for lunch. This was from bell to bell and included time to use the restroom, wash hands, stand in line to buy lunch, eat lunch, and clean away trash. Many of my students cut out a lot of those steps and I cringe to think of which ones they leave out. I know that the administration had to fit in three lunch shifts and that the less free time they had, the less trouble the students would get in, supposedly. But what are we teaching our students by doing this? We teach them things like poor hygiene, rude behaviors such as cutting in line, poor nutritional habits (like not eating lunch or buying junk food so they don’t have to stand in line), and leaving trash on tables. They chew with their mouths open and talk with their mouths full (and both totally gross me out!). We don’t have time to teach social behavior in classes because we are too busy trying to cover standards and prepare for testing. Social behavior is not an inborn trait and needs to be taught so when do we let our students practice these skills? How do we teach them what is appropriate and what is not appropriate when we don’t allow them time to demonstrate any of the skills?

I have had many students who leave school and go immediately to their part time jobs. The conscientious ones do their homework when they get home from work. There aren’t enough hours for them to socialize with friends or family. If we remember things that we learned in our development classes, students go through different stages of social development and we need to rethink our system if we aren’t allowing time for our students to develop socially. Yes, having more free time may mean more conflicts at the time but what if it actually improves their social behavior in the long run?

I try to give my students a 5 minute break before the end of class as long as they act appropriately. I know many teachers who teach from bell to bell which I find totally exhausting. Even I need that little breather at times just to get to know my students better. This is a great time for me to model appropriate social behavior also. On special Fridays, I may give a 10-15 minute break if they earn it. I know that meeting standards and passing tests are important but at what point is it more important that we sacrifice our students for the sake of statistics? I feel that by giving these small breaks is well worth it if I help a student be more successful in life. Isn’t that what our job is all about? What do you do in your classroom or school?

Original image: 'Zion and Tracy jumping' by: Robert Conley


Penny Ryder said...

I'm amazed at how little break time your students had. Most primary schools in Australia have about 30 minutes for a morning break and an hour for lunch break (including 10 minutes supervised eating time). I think it is much the same in our high schools.

loonyhiker said...

When I was in school in NY years ago, we had much more time for lunch. I don't know if it changed over time or if it is just because I'm in a different state.