Almost Incomprehensible Recess Policy: Kids Must Trudge like Prisoners

Folks — All I have to go on, regarding this story, is this tyktyiyrek
one kind of confusing article
about an Oregon school district that seems to be trying to comply with state-mandated physical education goals by having its kids, K-5, simply walk or run around a track for their recess (which sounds like it either doubles as gym class or IS their gym class — can you figure it out?).

Parents and kids of Jacksonville Elementary School say physical fitness shouldn’t be limited to endless circles on the school’s track in order to comply with the state’s physical education mandates.

Andy Kranenburg, an orthopedic surgeon with two sons at the school, was one of several parents and grandparents who spoke in defense of free-play recess at Monday’s Medford School Board meeting.

Periods of unstructured physical activity play a crucial role in developing cognitive structure and increasing social and physical skills, Kranenburg said.

“Free play” has been taken away at recess, said Julie Evans, the district’s director of elementary education, on Tuesday. But Evans is asking parents to allow the district — and its 12 new physical education teachers it hired in mid-October with grant money received in September — some leeway as it navigates its way through the state requirements.

The reader who sent this it to me adds, “The worst part is where they have ideas to add back in other forms of exercise (jump rope clubs, tether ball, etc) but only if they get volunteers to run them — as if kids can’t manage to figure out how to do those things themselves.”

This seems to me a little different from yesterday’s odd story about the kindergarteners not being allowed to touch at recess. That story was about a school trying to impose some kind of dystopian order during recess.  This trudge ’round the track idea seems to be a school district desperate to comply with some requirements, and either not realizing or not being allowed to suggest that kids at play ARE getting exercise.

I’m thrilled that the orthopedic surgeon dad is explaining to the school board that play is not just fun for kids. It’s key. Trudging? Not so much. — L

Even Van Gogh couldn’t make this look like fun.


50 Responses to Almost Incomprehensible Recess Policy: Kids Must Trudge like Prisoners

  1. Merrick November 6, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    At our schools a kid can “owe a teacher laps” at recess (teachers are not allowed to completely take recess away and replace it with a sedentary acivity) AS A PUNISHMENT… but it doesn’t take up the whole recess and most kids don’t have to do it very often.

    As a compromise I like it better than “taking away recess” – kids are still getting exercise, fresh air, time away from the teacher to catch their breath, etc. But only as an occasional thing – not as a replacement for regular recess time.

  2. Sara November 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    People need to write their legislators for a law mandating free play recess (that does not count as PE minutes) on the daily schedule. If the weather doesn’t cooperate the kids still need that down time in the classroom (playing board games or legos or whatever). It wouldn’t even cost a dime. Just legislating the obvious.

  3. Becca November 6, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    Our kids here Ina small NJ town do the same. To get the correct number of phys ed minutes, they walk the parking lot at lunch. The kids refer to it as the prison walk.

  4. Wendy November 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    I would guess that at some point the district eliminated their elementary PE teachers as part of some budget cuts or to increase “academic” time. They probably tried to pass recess off as PE – two VERY different entities – and either got busted by existing regs or caught up by new regs that blew their plan. Why else would they need to hire *12* gym teachers at one time for 14 schools? Now they are stuck being required to meet a reg with no plans in place for real PE classes, trying to do PE with a huge group of kids during their combined recess period, instead of just one class at a time at a scheduled time that they are currently using for academics.

  5. Nic November 6, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    So wrong! What message does that send kids… if it’s boring it must be exercise… someone needs to fix this one.

  6. Art November 6, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    The heart of this I suspect is specials that are split. In many schools, special time (pe/music/art/etc) is split, meaning 22 minutes out of a 45 minute period are spent in PE then they go to another special. This insanity was brought on by No Child Left Behind AND regulations involving academic time.

  7. BL November 6, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    Maybe instead of trudging they could goose-step. Better exercise, and more in-tune with what’s happening to them.

  8. SKL November 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    No problem, the kids will just use class time to get their sillies out.

  9. baby-paramedic November 6, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    … What does this teach children?
    Mindless obedience. No other benefit is gained.

  10. john November 6, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

    Having grown up in the fifties a veteran of parochial schools, I can easily imagine the plight of these children. Our playground was a blocked off street, no balls allowed lest we break a window, NO running, and “God forbid” we step on the grass. We even had a poor kid in what amounted to detention for a month (stay after school doing light housekeeping) for suggesting the school song should be Volga Boatman.

  11. Decemberbaby November 7, 2013 at 12:25 am #

    “Well? Does anyone else have anything better to do than marching up and down the square?”

  12. SnarkyMomma November 7, 2013 at 12:37 am #

    And we wonder why kids are obese and more interested in video games/technology than playing outside. I’d much rather sit and screw around on my phone than march in a circle, I sure any kid would too. Without being able to realize how much fun playing outside can be they’ll never want to do it, and miss out on a lot of fun.

  13. Warren November 7, 2013 at 12:55 am #

    Gotta fight em. Parents have to oganize, and send their kids to school, with the weapons they need.

    1. Having verbally and in written form, informed the school of your child being excused from that activity. That you have told your child to just go out and play during recess.
    2. Give your child a letter, everyday if you have to, that reminds the school of your decision.
    3. If at all possible, show up at recess time to remind them in person.
    4. Don’t quit.

  14. J.T. Wenting November 7, 2013 at 5:19 am #

    I think it’s a symptom of the same thing. By forcing this on the kids rather than running around, playing tag, ballgames, and what not, they ensure the kids never get into any situation where they can get injured…

  15. JJ November 7, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    I agree that the worst part is where they indicate they’ll need parent volunteers for jumping rope, etc. Kids don’t need help playing!For crying out loud! I suppose only the best parents (the ones who love their kids the most) would be willing to take half vacation day from work twice a month to come to the fourth grade to help kids JUMP ROPE! Otherwise a nine year old might swallow the rope or something.

    I have been reading this blog for a few years and much of the time I feel fairly distant from the issues (we are lucky to be in a community that is possibly less overprotective). But lately I have been experiencing some of the infantalizing and bubble wrapping that this article exemplifies, and I feel the outrage all over again and the need to help grow the FR movement. For heavens sake, if you treat your kids like incompetent babies don’t be suprised when they act like incompetent babies.

  16. Donna November 7, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    When I was in high school, we spent much of our PE walking/running track. It was the most boring class ever. I can’t imagine being stuck doing that at k-5. What a way to teach children that exercise is tedious and boring.

    And why do you need a jump rope club to jump rope? My kid’s school has a bucket with things like jump ropes that sits outside. My kid and her friends, not knowing how to jump rope and not seeming particularly interested in learning, usually use them as reins (which, yes, involves tying the rope around one child) in their endless game of horses.

  17. Donna November 7, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Oh, and having spent time in prisons (not as an inmate), prisoners do much more than trudge around a yard. They have exercise equipment, basketballs, soccer balls, footballs and the like. We’ve long since realized that taking a bunch of prisoners (largely young energetic men) and locking them up together for many years with nothing constructive to do doesn’t actually produce positive outcomes. Not sure why some can’t see how the same applies to children.

  18. Eileen November 7, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    That certainly IS a confusing article. They make it sounds like they are inventing the PE aspect of school. Shouldn’t the hired teachers know how to teach? Would a school system ever be able to give classroom teachers weeks to figure out how to teach in the classroom?

    And as noted, why are they discussing recess and PE as if they are the same thing (without explaining why).

  19. Derek M November 7, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    This is kind of funny… I went to a Jesuit military high school here in New York City. Our version of detention was called “Justice Under God”, or just JUG, for short. It involved walking around in a circle for an hour after school. occasionally we would run. So this school is using our old punishment as their recess! Man, what’s the world coming to?

  20. BL November 7, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    “Our version of detention was called “Justice Under God”, or just JUG, for short. It involved walking around in a circle for an hour after school. occasionally we would run. So this school is using our old punishment as their recess!”

    So this Oregon school is conducting denominational religious observances? They’re in big trouble now.

  21. Lola November 7, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    On the other hand, there’s my nephews’ school, where they actually dedicate one hour a day to “directed leisure”. It may provoke flinches on us free-rangers at first, but it’s an activity unrelated to recess where teachers play with the kids, teaching them “old-fashioned” games. They have paper-plane competitions, they build circuits to make marble races, they learn what’s the best mixture to make soap bubbles with, they play tag or hide-and-seek (teachers vs. students)…
    Oh, and the school’s policy is NO HOMEWORK (unless you didn’t work properly in class, then you’ll have to catch up at home).

  22. QuicoT November 7, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    “Maybe instead of trudging they could goose-step. Better exercise, and more in-tune with what’s happening to them.” #WIN

    My sense is that they could harness the kids to some sort of milling/grinding mechanism, or maybe to an electric generator. Sop up what’s left of their dignity…

  23. Warren November 7, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Next they will want the kids medicated to combat their hyperactiveness aand inattentiveness.

  24. QB November 7, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    This makes me really grateful for my kids’ school. Not only do they have phys ed twice a week studying among others soccer, rock climbing, floor hockey, and football, but they receive two recess periods per day of about 20 minutes each where they run around like the crazed banshees that they are. They play, hug, run, slide down a 25 ft corkscrew slide and swing on the monkey bars. The only real rules are no hitting, fighting, or throwing the mulch. Oh and no standing on or climbing up the slide, but I have to say I agree with that one. Vermont knows how to do a few things correctly.

  25. Jessi November 7, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    At a school my daughter attended for a year, they were required to *run* not walk RUN a lap for their after lunch recess. Including my daughter who had asthma but wasn’t allowed to have her inhaler at school. It only took an emergency call for my daughter who was turning blue to let have then let her walk.. but who wants to run on a full tummy?? Maybe that’s why so many kids went home after lunch because they threw up??? Idiots. I swear schools are run by idiots.

  26. Nancy November 7, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    This is also happening at the school where I teach. It is an effort to get more “wellness,” into the curriculum without losing teaching time. Ugh.

  27. Violet November 7, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    At Nob Hill Elementary School in Florida, the children rarely get PE or recess in violation of Florida law that requires 150 minutes of PE each week. And, my son was denied recess all the time anyway for not finishing homework or other such nonsense. It is despicable.

  28. michael harrington November 7, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    just more regimentation

  29. Papilio November 7, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    “Maybe instead of trudging they could goose-step.” +
    “No problem, the kids will just use class time to get their sillies out.”

    They could develop their Silly Walks!

    Confession: I never moved much during recess either. I don’t like sports and hate jumping rope.
    The only exercise I remember doing is launching the friends of my younger brother from the teetertotter. I’m not sure if that’s better than if I’d kept them prisoner on the higher end of the teetertotter, but I swear they kept laughing and came back voluntarily…

  30. lollipoplover November 7, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    Sorry, couldn’t resist:

    Recess should count toward PE.
    Exercise and free play can coexist.
    It’s not hard or expensive, kids have been doing it naturally (quite welll) since the beginning of time without annoying adults trying to get volunteers for a *jump rope club*. Guess what? The kids who like to jump rope will play with the jump ropes. The contact sports kids will divide themselves up fairly into teams and play sports. The free spirits will do whatever the hell they please. Left to their own resources, most kids will find a suitable physical activity to enjoy, no help needed.

    How is this hard? And why do you need so many more PE teachers to supervise walking?!

  31. Hels November 7, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    God, the PE everyone hated when I was in school was the first quarter, because literally all we did was run laps for two frigging hours. Hated it, hated it, hated it. Everyone just skipped class. When we played volleyball, or basketball in the fourth quarter – hardly anybody missed class, or when we did skating in the third quarter. Even all the gymnatics in the second quarter was better than the dreary laps. Can’t imagine having to do that at recess, even though I never had recess at school. Instead, we had 10 minute break after every 40 minutes, when we would just run in the corridors… and then after school we usually just played on our way home (since we all walked by ourselves and could take all the time we wanted along the way!).

  32. AB November 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    Reason #1,402 why I (quite improbably) find myself homeschooling.

  33. Jennie November 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    The track walking is meant to fill regulations imposed on the state &/or federal level. I believe the school doesn’t actually have much choice in the matter, or in how the regulation is filled. At our school, 15 minutes of the 30 minute recess is used for walking. The school has added balls and hoola-hoops to the track “exercise,” I think, to try to make it more fun for the kids. PE is still part of the curriculum as part of the specials rotation (one day PE, the next Art, the next Music, rinse, repeat). Basically, state and federal regulations have squeezed out every possible moment of down/free play time. So many minutes must be dedicate to math, language arts, language learning, structured exercise, etc. Teachers and schools are having to get extremely creative in how they structure and layer parts of the day to meet all of the requirements. There simply aren’t enough minutes in the day. If anyone knows the specific law that addresses the exercise/track-walking issue, that may shed some more light on how schools have to comply.

  34. Jennie November 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    Sorry, I meant jump ropes, not hoola hoops, have been added to our school’s track walking. I think there is something in the regulation about not being able to count recess as exercise time. Recess is, and should be, free play time. This means that, technically, there is no guaranty that the kids are actually “exercising” in a manner that would appropriately fulfill the regulation. Ie, a pair of kids can just as easily spend the recess time sitting and chatting together, sharing secrets and bonding, underneath the play equipment. They need this time, and should get it. What is sad is to see recess get eaten into to fulfill regulations, but, as I said, there simply is not enough time in the school day to meet all the state/federal requirements. That is the level from which the problem springs. Blaming the school a.) won’t get parents anywhere, and b.) just makes teachers and site administrators feel even more depressed by how tightly their hands are getting tied.

  35. CHAD November 7, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    remember Walking to the left is correct walking to the right is communism. “OOOH Billy!!!” …..Wow this stuff practically writes itself.

    /Midnight Express

  36. Byron November 7, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

  37. Andy November 7, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    @Jennie What about adding required number of recess minutes into regulations? Just kidding 🙂

  38. Michelle November 7, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    I agree with Wendy that it sounds like these schools tried to get away with eliminating PE, and are suddenly having to meet this requirement of 150 minutes of “instructional physical education” with no plan, brand new staff, and not enough staff at that. (Considering that the requirement has been in place since 2007, this doesn’t make them sound too clever.) Plus they seem to still be trying to not have to do both PE and recess, so the bright idea is to get volunteers to “teach” the things that kids normally do at recess anyway – like jump rope and tether ball – thus killing two birds with one stone.

  39. Carolyn November 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm #
    This link provides general information about PE requirements in Oregon. The required hours aren’t actually necessary until 2017. However the article mentioned that the teachers were hired with grant money, so there may be other requirements for the grant.

  40. Allison H. November 7, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    Play is how children learn how to behave in the real world: who has what talents; who has what troubles; how to work together; when to compromise; when not to compromise. It’s the only “real” part of institutionalized schooling.

  41. Librarymomma November 7, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    This article implies (or maybe I missed it), that the school does not allow for both P.E. and recess. I can’t imagine going to school 6 or more hours a day without a decent break between classes.

    I, too, remember having to run laps during P.E., and I’d get this awful stitch in my side after half a lap. Then the coach would yell at me when I’d start walking. No wonder I still hate jogging and running.

    In high school(a different school district than elementary school), we were allowed to pick what kind of P.E. class we could take, including weight lifting, gymnastics, aerobics, etc. It was so liberating; exercise is so much more enjoyable when a person wants to do it.

  42. SKL November 7, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    Another school-based “fear will save us” incident I heard of today. The elementary school was having a lockdown drill. The KG children were instructed to quietly get up and move from point A to point B. A little boy with ADHD did some sort of stumble and made a noise. The teacher crabbed at him (in front of everyone), “if there was someone in here with a gun, you would have gotten us all shot to death!” Isn’t that just awesome? Safety first!!

  43. Jen Komaromi November 8, 2013 at 12:38 am #

    Wow. At our sons’ school the recess is run by the children. They have a ‘coach’ that teaches them the skills they need to know how to play and run games during their ‘PE’ class. Then there are Jr. Coaches, who are in the upper grades, plays with the younger kids during the lower grade recess.

    The entire recess is very well-organized and entirely kid run. The supervisors are there to basically take injured kids to the office.

    I am surprised that they haven’t outlawed tetherball yet because I know at least three girls who have broken their arms playing it. I find it odd because I played LOADS of tetherball as a kid and no one broke their arm!

    Glad to be at a low-income public school where the kids still get to run, play and be kids! The program that they kids have learned is called Playworks, based in Oakland, CA. It is awesome!

  44. Ben November 8, 2013 at 6:04 am #

    Not enough PE teachers? Come on, I was in a middle school with about 1500 others. As far as I knew we had 2 male and one female PE teacher for the entire school. A small elementary could do it with 1 perhaps 2 teachers.

    1. Recess is defined as “a period of time when the proceedings of a parliament, committee, court of law, or other official body are temporarily suspended.” Funnily enough schools aren’t even mentioned, but surely if government gets recess and office workers get a lunch break, why should kids get any recess?

    2. Exercise is like food. Too much of anything is bad. Kids need varied exercise. Just running doesn’t cut it. Also, the occasional game like basketball, or don’t touch the floor is more likely to keep kids interested and invested.

  45. Ben November 8, 2013 at 6:06 am #

    @Lola: Sure, I get goosebumps from directed activities, but they’re still much better than no fun downtime activities at all. In fact, teachers teaching kids old-school games helps traditions to stay alive. Always a good thing in my book.

  46. SKL November 8, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    When I was a kid, I used to hate it when teachers forced everyone to play an assigned game at recess. I hated gym, too. So on days when they did that at recess, there was basically no time at all for me to just relax and be myself. Yuck. There needs to be a balance of both directed and undirected large-muscle movement.

  47. Warren November 8, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    PE teachers, really? We never ran into a designated PE teacher until we hit high school. In elementary school, our regular teacher just took us to the gym, we play active age appropriate games including freeze tag, dodgeball, floor hockey, some fitness only activities. In grades 7 and 8 we were exposed to basketball, volleyball, and more organized team sports. But still just with our regular teacher.

    If teachers of kinder thru 8 cannot handle basic PE, then they shouldn’t be teaching at all.

  48. Paula November 9, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    I used to see the school a few houses away do that. Worse is all the kids are in uniform of white shirts and black pants, walking around an area that once had grass but is now just a dusty, dry dirt field. Made me know for sure my kids weren’t going to go to that school.

  49. JP November 9, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Well, schools are coming to resemble prisons. This seems to be the natural progression these days.
    Funny thing….as a lad, I heartily agreed with the “prison” idea of school – but it was astonishingly benign and tame, back then.
    I question this, though. What have we turned into, exactly, that we have become obsessed with “controlling” children?
    It is not enough anymore to structure their entire lives through academics, activities, and supervision. They don’t get a moment’s peace.
    Until………..the backlit screen shows up in their life. They’re hooked, they’re gone. In there – they can get away.
    Think not?
    How many of their elders wander about like zombies doing nothing more than regarding their left palm (wherein lies, apparently, the secrets of the universe, or some such drivel.)
    Kids find interesting revenge in that. Tune ’em out. At least a bit of privacy between their own eyes and whatever’s on the screen.

    Horrors. Kids and privacy mean someone’s up to no good. Someone might be in danger…….(of what?)
    Wanting to think their own damned unsupervised thoughts, and maybe come to their very own conclusions (that might not happen to fit the party line, um?)

    Recess wasn’t ever just designed for fresh air and exercise, blowing off physical steam.
    It was also about shucking off the stink of adultness, 15 minutes at a time.
    Gimme a break, teach…

  50. Amanda Matthews November 10, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    When I had a cubicle job, it was drilled into me that we MUST take an hour for lunch, and two 15-minute breaks during each day. That it was required by law, so even if the day was really busy, we had to figure out some way to at least take that much of a break. And dashing from one room to another for more work did not count toward those breaks.

    It is appalling that there are no laws giving children at least that same amount of break. What, exactly, are schools preparing them for? It certainly isn’t life in the real world.