Saturday, November 14, 2015

I was wrong

"Being human means making mistakes
learning from mistakes and then
moving on and becoming a better
person from making those mistakes."

The sun was shining, a light breeze cooled us down and our emotions were running high.  I still remember some of our epic games at recess.  As a kid I lived for recess.  My friends and I would talk about what game we would play as soon as we saw each other.  It was one thing we all relished.

But why didn't I remember this when I became a teacher?  Early in my career I struggled with finding a consequence that motivated my students to be more responsible and to improve behavior.  I remembered when I was a student many of my teachers kept kids inside for recess if they misbehaved.  In a weird way, I thought this was appropriate.

I was wrong.

Then I began to learn.  As a graduate student at Spring Arbor University I researched several topics. A few areas really rose to the forefront of my practice. These were technology, movement, and understanding special needs.

The insight and knowledge I gained as I worked towards my Masters Degree made me a better educator.  During my studies I read articles and journals about movement and the need for physical activity.  The funny thing is, as I read the research I began to remember how much I loved and craved recess as a student.

At this point my teaching practice changed.  Not only did I almost never take away recess, but I also added in a second recess/brain break each day.  It began with reflection and charting behaviors. What I discovered was, after about two hours my students needed an extended break.  So each day at 10:30am we went outdoors for a 15-20 minute break.  We often played games as a class and I quickly found that as I played along with the kids it brought us closer together.  Our classroom culture improved, we laughed together, we problem solved together and I got a chance to see my kids in a different setting. I learned a lot about their personalities as I watched them play.

As I gained insight I had to come up with different strategies for students that misbehaved.  This is what I did:

1)  If I had students misbehaving I first looked at myself.  Was my lesson engaging?  Was I consistent in my own emotions?  These two questions determined if it was the fault of my students or if I had to own it as their teacher.  What I discovered on many occasions is, the more I talked and the more I assigned worksheets the worse my students behaved.  Simple, they were bored.

2)  I needed the consequence to fit the crime.  Rarely, but it did happen, did I take recess away.  This occurred when a student's behavior at recess was dangerous or unacceptable.  As for poor behavior in the classroom, I tried these things - 
  • praise the positives
  • separate the disruptor 
  • work with parents 
  • deal with the issue promptly, the longer I waited the less impact it had
  • heart to heart conversations with students
  • invite a parent or guardian to come in and help in the classroom
  • refocus efforts on building classroom culture
What has been powerful for me is that learning has prompted change.  I was wrong to take away recess.  It's easy to fall into a routine and do things the same way year after year.  But the question is, when you learn that a strategy you've done is not best practice do you change?

Check out these quotes from recent articles -
  • When it comes to recess and the importance of play and physical activity, too many schools ignore the current research. Instead of treating recess as an important, in fact crucial, part of a student's day, some schools still act as if recess is a privilege bestowed on well-behaved, compliant students. They use recess as a bargaining tool and withhold it as a form of punishment.  Recess is NOT a Privilege
  • Indeed, no research supports the notion that test scores go up by keeping children in the classroom longer, but there is plenty of evidence that recess benefits children in cognitive, social-emotional, and physical ways. Research shows that when children have recess, they gain the following benefits:  Recess Makes Kids Smarter
    • Are less fidgety and more on task
    • Have improved memory and more focused attention
    • Develop more brain connections
  • Experimental studies and anecdotal evidence point out that in any given school, it’s generally the same children who tend to have their recess withheld, indicating that the threat is ineffective. And, as Eric Jensen, author of several books on brain-based learning, tells us, remaining seated for periods longer than 10 minutes “reduces our awareness of physical and emotional sensations and increases fatigue,” resulting in reduced concentration and discipline problems. Demanding that children move less and sit more is counterproductive. Research, and our own common sense, tells us we should be doing the opposite.  Why Kids Need Recess

The beauty of being a human being is, we can choose to change.  I was wrong, but I look back at my evolution as an educator and I have a sense of pride.  I learned better methods and changed the way I taught.  Everyday is a new opportunity and we always have the choice to move forward in a new way.

This Week's Big Question:  If you knew one of your methods wasn't best practice would you change?


Monday, November 16th:  Happy Birthday to Katie Powers
Monday, November 16th:  Running Club 4pm
Tuesday, November 17th:  9:15am Admin Meeting
Tuesday, November 17th:  3:30 String Team
Tuesday, November 17th:  4pm Lego Club
Tuesday, November 17th:  4pm Gym Sports Club
Tuesday, November 17th:  Conferences
Wednesday, November 18th:  Grades 3-5 Assembly at 8:45am
Wednesday, November 18th:  10am Standard Based Grading Meeting at Admin
Wednesday, November 18th:  Conferences
Thursday, November 19th:  1:15pm Crisis Response Meeting at Admin
Thursday, November 19th:  4pm Minecraft Club
Thursday, November 19th:  Conferences
Thursday, November 19th:  7pm Drama Club Performance
Thursday, November 19th:  Board Meeting at 6:30pm
Friday, November 20th:  No Staff Meeting

Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

Pianist Performs Imagine after Paris Attacks... (1 min)

Schools that work for kids... (15 min) by @E_Sheninger

#StopItDad (2 min)

Ellen's Starbuck Controversy... (3 min)

How We Met: Do the facts add up? (4 min)


  1. Thanks for sharing your growth as a professional who learned that recess time is important to kids. I have followed a similar journey in my career. I have been working with my elementary teachers this year to not use loss of recess as a consequence. They are being to understand that it is actually not a good method.

  2. Thank you, Ben -- for writing this, for your willingness to share your growth, and for quoting me! : ) (Thanks, too, to T.S. Bray.)

    I visited several classrooms in WV last week and arrived at two of them just in time for recess...which the teachers didn't actually give the kids. It was 43 degrees and breezy and, although acknowledging the weather wouldn't bother the kids at all, they simply didn't feel like being outside. In one case the kids were simply allowed to meaner aimlessly through the classroom during that period. In the other, the teacher did ask me to do some movement activities with the students. The kids enjoyed it, but it's no substitute for running free in child-directed activities outdoors.

    So sad when adults don't put the children's needs ahead of their own.

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