In defense of playtime

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My terrier loves to fetch her long, rawhide sticks. She’s not much good at “fetch” since she’s a terrier; she hates to let go of the stick. But we were having a good time a few minutes ago and I reflected on the fact that dogs, cats, and people love to play. Heck, alligators and armadillos probably love to play.

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We need to keep this in mind as we educate America’s students. I believe that when the second largest school district in Illinois banned parties, they made a mistake. The idea that all minutes of all classes should be dedicated to nothing but the curriculum flies in the face of human psychology. Most corporate firms understand the benefits of fun times. At the very least, they commonly have that party in late December, once called a Christmas party.

Eduhonesty: Some elementary schools lately have been cutting back or eliminating recess to get more instructional time, We need to stop making these cutbacks. If children need more instruction, we should lengthen the school day or extend the school year. But fun matters. Breaks refresh people.

Earlier this year, a colleague and I had a field trip cancelled due to weather. We rescheduled. I went out and got McDonalds for that day’s lunch, a large undertaking that cost a couple of hours and a couple of hundred dollars, most of this covered by the kids. My colleague was concerned.

“They have been allowed to do what they want for hours,” he said. “They’ll be off the chain tomorrow.”

I assured him that classroom discipline would not be impaired. It wasn’t. Their behavior was excellent the next day. Rewards create goodwill. Breaks create enthusiasm. Obviously parties should not be a weekly feature of life, but celebrations have a place.

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Recess has a place. We all need to recharge. A great deal of research documents the fact that young children don’t have long attention spans. Attentions spans tend to lengthen with age, but kids can only put so much new material in their brains in one sitting.

The desperate desire to bring up test scores should not be allowed to blind us to the human need for rest, relaxation and play.