Where can children get safe, regular physical activity? Recess and gym class spring to mind immediately. Despite this fact, states and school districts across the country have been cutting back on gym, recess and even afterschool sports. Time and money that might have gone to soccer, running track or playing with friends gets allocated instead to longer blocks of English and math, especially in districts where administrative jobs hinge on state test-score increases.
I am locked in battle out here. I have many fidgety, flighty students. They squirm. They seek endless bathroom breaks, anything to get out of their desks. Some take ADHD medications. I am sympathetic. I am also being watched. Eight administrators were in my room today watching. (At this rate, I may have to write a future post about teachers and generalized anxiety disorder. If admin keeps trooping in at this rate, I’ll end up medicating myself to get through the year. The kids and I will both be on drugs.)
I keep my students in their seats most of the time, the better to be ready for the next watcher. Yet studies show that regular exercise decreases anxiety and helps students focus, enabling them to concentrate more effectively and learn more easily. Children are not machines. Children are not adults. Children need to move. In terms of academics, the trend of sacrificing PE and recess to academics seems to me to be a move in the wrong direction, especially since we are starving many kids because we are worried about their weight (see earlier posts).
Sometimes less can be more. More minutes at recess might result in greater learning even if learning minutes overall were reduced. I marvel at those adults who do not see how desperately kids need physical movement. Sitting for an hour may provide rest for the average adult, but that same amount of time in a chair stresses the average child. Some kids find that long sit to be a form of torture. Ask a kid their favorite subject, and many will answer recess. When we take away recess, we suck the fun out of the day. At worst, we sometimes end up medicating kids to keep them in their seats when an hour of real exercise might accomplish that same aim. I’m sticking jumping jack breaks into my 80-some minute classes, which helps.
Eduhonesty: I am glad I attended school in an earlier time.