Play ball! Recess mandated now at DeKalb County schools

DeKalb County officially welcomed the return of recess to its schools this week.

Recess is now formally required by the DeKalb County Board of Education

Recess is now formally required by the DeKalb County Board of Education

While most schools held recess, it was not mandated and could be denied to a child as a punishment or canceled for the entire class due to a conflict.

Now, recess is no longer an option but a requirement and cannot be withheld from a student.

A core group of dedicated DeKalb parents had been pushing for a concrete policy. (See the petition for mandatory recess. )

Here is the language approved Monday at a work session of the board mandating unstructured break times:

(I am not sure why the DeKalb board felt compelled to rename recess the much more unwieldy “unstructured break time,”  but then again, I don’t get why my own system dubs trailers “cottages.”)

Unstructured Break Time

The DeKalb County Board of Education supports supervised, unstructured break times as an integral component of a child’s physical, social, and academic development. Schools shall schedule time for all students in kindergarten and grades one through five to have at least 15 minutes of supervised, unstructured break time each school day.  The school principal shall determine the timing and location of breaks at each school.

The school principal shall consult with school-level and system-level instructional staff as appropriate to ensure that students in kindergarten and grades one through five receive maximum instructional time to promote increased academic achievement and that breaks are scheduled to support the learning process. The principal also shall issue directions assigning responsibility for supervision of students so that break time will be a safe and positive experience for students.

Breaks shall not be withheld from students in kindergarten or grades one through five for disciplinary or academic reasons. Supervised, unstructured breaks may be provided for students in grades six through eight at the discretion of the school principal.  The DeKalb County Board of Education does not support an extension of the school day to provide for supervised, unstructured break time for students in grades K-8.

51 comments Add your comment

gwinnett educator

November 5th, 2009
6:16 am

It’s about time. I spent 10 yrs teaching in Dekalb County with no recess. The only time I even got away with taking my 2nd graders out was when I was pregnant. My school even went 4 yrs WITHOUT a playground (after the addition to the building was completed). Once the equipment was “found” by the county, it took another 3 months or so for them to finish putting it together.

lynn

November 5th, 2009
6:31 am

DeKalb use to have a policy against recess or unstructured break time. So most principals, except a few radical ones, wouldn’t have recess. A few years ago, when parents protested, the system implemented language that schools could have recess. Many schools, especially the ones were the parents were paying attention, began recess. However, there have been a few notable hold outs amongst principals. This should solve that problem.

The devil will be in the details though. Principals in DeKalb had their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. Did the system officials inform them of this policy change? Things could get interesting now. I am certain that there are parents who expect that recess will start immediately.

Dekalbteach

November 5th, 2009
6:48 am

The principals were informed and our staff was informed yesterday at our regular staff meeting. Our school always had recess but not all teachers would participate. It was also used as a “carrot” for good behavior and work completion but no more. The name change is odd,

Meme

November 5th, 2009
6:52 am

Thank goodness. My grandson goes to school in Dekalb. His school already had recess, but I am glad for the rest. I have always taught in the same system and we have always had ‘break’ here in middle school and recess in the lower grades.

madmommy

November 5th, 2009
8:03 am

When I was growing up, we had playtime before classes started, at lunch including two 15 minute recess breaks. Kids need to get out and run and burn off some energy. Wonder why kids are so bratty and tired all the time? They can’t do what kids need to do which is play and have fun. Just think of the social skills kids are missing out on if they don’t have recess, how much more focused classroom time will be when kids can talk without getting into trouble. Geez, you would have though the past could teach the future something.

JB

November 5th, 2009
8:13 am

I wholeheartedly agree with children having recess, but the fact that it cannot be withheld for behavior, or academic problems is ridiculous! As a teacher, there is nothing I can do to my students, other than take away recess that will enforce the fact that there are consequences to every action. If they do not bring their homework, or if they misbehave they should not be rewarded by getting to have “fun time” on the playground!

V for Vendetta

November 5th, 2009
9:05 am

Good! Let others follow Dekalb’s lead. (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence.)

philosopher-

November 5th, 2009
9:24 am

ABOUT DAMN TIME! Now if it truly works…let’s roll… and get it everywhere!

SallyB

November 5th, 2009
10:00 am

JB..apparently the board does not view recess as a reward to be doled out for “good ” behavior, completed homework, and/or academic progress. AS IN :
“The DeKalb County Board of Education supports supervised, unstructured break times as an integral component of a child’s physical, social, and academic development. ”

I do agree with you that…” As a teacher, there is nothing I can do to my students, other than take away recess that will enforce the fact that there are consequences to every action”.

Back in the day, everything was far from perfect, but those harsh looks from the teacher, and even harsher reprimands, the chair in the corner, the dreaded trips to the principal’s office for a “tongue” lashing …[heaven knows what young people will think THAT means!! ] were really effective and, contrary to popular belief, our psyches were not so fragile that they were scarred beyond repair.

SallyB

November 5th, 2009
10:04 am

Uh-Oh,,,,ENSNARED AGAIN IN THE WICKED FILTER!! IT MUST REALLY OBJECT TO MY COMMENTS!

teacher/parent

November 5th, 2009
10:59 am

Maureen-We call them cottages because of the lovely porch that provides entryway into a quaint and cozy learning zone. If we called them trailers, one might think that the metal steps were dirty, that the ceilings, windows, and doores leaked, and that there were ant infestations. Oh wait, that’s true.
Sorry for my rant. Good for Dekalb. There are plenty of other discipline measures that can be implemented besides withholding recess. I imagine a squirrely group of little ones with no time to play/relax would create even more discipline issues.

philosopher-

November 5th, 2009
11:02 am

JB- The BEST thing about the Dekalb policy is that the teachers can’t hold it over the kids heads and withhold it from them as punishment!!! My child spent most of her elementary school years with NO recess because the teachers were ALWAYS withholding recess. If she got out ONE day a week, it was an anomaly! My daughter was an angel, won the teacher’s citizenship awards and the worst behavioral consequence she ever earned was changing her color from green to yellow 3 times in 7 years. But there was AlWAYS some kid who was badly behaved…and they are totally unfazed by the threat of no recess!!! It NEVER,EVER worked! And so, the good kids were always punished. It’s time to STOP it! Kids NEED to play!!!

DeKalbMom

November 5th, 2009
11:02 am

It is unfortunate that it took a board policy to force principals and teachers to take kids out of their seats for a mere 15 minutes a day to be free from instruction and grades. I think there are plenty of other punitive measures teachers can take that aren’t related to recess. Right now kids are separated at lunch, taken out of specials, given markers, and sent to other rooms. Kids need the guarantee of a mental and physical break during a 6-hour day. It is law that adults at jobs of that duration have breaks and, yet, our children were not guaranteed those. Again, you would think it was common sense, but plenty of schools apparently don’t have common sense. Great job, DeKalb!

Old School

November 5th, 2009
11:10 am

Hoorah for recess/unstructured play time! Instead of withholding it as punishment, teachers at my daughters’ school would designate an area off to the side but within view of the play area as the “mushpot.” Students who had misbehaved or merited some form of punishment sat there while the others played. Both my daughters served time in the mushpot and quickly learned that was NOT where they wanted to be while their friends were having a good time. The lesson was quickly and permanently learned.

philosopher-

November 5th, 2009
11:13 am

Old School…I like it! Good common sense discipline that doesn’t hurt anyone!

Teacher

November 5th, 2009
11:36 am

I teach at a school that did not have recess. I am ecstatic by this policy. As far as using it as a punishment….

David

November 5th, 2009
11:46 am

Growing up in Atlanta public schools 40 years ago, we had recess of I think 30 minutes which was used to play all kinds of games and interact with other students.It is unbelievable to me that anyone could think that kids of that age can sit all day in school without a recess to burn off energy, play and talk with friends and just have fun.

V for Vendetta

November 5th, 2009
11:48 am

Old School,

Absolutely right! I spent a lot of time in the “time out” zone myself–straightened me out REAL quick.

I’ll slightly alter what others have said: Let them go outside, but you can still use recess as a punishment.

Dave

November 5th, 2009
12:06 pm

JB: Your comments show what is wrong with our school system. Is your imagination so weak that the only thing you can “do” to your students is withhold recess? That is scary. You denigrate recess as “fun time”…have you ever thought of making your class a “fun time”. Or are you one of those teachers who bring their bad attitudes to class from home, talk down to the students, and during preparation time surf the internet. Recess is not “ridiculous”…your comments are ridiculous! Quit trying to think of things to “do” to your students. Instead reach out to each and every one and treat them as individuals who have their own individual problems. Establish a relationship with every student. Greet them at the door as they come into your class. Smile once in a while for goodness sakes! Children need attention from their teachers. Give it to them!

Sad Stuff

November 5th, 2009
12:10 pm

This is greta news. There are so many things wrong with DeKalb schools right now (the eSIS software silliness and Pat Pope mess being No. 1 and No. 2), it’s nice to hear some good news. Check out http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/ for the good and bad about DCSS.

philosopher-

November 5th, 2009
12:12 pm

And then maybe we can address all the other reasons they don’t have recess; it’s too cold (some kid didn’t bring a coat, so nobody gets to go out), it’s too hot, it’s too wet (for the teachers to sit on the bench) it’s too muddy, it might rain, the sky might fall….

say what?

November 5th, 2009
12:29 pm

Dave thanks for addressing JB. Recess is great news. Most of us who are fortunate to have jobs, get 2 15 minute breaks and a lunch period, why can’t kids get a break? Kids need breaks and exercise too. Glad the policy is mandatory, and is no way related to academics or discipline. JB reminds me of the teacher whose class was never allowed outside because one of the kids pissed off the teacher, when the real reason is the teacher hates outside more than hating kids.

Cere

November 5th, 2009
12:36 pm

Isn’t this a great “retro” idea?!! My mother-in-law taught 1st and 2nd grade in Ohio for over 30 years. She actually had a door that led directly outside. When she saw the kids getting restless, she just let them out to play for 10-15 minutes. Her discretion. Heck – I went to Catholic school and the nuns even did this – and on rainy days they would get down on all fours (in full habit) and play crab ball with us in the gym. Of course, school wasn’t such an uptight, demanding testing center back in those days. It’s so sad that it took a highly vocal, organized, demanding group of parents to get the county to return to one of the many things that used to work. Maybe we can look forward to more changes like this that will serve to make schools happier, even fun places for children to spend their days.

Cere

November 5th, 2009
12:37 pm

And – teachers who think withholding recess makes for good punishment need to read more on sensory integration. The kids who “act up” are the ones who most likely need recess the most.

Cere

November 5th, 2009
12:49 pm

I would also recommend that teachers and parents read a book called, “Playground Politics” by Stanley Greenspan. Children work out a lot of emotional issues on the playground and elsewhere – and small daily doses of “issue” management can have a big impact on reducing full-fledged incidents of bullying.

Synopsis
“Playground Politics is the first book to look at the neglected middle years of childhood—from kindergarten to junior high—and to help parents understand the enormous emotional challenges these children are facing. In witty, vivid stories, Dr. Greenspan brings to life the major emotional milestones of these years, when children move from the shelter of the family to the harsh rivalries of ”playground politics,” and toward an independent self image. His empathy for the turmoil children bring home from school, and for the parents who try to help, is deep and reassuring.”

[...] on students at DeKalb County schools that now have mandated recess. Posted by richard.ginn | Comments (0) [...]

GorjaPeach

November 5th, 2009
1:29 pm

Thank you. thank you!! As a Kindergarten parapro for Dekalb, it is about time. It is not the teachers fault that we don’t have recess, it is left up to the principal.

Myof 2

November 5th, 2009
1:30 pm

Thank you BD of Ed

jim d

November 5th, 2009
1:45 pm

you folks are just too easy to please.

don’t you think we should be more concerned that many of these kids will go thru the system and still be unable to read or write?? But Nooooo, throw em a bone called recess and make them all happy then come next election all they will remember is that we gave them recess.

Gimme a friggin break!

philosopher-

November 5th, 2009
2:22 pm

jim d – are you really as mean and small-minded as you come across?! Kids are KIDS! Keeping them from recess will do NOTHING to improve the few who get through without being able to read and write. Get real! In fact, a rested, refreshed mind will absorb a great deal more than an exhausted one…and make a child much more pleasant. So…I suggest a long recess…for you!

jim d

November 5th, 2009
2:28 pm

Oh, I’m not against recess—–I’m just saying!

NA

November 5th, 2009
2:32 pm

@ jim d—-Recess is a HUGE deal. I want you to try sitting in a room full of 6 year olds all day, and they are never given an opportunity to play. That made my job much harder.

Old School

November 5th, 2009
3:01 pm

How about this for a benefit from having recess? Imaginations! Perhaps if kids can play outside, they can relearn the fun in pretending and in making up games. Childhood games like hopscotch and 4 square can teach taking turns and cooperation. Rhythmic games like “Strut Miss Lizzie” and “Here Comes Uncle Jesse” give students a chance to be creative and active. I miss the days when you could hear musical chants and laughter coming from groups on the playground. We all had fun then. . . even the grownups who just looked on.

Kids used to be experts at entertaining themselves. Now they wait for someone or something to provide the entertainment. Let ‘em play! Let ‘em grow an imagination! I’ll bet there would be some positive changes in the classroom because of the free play. They might even do something ORIGINAL instead of aping what they see on TV.

jim d

November 5th, 2009
3:02 pm

NA—Let me try this again—-I AM NOT OPPOSED TO RECESS.

What I’m saying is that come election time RECESS is all that many people will remember. They are just to damn easy to appease.

FultonTeacher

November 5th, 2009
4:23 pm

I am happy to hear the Dekalb is bringing recess back and teachers can’t use it against kids. I disagree with anyone that thinks this form of discipline even works. The same kids will miss it every day because of their behavior. It will only work with a few. On a side note, I really am tired of teachers that disrespect my class. Since my class is deemed as “specials” they use it as punishment as well. How does any teacher think that they have the right to take away a student’s education in ANY class because they think it’s frivolous? Ridiculous!

FultonTeacher

November 5th, 2009
4:23 pm

Why do my posts rarely show up the 1st time? It’s becoming very frustrating.

what's best for kids???

November 5th, 2009
4:29 pm

JB, witholding recess as a punishment is sort of like shooting yourself in the foot. These kids need recess as a way to get out all of their energies so that they can behave in class and learn. Many talk about looking to the East; workers in businesses have mandated breaks. They can relieve stress and forget about the day for a bit. Why not let little ones do the same? I think that 15 minutes is horrifically too little time. I say give them at least three 15 minute breaks so that they can really learn.

Maureen Downey

November 5th, 2009
4:31 pm

Fultonteacher. Sorry. Our filter ensnares many legitimate posts, but I apparently can’t stop it as it’s automated. I do go in many times a day but was just on deadline with something so I did not check for the past 20 minutes.
But your comment is now posted.
Maureen

DeKalbMom

November 5th, 2009
5:45 pm

Jim D – I know that not having recess is a teeny problem compared to all of the other problems, but it is something, and it will benefit our kids immediately. It doesn’t fix the problem that our kids and teachers are judged by ridiculous tests, but it was something our group of parents could articulate clearly, back up with research, and get implemented with minimal effort, aside from the board’s process. And I do applaud the board for recognizing this and turning it around quickly. It gives us hope that other things that are within the board’s control could improve with enough parent support.

Tony

November 5th, 2009
6:14 pm

Recess is a very important part of a child’s day. Time outside and physical activity are vital. It is hard for me to believe there are schools that do not provide recess time for kids. However, I must strongly disagree with the “mandatory” portion of the policy. Kids should have consequences for poor behavior and loss of recess is an appropriate one.

Dare We Hope

November 5th, 2009
7:27 pm

OK, DeKalb BOE –

Now you have learned that doing something that benefits the students and teachers of the system DOESN’T HURT. YOU CAN DO IT!!

Let’s courageously move on to the next steps – making sure that ALL the students have safe and healthy places to go to school no matter where they live or what nationality they are, making sure that the money is spent to benefit the kids rather than the adults employed by DCSS administration, making sure the teachers can actually TEACH undeterred by threats from higher up and dysfunctional software..

Oh, DeKalb BOE, there’s a wonderful world of great things you could do if you can just find your courage and lose the parochial attitudes!!

Old School

November 5th, 2009
7:34 pm

Tony, I agree that consequences for poor behavior are necessary but why not have a timeout spot outside where the child can just sit quietly and watch his friends enjoy their freedom while all are under the supervision of the teachers? Twice in the mushpot was enough for my girls and for some, just the threat of missing the activity and fun was enough to encourage good behavior. I have my own version of the mushpot (a dog house drawn in the corner of my marker board) that is amazingly effective with my high school students. Just jotting a name in the dog house elicits an immediate apology and corrected behavior. Consequently, I haven’t had to “write up” anyone in several years and then it was for a flagrant disregard for a school rule. A lighthearted approach? Yes, but it works for me and it works very well.

As for the mandatory part: the child IS outside during recess getting all that sunshine and fresh air. He’s just limited to a small patch of playground. Perhaps even that small change of scenery could be enough to calm him for the rest of the day and improve his behavior.

jim d

November 6th, 2009
8:32 am

Dekalbmom,

just as long as people will look at the larger picture when elections roll around and don’t focus on this small victory.

Lucille

November 7th, 2009
9:05 pm

I am old school……when I was in high school we had recess! Guess what, we did not have the discipline problems that we face in schools today. But this what I think…..kids in school should not have to placed at a disadvantage by other kids who have no real desire to be educated. Teachers should not be put in the position of being parents!! If your kids can not come to school and stay out of trouble, then as parents you should be responsible for their education……..Take them home please.

Sarge

November 8th, 2009
1:41 am

THANKS FOR NOTHING…talk about the insistance on reinventing the wheel. Next thing you know, they’ll schedule restroom breaks and have the nerve to put a positive spin on this “ground-breaking” achievement in education.

Sarge

November 8th, 2009
2:04 am

Incidentialy, the renaming of trailers-to-cottages is just another “chicken stuff” feel-good tactic employed by the powers that be. Remember the city preparations when the Olympics were coming to town? How many high-crime street names were changed in the idiotic perception that this would somehow make things better? Along the same mis-directed fooling-no-one-but-yourself vein, this name change is simply an inexpensive (read CHEAP) means of hiding from an existing problem. Kids aren’t that stupid…after sitting in trailers for their entire academic careers, the powers that be think the kids are going to feel like they’ve been somehow transported to a “learning-enhanced” bucolic environment.

These two events pretty much typify the head-in-sand approach our civic leaders resort to in dealing with their responsibilities. TAX DOLLARS AT WORK!

judy

November 8th, 2009
12:24 pm

Maybe the lawmakers in Georgia could do something for the other school systems. In one county, elementary school children are in school for seven hours with less than a 15 minute break.

Laura

November 9th, 2009
12:31 am

If there have been no recesses, no wonder there are children that have a hard time sitting still.

Oliver

November 9th, 2009
12:38 pm

I turned 76yrs young last week! I am very active, go dancing (swing) at least twice a week! I take 10 vitamins daily, and get a full check-up every four months. I’ve been going the same physican 24yrs next month. He is a wonderful Doctor and a great human being!

I am on no prescripton drugs from my doctor!

Sarge

November 9th, 2009
9:00 pm

Good for you, Olie…Keep on a’marchin!