Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Recess Coaches? Say What?

The new trend at school is a paid Recess Coach. According to this article in the NYT, schools are paying a special coach to ensure that kids play at recess. What in the world has happened? How have we allowed our kids to lose their imagination, their ability to play games and create games on their own? Why can't teachers supervise recess? As a kid at school we made good use of recess to play various home-made games, swing on the big swing sets, propel ourselves on the merry-go-round, "see-saw" (teeter-totter), or play an organized game of softball. The teachers supervised us and ensure that we didn't do something stupid or punished us when we did.

We did not need a full team to play softball. As long as we had four batters and enough people to play the field we had a game. We called it shove-up. When there was an out, the hitter went to right field and the catcher was "shoved up" to batter, pitcher to catcher, third base to pitcher, etc. If a fielder caught a fly for the out, he and the batter exchanged positions. We did not have an umpire and we enforced the rules ourselves. It was a great time.

We had some rousing games of marbles and horseshoes. We experienced the latest fads such as yo-yo's and hula hoops. We divided into teams and played "backup" with a football. The object was to keep the other team backed up by throwing the ball as far as we could. The other team then had to throw from the position where the ball was caught or stopped. We played "base." Each team had a base, usually a basketball pole. If you were in contact with the base, you were "safe." If you were off base and an opposing team member could catch you and hold on for a count of ten, you had to go to the "pot," where you protected by the opposing team. To be rescued, one of your team members had to tag you.

Fights were rare and then consisted mostly of a few words and shoves and/or a fist full of shirt. Wrestling was the preferred combat, rather than fists. Fists hurt and caused blood. I do not recall a single bloody nose from a fight or any broken bones in all my years in elementary school. There were plenty of scrapes and bruises from play, but we lived in fear of our parents and teachers. Those of us who lived in town, lived within a mile of the majority of the teachers and principals. We could not escape. Our parents would know of our "indiscretions" before we got home. Then there would be more trouble, usually much worse than what we might have experienced at school. The bottom line is that we really posed no threat to each other. We would not have dared hurt someone seriously. Pocket knives were forbidden, although a few probably got away with carrying one. We would never have thought to have used it on another person.

So...a Recess Coach. Schools are paying a person to supervise play, and, I suppose, to teach the kids how to play. It is a sad commentary on a world where parents are afraid to allow their kids the freedom to experience their local world. They can't play follow the leader all around town or the neighborhood. They can't blindfold a kid and take him or her on a long hike around the neighborhood, then make them guess where that had been. Bike riding and wagon building are too tame. Kids are a threat to each other and the world around them poses too big a threat to them. Video games and TV are the norm. Obesity and diabetes loom around the corner for modern generations. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."