Archive for Sunday, August 3, 2014

Lawrence school board members defend recess

August 3, 2014


As students and parents prepare for the new school year, Lawrence school board members may be taking aim at teachers denying recess as a way to discipline children.

At a recent goal-setting meeting, several school board members voiced concerns. School board member Rick Ingram, for example, said children need time to run around and re-charge after spending hours in class.

"Teachers need something to get kids under control, but I would hope they could find something else," Ingram said.

School board member Randy Masten said sometimes teachers reward students by giving them candy. Then when the children get amped up on sugar, they misbehave and have recess taken away, Masten said. "It just isn't sensible. You hit them with a double whammy," he said.

And Adina Morse said she has seen children at Hillcrest Elementary not only lose recess but be required to walk along a line in a square while their schoolmates run around and play. She described the punishment as something one might see in a prison.

"It can't continue. It just can't," she said.

Lawrence School Supt. Rick Doll said the district has no districtwide policy on denying recess, leaving it to teachers and administrators at each school.

He said questions about recess will probably come back to the board later in the year as the district develops new guidelines that promote positive behavior supports in the classroom.

"The recess discussion will be part of that," he said.

Tammy Becker, principal of Hillcrest Elementary, said taking away recess is used only as a last resort, and it is never taken away for the entire 15-minute recess, but usually for three minutes to five minutes.

"We understand the importance of physical activity and wellness," Becker said. "We all need a break and to get out and move."

As far as walking the line, which Morse described, Becker said that also is usually only for a few minutes and is done instead of having the student who has been taken out of recess sit on a bench, she said. "I don't believe people are doing anything intentionally to hurt anyone," she said.

But Becker said sometimes teachers need to deliver a major consequence for inappropriate behavior. "We have great kids, but there are times when it's one thing after another and then they lose a few minutes of recess," she said.

Becker added that if the school board were to decide that recess should never be taken away, then the administrators and teachers would follow that policy.

Some research supports recess and says that denying it just produces more problems. Even so, polling of principals shows that most schools will take away recess.

"Recess is just something that kids need," said Robert Harrington, a professor in Kansas University's Department of Psychology and Research in Education.

Children need recess for a physical outlet and to learn how to socialize with other people, Harrington said. Also pulling a child out of recess sets up the student to ridicule and bullying, he said.

But Harrington, who teaches courses on classroom management, constructive classroom discipline and bullying, concedes that teachers face daunting challenges.

"Teachers try to do the best they can," he said. He said elementary school teachers "live their lives quite a bit isolated in a classroom. They are on their own with 25 or 30 kids, and they make decisions in the moment. They don't always have a big backup plan," he said.

Suzanne Rice, a professor in KU's Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, said taking away recess denies children the opportunity to exercise self-discipline, which is a major goal of education. Also, she said, for a child to learn about what isn't acceptable, discipline should be connected to the offense.

She said, however, teachers face a tough job because much of what teachers try to do with students requires students to be attentive and working on task.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says recess should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons. "Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom." It also provides social, emotional and physical benefits.

In 2009, the journal Pediatrics published a study that showed third-graders who had recess behaved better in the classroom and were likelier to learn more than those who didn't have recess.

Even so, taking away recess as a punishment is widespread. Seventy-seven percent of principals reported take away recess for unruly students, according to a 2010 Gallup poll, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Larry Sturm 3 years, 9 months ago

Have any of these people that are so against taking away recess ever been in a class room day after day for 9 months. I think that has to be the teachers decision. However I do think children need recess.

John Graham 3 years, 9 months ago

Sugar causing hyperactivity has been shown to be false. There have been 12 double blind, placebo controlled studies of sugar challenge to children. All of the studies showed no evidence of any connection between sugar and abnormal behavior in ADHD or normal children. None of the studies testing chocolate or sugar found any link to negative behavior.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

This is absolutely true. I also doubt there are that many teachers using candy as a regular reward system these days.

Amy Varoli Elliott 3 years, 9 months ago

When did punishing kids for not acting right become so taboo? You just just always taking the cheering promise you won't do it again then go play method with kids. Sometimes you have to hit them where it hurts and pretty much all kids love recess.

Mike Edson 3 years, 9 months ago

Behavior modification requires rewards and punishment. Anything else is ineffective.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

Not necessarily. You don't need aversives to get positive behaviors. Besides, learning is more than a pavlovian experiment in behaviorism. Or at least it should be.

Deb Engstrom 3 years, 9 months ago

Unfortunately its always the same kids losing privileges. Positive behavior supports should help minimize punishment and focus on changing the environment to provide opportunities for success. As the parent of kids who struggle with behavior, losing recess is not an option.

Cille King 3 years, 9 months ago

Deb, I agree. When my energetic third grader lost recess for behavior, it compounded the problem.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 9 months ago

My aunt who worked in the school system used to tell me that when you have a problem child, you meet the parents and then you know what the problem is.

I think there is no issue that discipline in the classroom is essential. It seems to me that losing recess is no great earth-shaking event. I would assume that in reality this is restricting recess to having time out in the classroom and not on the playground. What is the problems with that? Children are children. They need guidance and training a and when bad behavior erupts, some sort of response to this bad behavior is essential.

We already live in a world where bad behavior is rampant. Adults who never had much guidance when they were maturing and growing up are everywhere. I think that this punishment is far and away less than they will encounter for bad behavior in the adult world.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

The problem is that taking away recess is counter productive and compounds the problem. These are young kids. They have a hard time staying seated and remaining quiet. Take away the time they'd be using to "get the wiggles out," and you've got a kid that will be a persistent discipline problem for the rest of the day.

Susan Mangan 3 years, 9 months ago

Only if the parents have never attempted to teach self-control and discipline.

Why is it that kids, 20 or more years ago, didn't seem to have a problem sitting still and paying attention, but, today, kids "have a hard time staying seated and remaining quiet'? My kid doesn't. But, she learned, from a very young age, how to behave like a responsible young lady. Of course, we expect her to behave, and we don't defend bad parenting as "kids will be kids". That quote really means "Bad parenting results in little brats." People wonder why the obesity rate is up, why crime is rampant, why designer drugs are popular among teens...parents over-protect and coddle their kids until they don't understand that, SOMEDAY, they will face consequences for their actions. But, by then, arguing that little Johnny or Jane has "impulse control issues" (meaning they were never taught how to behave) won't matter, because sentencing guidelines get to determine the punishment.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

Really? I'm surprised at how many of these comments go straight to blaming parents for not routinely sitting their kids down in desks and requiring them to be quiet for long stretches or grouping them together with 20 other friends and only one supervising adult and asking them to take turns. The place kids generally do sit down and remain (mostly) quiet is in front of the TV, yet I suspect that would get another pronouncement about bad parenting. PS - same place is was 20 years ago.

I remember kids 20 years ago having trouble sitting still and paying attention. As a matter of fact, the craze for diagnosing kids with ADHD (and medicating them) was 20 years ago in the 1990s. (Not that I agree with that.) PS - crime is down not up right now, and drugs were popular with teens for a lot longer than 20 years. Just saying.

Yes, I'm sure your child is an absolute princess and makes you a fantastic parent, but assuming that a behavioral problem is solely the result of indulgent parenting is one of those pronouncements that really sets my teeth on edge. Unless you're specifically in the home and classroom making observations, you really don't know. You're just assuming, just as you're assuming a crime wave that isn't.

Nobody is saying, "kids will be kids" as a means to excuse bratty behavior that can be modified. What I am saying is that there are better ways to handle the situation that will result in less hair pulling for parents and teachers alike.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years, 9 months ago

Well, I've been around a lot longer, and 50 years ago, kids mostly behaved, partly because, if we got in trouble at school, we would also be punished at home. My parents would believe the teacher over me, and I learned early on, I better not lie about what happened. I better own up to my behavior and suffer the consequences. There are consequences in everything you do, good or bad. If you do the right thing good consequences will happen. If you do the wrong thing, bad things will happen, but not nowadays. Now it's all the teacher's fault.

We raised a boy who who had ADHD, and we always told him that he had to work harder than other kids to behave himself, but that he was smart enough to do it, and that he could never use his disability for poor behavior, never. He is now a hard working, responsible adult who we are very proud of. But he always had to suffer the consequences for his poor choices.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

Prior to FAPE (40 years ago), you could just permanently kick a kid out of school for misbehavior. There are people who would agree with that concept even today.

But let's not pretend that misbehavior didn't exist in the classroom at all the 1960s. Modern day suspensions-as-punishment came about in part because of the uptick in school fights during that time. It didn't work, but that's when it came into vogue.

It's very easy to view past decades sentimentally, but the truth is that nobody had some magical family-cohesive elixir that caused all kids to behave.

And I'd like to point out, again, that nobody is arguing that kids should grow up in a consequence-free bubble. The discussion is about whether recess denial is appropriate or effective.

Brock Masters 3 years, 9 months ago

I understand why taking away recess may be counter-productive, but I didn't read what alternative discipline method should be used.

Deb Engstrom 3 years, 9 months ago

There are many other interventions besides taking away privileges to change behavior.

Amy Varoli Elliott 3 years, 9 months ago

Maybe the parents should be held more accountable for how their children act, some parents are so scared to tell their kids no, or have their kids think they are mean. Do your job and work to raise respectful children, yes they will act up occasionally but it should be a rare issue

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

Yes, yes. Those mean horrible parents are so indulgent for giving their kids mild autism, ADHD, etc.

We're talking grade school. Although it's possible to mess up a child with indulgent parenting, I think you're getting a bit ahead of yourself to blame it for all behavioral problems.

Amy Varoli Elliott 3 years, 9 months ago

Hence the reason I said some and not all. I have three kids and trust me I understand that they don't always want to sit still and listen but they also know there is a price to pay if I find out that they are doing otherwise. They get one free pass a year, after that they must write an apology to the teacher and do a week of extra chores. We have only had that happen one time. I know some kids do have behavioral problems that have been diagnosed by medical professionals and though these are obstacles they are not excuses that should be hidden behind.

I would rather my child miss-out on 5 minutes of recess now for acting wrong then to lose a job when they are older because they never learned how to control themselves or follow the standards that where set in front of them.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

Nobody is suggesting kids run around like wild animals with no consequence. I'm just suggesting that there are better alternatives, and some of those involve preventing the problem and teaching and fostering self control over time. The truth is that most kids are resilient enough to do fine with a wide variety of approaches. It's the ones who don't that need the best alternatives the most.

Bob Forer 3 years, 9 months ago

I don't have the expertise to judge the effectiness of this policy. But I think it is a decision that should left up to the indiviudal teacher as opposed to a blanket policy issued by the school board. The board should refrain from micromanagement and let teachers run their classrooms based on their indiviudal professional judgment.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years, 9 months ago

What do they suggest should happen when children misbehave? Long winded discussions? That never worked for me. Where I used to teach, we had reward days. If you didn't earn too many behavior points or flunk a class, you got to have a fun day, the end of the year, a trip to Worlds of Fun. Probably 98% to 99% of the kids were able to go. But we had some parents who complained, because their child didn't get to go, because of their bad behavior, and we even had one or two of those parents keep their kids out of school that day and took them to Worlds of Fun. Of course, this explains why that child never behaved.

This reward day really has worked, but we also have a lot of parents who are involved with their children and are raising them to be respectful. Students are not losing recess for little things. In my classroom, I always told my students that if they did something wrong, like they were talking when they should have been listening, I would tell them to stop, and if they said sorry and stopped, no problem. The kids who I was forced to discipline were the ones who would either try to say they weren't talking or refused to stop. Few of my students had to be disciplined, and I'm real sure that those who are losing their recess are the ones who didn't modify their behavior.

If they are going to ban one of the few methods that teachers have to created discipline, what do they suggest to replace it? Do these people not ground their children? Do you say, "Well, all kids need to have fun, so even though you stayed out past curfew, you still get to go to the next party." "Or all kids need to have fun, so even though you threw a fit, said nasty things to us, your parents, and refused to pick up your toys, we are still going to go to the park." Or maybe we should apply this to adults. "Adults need to have fun, so just because you pointed a gun at that gas station clerk and robbed the store, we are going to let you stay out of jail."

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

I suggest we reexamine the 19th Century school model and avoid half of the behavioral problems by dealing with the root cause instead of trying to hand out rewards and punishments for every action and redeem them at the end of the day. A lot of the "traffic light" or "popsicle stick" style discipline methods are difficult for kids to understand and not effective for actually dealing with the behavior. Unless that kid did something JUST before recess, they're not going to really connect the missed recess with the impulsive action that got them there.

A kid who is old enough to get grounded is far too old to have recess. I've never grounded a recess-aged kid, no. I gave them time outs. Those are immediate and in response to the behavior and not a full recess-length long. It usually also corrects the behavior. We can still go to the park, just ten minutes later. You're making comparisons that really aren't apt.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

Stay classy, Susan Mangan. I'm sure the parents of special needs children loved your comment. (Bless your heart.) The "no offense" is a sweet touch.

Children are human beings. Just not mature ones. (I'm sure you'll sympathize) You don't expect them to understand adult conversation. You don't send them off to college. They develop. One of the things they develop over time is a sense of consequence, and that doesn't happen overnight. They may be able to articulate the consequences of a traffic light discipline system in theory, but they don't actually understand/internalize them, and the misbehaving kids don't modify their behavior to avoid the consequences, at least not as consistently as they do with other methods. This is particularly true of children in 2nd grade and below. If the goal is to have consistent rules that apply to everyone, great. If the goal is to actually modify behavior, differentiate instruction, and help kids to make better choices, use something else.

Here's a teacher explaining it very well:

And yet more:

Brock Masters 3 years, 9 months ago

Maybe substituting exercise for recess. 10 push ups, 10 jumping jacks, 10 squats and 1 minute plank. Get done and go join the rest of the class. Next time the numbers jump up by 2.

Healthy, burns energy and doesn't take the entire recess away. Make it optional - your parents choice. Do the exercise or sit out recess.

At some point a child should be removed from the class if their behavior is disruptive and cannot be gotten under control.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

Other than the cumulative nature (which isn't effective for kids that age) and teaching kids that exercise is punishment, it's a better idea than keeping a kid inside for a full recess.

Susan Mangan 3 years, 9 months ago

You don't have any kids, do you? You seem very sure of your textbook answers, so it is obvious that you have no idea how to raise a responsible child, in real life. Get back to us, in 10 years. We can re-visit your textbook answers, at that point.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

As it happens, I've already had more than 10 years of experience raising a responsible child, so why don't you get back to me when you finish grad school? Or, you know, just stop calling me and my children names because I have an opinion and have done some research. Stay classy.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

How about a time out with art whereby a child may be able to draw/express why misbehaving seems okay and/or why the child feels like misbehaving is the only tool at their disposal.

Are these students rejected by other students? Are these students bored?

Are these students candidates for an "alternative" style of learning over and above the status quo? If these students disrupt class frequently let's find other options to insure a productive day for all. One size will never fit all.

It is unfair to teachers that they be expected to deal with constantly reoccurring behavioral problems. Teachers need other options rather than playing the role of a parent. Having options would allow classes to move long for all other students.

Nobody wants these students falling through the cracks. Think positive feedback.

Amy Varoli Elliott 3 years, 9 months ago

The world does not run off of positive feedback alone, kids need to learn that their behavior has results. Act like a little heathen and there is a price to pay, we can not let kids off easy their whole live let them learn young and it will stick with them. Having an easy life full of handouts, free passes and no repercussions does not make for a more successful adult.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

A nice try, but this really won't work either. I mean, examining the situation and reducing the circumstances for misbehavior is a good plan, but I don't think rewarding misbehavior with drawing time will actually do anything but encourage more misbehavior.

Deb Engstrom 3 years, 9 months ago

Hopefully if teachers are having to "discipline" or "punish" students too often, they will take a look at their own behavior and see what they might change, or how they might change the classroom environment to make it more positive. All behavior is communication.

Brock Masters 3 years, 9 months ago

Blame the teacher - can't be my child has a problem.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years, 9 months ago

I do agree with you to a point. I taught a foreign language which meant there were plenty of transitions for one activity to the next. I always communicated specific routines to transition between activities, and probably 99.9% of my students always behaved and did what they were suppose to do. Sure some would get too talkative, but all it took was a gentle reminder from me and they stopped, not leading to consequences. But, there were always a few students who never wanted to be cooperative. I call them rebels without a cause. Some children always need to learn the hard way, and I refused to allow those students to get in the way of my other student's learning. It's just not fair.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

Taking away physical activity from a day in which the lions share of the day is sitting seems counter productive.

Mike Ford 3 years, 9 months ago

I grew up in a disciplinarian school environment in Louisiana in the 1970's and 1980's as an intelligent yet unhinged kid. There was paddling and hitting in this environment. Corporal punishment does leave scars. How can a child determine where the line is when their thought process is emerging in this time of life? too much of our society is positioned in either or situations. This is when some kids lose their own concept of right and wrong and values and boundaries as they are labeled by people that have them for but a few years and some of these labels stick for life or at least through an academic career if they go K-12 through the same school district.

My late mother taught in four locations in Kansas and one in Florida as a teacher/librarian before she passed July 2009 in a car accident. My mother was fair as an educator but there had been a trend of parents my age (44) and younger leaving the educational system to raise their kids in both central Kansas and Pensacola, Florida which made my late mother's job hard.

There are alternatives to taking away recess. These taking of recess segregates bad kids from good kids and those labels tend to stick especially with children of color who begin to see teachers in an adversarial way which clouds their ability to trust authority and work with fellow students. As a child who attended four elementary schools in Louisiana and would have to go weeks at a time without recess due to constant rain and muddy playground fields in the winter and spring seasons of the year the time at recess is necessary for physical education and social interaction.

Brock Masters 3 years, 9 months ago

Paddling and hitting young kids? Sad, very sad. Feel for you and the other kids that had to endure that environment.

James Howlette 3 years, 9 months ago

I was never paddled when I was in school, but it was still used as punishment for some of the students. As far as I know, it's still legal in Kansas. I just don't think it's commonly practiced.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years, 9 months ago

I was never paddled in school, but I think it was done to some kids. My mom and dad used to threaten to spank me with the belt, but I only remember once when they followed through with it. Mostly they just had to say they were getting the belt, and our behavior changed. One thing that my mother's generation were skilled at was giving guilt. Many times when I was tempted to do something I shouldn't I wouldn't, because it would upset my mom and dishonor my family. My mom was really good at it. She didn't hand down the skill to me though.

Mike Ford 3 years, 9 months ago

it didn't really leave scars on me because one knows the John Wayne way of attacking those who experience and witness stuff and jumping on them instead which is the new internet way of communicating. It was simply a fairly hostile environment. Manhattan, KS, in 1981, was an even better place (NOT)l

Greg DiVilbiss 3 years, 9 months ago

When I was in school Paddling existed and I have to say I felt the end of a paddle a few times. I do not feel as if I was scarred from paddling, nor do I think it was effective method of altering my behavior.

Removing something that the kids want when they are not behaving and rewarding them when they are doing the right thing is the only way in my opinion.

The problem is this...what one kid wants and views as a punishment and what another kid views as a reward can be very different.

For me they never found what would cause me to be other than myself, a talkative person who had a hard time sitting still. You know why? Because what I was doing was not wrong, but it did not fit in their box. Some kids need more than just sitting in a chair for hours.

On the other hand there is no excuse for being rude, mouthy and disrespectful.

I am a big believer in Love and Logic, from their website...Children learn the best lessons when they're given a task and allowed to make their own choices (and fail) when the cost of failure is still small. Children's failures must be coupled with love and empathy from their parents and teachers.

Brock Masters 3 years, 9 months ago

I have co-workers that can sit at their desk all day without moving. I can't. I've got to get up and sometimes take a brief walk up the hall and back. Sometimes I stand and walk or pace while talking on the phone.

Fortunately I get good evaluations and not paddlings :)

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years, 9 months ago

Mostly in schools nowadays, kids just don't sit in a chair all day. When I went to school, we did, but not with changes in teaching styles. There are cooperative activities, they work in pairs and groups more than we did. Of course, without good transition routines this leads to more disruptions. We didn't even have many extra classes in elementary, like PE, recess was our only PE. Art was taught by our classroom teacher, and music was the only time we went anywhere. We did get a whole hour for lunch, when we would walk home to eat. The only ones who ate at schools were the rural kids and they brought sack lunches. I know better than to compare the schools of today with what I used to do. Students just don't sit all day like they used to, so that really shouldn't be a problem.

Paul R Getto 3 years, 9 months ago

The brain is a system. Art and PE are important and help kids learn academics. We tend to ignore this with the math/reading testing hysteria.

Carol Bowen 3 years, 9 months ago

Do teachers have any coursework on classroom management or do new teachers just wing it?

Tracy Rogers 3 years, 9 months ago

Taking recess away for misbehavior was used when I was in grade school about 40 years ago. It seemed to work pretty well then, but that was also a time when there was more support of teachers and administrators from parents than there is today.

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