Thursday, May 19, 2011


Written by Ms. Berman
Dedicated to the Class of 2013
Sometimes I give my high school science students a five minute break during the 90 minute class period.  I call it “recess.”  Every time I say this, someone chuckles.  I choose this word intentionally, as it defines the mood I am trying to capture… a time in their lives when things were more carefree, when play was a natural part of their day, when they didn’t sit in classrooms for three consecutive 90 minute periods.  As an I.S. alumnus currently attending Yale recently said, “If a college student were to sign up for three classes back to back, everyone would think they were crazy!  I can’t believe I used to do this!”  And yet, of course, she did… just one year ago.  So if I feel that my students need/deserve a brief break in the monotony of the day, I am going to give it to them.

However, this is what I have observed…. Before recess, the students are lethargic, sometimes disengaged, and exhibiting a loss of enthusiasm.  After all, it is almost the end of the school year and everyone is exhausted.  Afterwards, however, after the students have either gotten out of their seats to chat with their peers or gone outside to toss a ball or blow bubbles, they return to their work energized and more on task.  As much as they hate to see recess come to an end, I only have to ask them once to get back to work.  Despite what one might expect, they do not take advantage of this opportunity, but rather are just grateful to have it at all.  They are undoubtedly more efficient. 

So that leads me to the following questions: Why don’t we have more time for play built into the daily curriculum, even at the high school level?  When did we decide that school could no longer be fun?  Who is making these rules that are impacting the lives of millions of teenagers across the nation and why am I caving to them? 
As an educator I do have a professional responsibility to complete mandated standards and assure that my students are prepared for future courses of instruction.  I then ask myself what is my moral responsibility to see that my students are prepared for life, and how can I best assure their success in that?  As simplistic as it may sound, unstructured playtime is one of the biggest gifts that I can offer them.  Many students were stripped of this way too early in their development and are thus craving the simple pleasures and activities associated with early childhood education, such as coloring, tossing a rubber ball, and making silly putty.  But my contention is that it is never too late to enjoy “playtime” and that I am equally obligated to offer my students a well-rounded classroom experience in order to slow down the societal accelerated push to adulthood.  With overwhelmingly large class sizes and the constant flux of the district that has tainted this academic year, I haven’t had sufficient time to focus upon this issue.  Regardless, I believe that every educator should aim to improve his/her teaching style each year, or quit the profession. 

Thus, I will return next fall renewed.  I will think of new ways to integrate fun activities into my lessons.  I will draw from the creative minds of my students.  Standards will be taught, but life will be experienced.  This is my commitment to my students.  My classes will still be rigorous.  Tests will be administered.  Labs write ups will be done in the IB format. Simultaneously, however, I will emphasize the importance of play, exploration, creativity, and just having fun.  I will continue to offer my students recess.


  1. As my mother says, "there is always a limit, you can't over do things but you can not give up and ignore it, everything in excess is dangerous for everybody." This blog reminded me of that because every student uses their recess for different motives. Personally, I sometimes use it to rant on about homework, or catch up on sleep, finish some homework, or just talk with some friends. It is true though, we are grateful to have some time to just take a breath and smile or laugh a little because not every teacher actually cares about the students well being. This a good method that should be applied to all classes however, if the teacher has control of the class it won't get out of hand and that way everybody is happy. :] Thank you for caring. :)

  2. Tears welling as I read. Glad you are in the world.

  3. As one of those in the Class of 2013, I have to say that's it is definitely a huge relief to have a break. It's impossible to count the amount of times I shake my fist at my younger self for not appreciating naptime and recess and the afterschool snack. I would kill for naptime in the middle of the day. But getting a chance to play a board game or just pop outside for a minute refreshes my mind ("airs it out," as it were) and may in fact make me more ready to learn. It's hard to focus for an hour and a half. I can't tell you how many times I feel like I've lost something important in a few of my other classes when I have been sitting for an hour, it's hot, and I am really unwilling to learn. But a break, even a small one, just helps. Thank you for being there and understanding us!

  4. I have to agree that having "recess" during class is a relief. Its a good opportunity, even if its a small amount of time that we get during class. In a few of my other class it is hard to concentrate because the teacher is just talking and talking and going on and on that I loose interest in what is being taught, but when there is a short break between class it helps and actually motivates me to keep learning and i actually learn this way.
    I totally enjoyed your class this year (:

    - Roxana Lopez

  5. I agree that having recess during class is a great thing. A small rest like this from a heavy lesson in any class could be what it takes to change the mood from silent with no participation to the complete opposite with only five simple minutes of an entire class period. I believe that there would be a big difference noticed from a classroom that works straight for ninety minutes, and the class that has a break in those ninety minutes. This is especially needed for any first period class.

    Miguel Preciado

  6. I loved reading this, knowing that some teachers understand that its hard to remain focused for 90 mintues. I've noticed with myself that in my first two periods, I'm sleepy from lack of sleep from staying up doing homework, I'm cranky, because I'm sleepy and its early and I'm working. Having just 5 mintues to stretch or simply put your head down helps me rejuvenate and get my thoughts together. Needless to say even though its just 5 mintues , its nice to have teachers that understand we're tired and that understand its hard to focus. I appreciate the small mental break and wish all teachers gave it. I look back on my elementary school days and realize why recess was so important, it helped getting all that energy out so when we went back to class it was all realeased and we were able to focus. When your younger you don't realize mental effect recess has, the only thing your considered about it being able to have recess and enjoy it, now as a high school student it makes so much more sense and I wish back then I would have cherieshed those moments longer, because the older you get the less "recess" you have. I embrace those 5 mintues and applaud and thank teachers like yourself you realize that 5 mintues go a long way.

  7. I like having recess because it lets us stop to have fun and not get frustrated over a chemistry problem. It lets us take a break and give our brain a pause to think of something else to let it wonder off for 5 min of fun. During those 5 min you can sleep or do hw something that makes you relax and not worry about how hard this class is and how you might fail. It just gives you a break and takes the pressure of your back and turns it into fin. When the 5 min are over your not stressed and doing too much work over a simple problem.

    -Nais Freitas