The Recess Equipment Dilemma: Part 1 – Frustration

Why I love recess:

I strongly believe recess provides elementary-aged students a brilliant balance to their school day. It’s an opportunity for students to freely explore and socialize while developing and boosting emotional, physical, and social growth in an unstructured environment.

But wait! There’s more!

Recess also throws in a bonus lesson of responsibility for the students, and grants educators an opportunity to reinforce student accountability.

What? Read on.

SOLVING MY RECESS RIDDLE: Where is everything?

Over the last 25 years, I have attempted to teach students to be accountable for recess equipment, and I know I’m not alone. I’ve witnessed teachers with recess captains, leaders, and helpers toting out baskets, bins, and bags, filled with their gear, only to return empty.

Personally, I have meticulously developed plans, charts, and strategies to ensure all recess equipment would be retrieved and accounted for following each recess session. Initially, the designs worked flawlessly, however, much like the shoes we trip over that were never put away, forgotten equipment was strewn across the playground, waterlogged, faded, and over-heated. Ultimately, the playground balls in particular, would be lost, stolen, flattened, or would simply disappear into the playground abyss. Plan after plan after inefficient plan, would end with the same fate. No recess balls, no student accountability.

I recently stumbled across the following email sent to the faculty and staff of a school where I previously worked. The date was September 13, 2006, and I was frustrated another “well-thought-out plan” was leading to failure. I was seeking assistance and guidance from anyone to help teach our students to be accountable. Therefore, I attempted to douse the dilemma with a little humor, and draw other teacher’s attention to my frustration…empathy anyone?

Anyway, here’s the email:

Ladies and gentlemen,

It brings me great sadness to announce the untimely death of our beloved soccer ball. As I braved the elements and journeyed across campus in search of our missing friend, I was horrified to discover our once firm, bouncy friend, completely flat under a butterfly bush.  As I placed my hand on his damaged polypropylene skin, and shook gently while asking,”are you okay?”, I immediately realized I needed to attempt to resuscitate with my air pump.  After several minutes of rescue breathing I realized the ball was dead.  The apparent cause of death was several puncture wounds to the bladder.  It is my belief our friend was taken outside to be happily kicked around.  Then, instead of being put back with his friends in his little white laundry basket home, he was abandoned. Being forced to face the elements proved to be too much of a challenge for the less than 24 hour-old ball.  Perhaps as he was bouncing around searching for his friends football, volleyball, basketball and kickball, he rolled into a pack of dogs.  It seams the punctures are a result of dog teeth.  Dogs are NOT balls best friends. Hopefully DNA can narrow the search for the killer by presenting the breed responsible. There will NOT be a public viewing of the ball since I already threw it away. 

Please be gentle with the remaining balls as they are in a state of grief. Inform the children the balls may not bounce as high and far as usual since they’re feeling rather flat today. Kim is available for anyone who needs counseling.

Warmest regards,

Justin

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Perhaps you’ve experienced similar challenges. Maybe you have a plan that has worked for your school. If so, please share. Several years ago, my team and I set up a meeting to brainstorm ideas for yet ANOTHER plan. What we devised was a system which included the PE team, the classroom teachers and assistants AND the students all working together. To be continued…

Stay tuned for The Recess Equipment Dilemma: Part 2 – A plan that works. 


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