Recess.

I’d like to dedicate this post to a part of my day that was never my favorite as an elementary schooler, but is now one of the highlights of my day: recess.

Recess is a magical time of the day. You get some fresh air, you aren’t cooped up in a classroom that has mold on the ceiling (seriously that move to the new building can’t come fast enough), and you release some of that pent up energy you’ve had since you walked into the classroom.

Despite all of these wonderful things, recess is also a time that isn’t the most fun for all students. Some kids are mean, some kids don’t play fair, and other kids just don’t really play. It makes me kind of sad actually, because in my opinion, kids need to play. So, what does a teacher like me do to try to make recess fun for all?

I play, of course.

I’ve got some mad street cred for my skills with the jump rope, and I’ve been trying to teach a couple kids how to hula hoop. Today I got on my four square grind and relearned the dos and don’ts of the four square court (these kids are so serious about this stuff — only one redo?! Seriously?!). Some of the kids I have in my class who weren’t even getting up to play anything the first week of school are now getting up and getting active, and it makes me so happy! One girl asked me to feel her pulse last week because she was jumping rope so hard. Gettin’ fit in third grade, y’all!

Even though recess is fun and I’m able to monitor specific activities during recess to minimize unfairness and bullying, I also realized today how much these kids look up to me as their teacher. Even the kids who aren’t in my class look up to me as a teacher and someone they respect, and I never really truly understood how all of this worked.

I have a handful of kids who come to my room at the end of the day for dismissal. Each teacher is assigned a couple buses since the buses come in on a rolling basis (we share them with a middle school I believe), so we have to wait on them. One of the buses in my class doesn’t exactly have the best reputation, but for me they are simply angels. I’ve gotten closer to the kids who come to my room in the afternoons, even though they aren’t in my class. There are some really neat kids in the third grade at Parkwood, and I love them immensely. All of them.

There are a couple boys from the classroom down the hall with whom I’ve gotten to build a strong relationship. Today at recess, one of them came up to me during a four square game and seemed really upset, so I stopped the game and put someone in my place on the court. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that some girl did this and another boy did that and they weren’t playing fair and whatnot. I went over to check the situation and to see what was going on, and (of course) I got three different stories from the other kids playing four square with this child (who we will call M). While we were talking, M got extremely upset with the other students and I had to physically restrain him from hitting another kid. He was so angry and frustrated at the game and the way people were playing (because who likes only getting one redo when you’re giving everyone else multiple redos?) and I just held him and told him to take a walk with me.

We went to the other side of the blacktop and just sat down for a minute. I helped him tie his shoes and he told me everything that was going on with the other students in his class who were on the four square court.

“Miss Stewart, can I come be in your class today?”

I told him that maybe if he was really good like last week, he could come hang out in my class and do science with my kids. We chatted about how we can make good choices about who we play with or sit with or talk to or anything else, and how when we make those good choices we can have a fun time at recess.

This whole experience this afternoon just kind of put things in perspective for me. M trusted me to help him with his playground situation and he trusted me enough to tell me everything that was going on in his personal life with those other kids. He trusted me to calm him down, to tie his shoes, to show him compassion and understanding in his time of trouble. This student isn’t even on my class roster and he trusts me enough with all of this.

It kind of makes me think about the concept that it takes a village to raise a child — ultimately, it takes our whole third grade team to get these kids through this grade level. As a team of teachers, we are here for these kids to help them and to teach them and to push them toward success.

Having these relationships built on trust makes me feel so incredibly honored. I love more than anything getting the chance to play with those third graders on the playground and to talk to them, to learn more about them. Kids are so fascinating, and sometimes all they need is someone to listen.

Sometimes I have these moments where I really feel like I get through to a kid. Moments where I get on my knees and am eye-level with them and just speak sheer truth into their lives about how amazing they really are, or about how much they can achieve. Some of them don’t know any of that. Isn’t it heartbreaking? There are kids in my class, in my grade, at my school, who have never heard anything like that come out of the mouth of an adult.

That’s why I love recess. I get to play and talk and learn all at once, and if I’m lucky, I’m able to help make a kid’s day a little bit better.

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