When little Johnny doesn’t listen, I take away math instruction…

What would you say to your child’s teacher or if you are an administrator or teacher, to a colleague who implemented this practice in their classroom?  My guess is, most of us would ask what in the world that person was thinking!  Yet, in classrooms across America we have educators who are doing just as much damage by taking away recess or PE because of student behavior issues.  This needs to change, and as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We have not the time for the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

As I have discussed in previous blog posts, the issue of health and wellness in our schools became very apparent to me when I had a minor heart attack at school, I was 35.   Within months, I had data that indicated that 44% of my fourth grade students were “obese” and at great risk for Type II diabetes onset prior to the age of 18.

The willingness to stick to an antiquated, punitive, and non-research supported practice begs the question, “Why?”   Is it because teachers don’t really care about kids? NO.  Is it because administrators don’t really care about kids? NO.  Is it because local school boards don’t really care about kids?  NO.  So if we know that recess is good for kids, if we know that physical activity builds the capacity for academic achievement and yields positive growth, if we know that discipline issues decrease when students have the time to play, why is it that we don’t change?   I see article after article, researcher after researcher bringing forth data that supports the implementation of physical activity in schools, yet, it is still an issue of contention in many districts…..in many districts, there are teachers who use taking away recess as a form of punishment and there are still administrators who refuse to take a stand on the issue and tell these teachers they cannot do it.  As a current building level administrator I can tell you that taking that stand and leading with a common sense direction and compassion for children can and should be done, I have done it in 2 states and 3 schools and will continue to do it because allowing a teacher to take away recess or physical education is as damaging, as supported by a plethora of research, as taking away reading or math.  The education of the child, if it is to be effective, must extend beyond from just the neck up.

As to my question earlier of “why?”, I don’t know that I have the concrete, 100% definitive answer.  What I do know, as an expert in this arena and a current front line soldier in public education, is that there is a lot of FEAR, False Evidence Appearing Real, that I believe holds us back and puts us in a position of feeling like we must choose:  recess, play, PE, physical activity OR high levels of academic achievement.   The good news is this, we don’t have to sacrifice one to get the other.  In fact, in this case, a synergistic effect takes place and 1+1=3!  Consider the following:

  • one out of three children born after the year 2000, if no intervention takes place, will become a Type II diabetic by the age of 18.  Type II diabetes can shorten lifespan by between 17 – 27 years.  This is the first generation in over 100 years that will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
  • 2 out of every 5 men, and 3 out of every 5 women who apply for the military cannot gain entry because they are too heavy to take the physical fitness assessment.
  • in my school in 2005 – 2007 we saw a three year gain in academic achievement in a two year time period with one hour of required physical activity everyday, we also saw decreases in student BMI, staff absence, and disciplinary referrals.

What are the roadblocks to change in your schools?  What would it take to overcome these roadblocks?  How do we negate the fear and take our professional status as experts on teaching children back?   Our kids may not make up 100% of our population, in fact they are nowhere close, but, our kids do make up 100% of our future….where do you stand?





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