Usually I read a novel, or listen to a book on tape or music on a flight. I listened to a bit of German for fun today, flying again to Washington D. C.. The flight is a bit long so I tired of my book and remembered I had a manuscript from our group to read and comment on. It is a lovely study of mating and cannibalism in social amoebae, so I read it for about an hour, then stopped so it would only have my freshest attention. You see, I don’t work all the time. I want time for novels, time for family and friends, time for cooking and gardening, and time for birds. Sometimes getting everything done feels overwhelming, but the adult equivalent of recess should not be sacrificed.
When we were looking for a school for my 5 year old to attend we had a lot of choice because Houston had a magnet program. Magnets could be for anything and the idea was to have voluntary mixing of students from different populations. How that worked out is another story, but one thing it meant was that parents could think about what was important to their child. Do you want art or science, a gifted program or a foreign language? How do you choose?
Perhaps the most coveted public school was in the fanciest neighborhood, River Oaks. We went to the open house and were led through the schedule minute by minute along with the other eager parents. I raised my hand to ask about recess. I saw a bathroom break of 5 minutes, but no recess. The smiling magnet coordinator kindly told us that there was no time in their 8 AM to 3 PM day for recess. In fact, the district as a whole had done away with recess, we were told.
Then I discovered that our neighborhood school, Longfellow Elementary, a magnet for creative and performing arts, had a sort of guerilla recess, with parent volunteers helping out. We looked no further for a school for Anna. After all, we knew our five-year-old had time for recess. And she still does, now a fancy professor at University of Chicago.
There is lots written about the power of restorative breaks, whether it be music, sleep, friends, or nature. In fact, I basically view this festive meeting I’m about to attend as a big break, but I also hope I learn something.