“Structured recess” sounds like an oxymoron, especially to those people who are, as one girl in Not Much Just Chillin’ put it, “allergic to anything with the word ‘ball.’” For the introverted and athletically uninclined, fresh hell might be a coach forcing you into a game of kickball during a precious half-hour you could be spending slumped along the wall of the school building, undisturbed by the classmates who will never understand you, reading kiddy manga.
But recess often winds up no fun for even those children eager to run around and play games. I spent a year writing about an elementary school whose kids grew up in environments where they did not learn how to manage conflict peacefully or follow the rules of games, where anger escalated with the uplifting of an eyebrow, where fourth-graders could not manage one single round of foursquare or Uno without fighting or quitting. After that, I am intrigued by the idea of “recess coaches,” which have been getting a burst of press lately. (See this and this and this; whoever does Playworks’ PR deserves a raise.)
Teachers sometimes carry into recess duty the exhaustion and built-up antagonisms of the classroom, and regular aides may lack training to properly manage the chaos. Enter the trained coach. Who, by the way, is assisted by a host of junior coaches, the students themselves, which I love. But then again, I always loved day camp, and this feels a lot like that.