As you may know, I’m teaching kids with special needs this summer. The school day is only 3 hours long and we only go to school three days a week. That’s not a whole lot of time to get to know the kids, and with all the IEP stuff and data collection we have to do it can be hard to find time to have fun with them.
We do, however, have a twenty minute recess. Usually recess is a plan time for most teachers while a few are on duty. But in summer school everyone is on duty – all of the teachers and all of the aides. So a typical recess at summer school is ten or so adults standing off to the side chatting while about fifteen kids play on the playground.
I have to admit that adult conversation is a nice break from the kid songs and nonsense that usually come out of my mouth when I’m teaching, but recently I’ve realized that retreating into the adult corner is somewhat of a missed opportunity. Recess is really the only time in our short day that requires no data collection or teaching. This is a sacred time specifically and exclusively reserved for having fun.
Every recess I’m torn between hanging out with the cool teachers and going down the slide with the little stinkers that keep my stock in Excedrine in the black. Some days I choose the cool, jaded teachers and other days I choose the stinkers, but I’ve noticed a definite change in my view towards the kids when I play with them. Student A isn’t IEP goal 3.1.4, she’s the brave little one that likes to go down the slide backwards (this is totally against the rules btw). Student B isn’t just working on extending patterns and finding rhymes, he’s building a strong friendship with a kid in another class by playing tag.
I’m not a mushy, sappy, lovey-dovey person with an unrealistic and rose-colored view of “being the change” or whatever, but it is my experience that spending a few minutes to enjoy my students does have a positive affect on their education. On the days I play with them, something kind of amazing happens – they’re more willing to follow directions and stay on task. I really don’t know why. I’m not more lenient and I’m not their friend. In fact, I’ve gotten more strict with them as the days go on. Maybe they feel more comfortable with me? I don’t know. But whatever the reason I guess I would just encourage anyone else who works kids with special needs to spend a few minutes to just relax and have fun with them.
Related Article: Power of Playtime by Science Daily