Not much surprises me anymore. But today something happened that left me speechless.
On the way home from school, I asked the typical, “How was your day?” Well my oldest son, who is in 2nd grade, responded, “A little good and a little bad.” Immediately, my ears perked up and of course zeroed in on the negative. “What do you mean a little bad? What happened?”
He started to explain that when he was outside playing in the snow; he realized that he had two different gloves on. One glove was too big and kept falling off.
Sounds pretty normal, except that today it was snowing (albeit it only accumulated an inch or two) and 25 degrees out here in NJ. We are new to the school district, having just moved here 3 months ago, but I felt pretty sure that it isn’t common practice to have outdoor recess in the freezing cold and especially not in the snow!
“Wait an minute! You had outdoor recess…today?!”
My kindergartener chimed in, “No mom we played in the snow in the morning.”
Ok, then I was really confused. Both of them were outside just playing in the snow?
My oldest, “We went out right after our math minute in the morning, just for a little while to play. The whole school did, but not all at the same time.”
Just in case you missed it.
THE WHOLE SCHOOL GOT A CHANCE TO PLAY IN THE SNOW.
With all of the focus on raising the standards and increased accountability and testing, a principal, our principal, thought it was important to make a little time for the kids to play in the snow. This in a time where recess minutes are being cut and preschool is becoming universal and “standards-based.” In a time where children from age 3 are asked to start preparing for college and careers. In a time when standardized tests are claiming over 9 hours of instructional time not counting time spent on test preparation. In a time where teachers, schools, and principals are being judged by their students’ test scores.
It took me a sad number of questions, before I even understood what my children were telling me. The idea of principal letting kids play in the snow was so foreign to me. All of the principals that I have have ever known (at least 7) have been damage control specialists. I could hear their questions in my head.
Wouldn’t parents call to complain that it was too cold? What if a child wasn’t properly dressed in a warm coat, hat, and gloves? What if their shoes got wet and then they developed hypothermia? What if a child slipped and fell on the ice? What if the kids got too wild or threw snowballs? How much instructional time would be lost?
I had a friend and colleague who once got into trouble for taking her math students outside to draw geometric shapes on the concrete walkway. The assistant principal said it was a security threat for her to have propped the door open for the 15 minute lesson, and he also wanted to know if the chalk would wash off. (sigh)
As soon as I got home, I called my mother and my mother-in-law to tell them that the kids played in the snow at school today and both were just as shocked as I was. After I hung up the phone, tears welled in my eyes. I was so happy that my children are able to learn in a school that understands and values the wonder of childhood. But those tears were bittersweet, for I know that so many of America’s children are not so lucky.