Recess not on the menu

When I posted about the lack of recess at my school over the weekend, I didn’t fully comprehend how big of a deal it really is. That’s because the culture of my school has completely normalized not having recess. It’s just not done!

I chatted very briefly with another teacher about recess last week and that teacher told me that all the kids used to have recess many years ago. At some point it was cut out of the day. At the time I bet the teachers were upset about it, but those teachers have long since retired or moved on. Over the past five years alone there have been [redacted: double digit] new teachers at my school (some brand-new and others with prior teaching experience). So when you start working at a school where there is no recess, you don’t make waves since you are untenured.

Let’s review what my students have on their plate (pun intended):
1) The school lunch that you have seen me eat for two months
2) The only opportunity to run around: a once-a-week gym class
3) No recess

The lack of recess is not just a concern where I work, but all over the country. And we’re surprised that kids are getting fat, having trouble focusing, and not achieving at the levels seen in other countries? Certainly we can’t control what happens at home. I’m just trying to make schools reflect about their role in the increase in childhood obesity. Are schools contributing to the problem?

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67 thoughts on “Recess not on the menu

  1. I was just reading an article about your blog on Yahoo, so I decided to check it out. I'm shocked! I went to school in the midwest and our lunches were really good. I'm sure it has changed over the years, but not as bad as some of the lunches you have had to stomach. I will say this when I was in elementary school they made homemade pizza and it was AMAZING. When I was in high school they switched to Tony's pizza. My mother is actually a cook at the elementary school and talked about how many people preferred the homemade pizza. You're doing a great thing. School boards and administration should be forced to eat school lunches for a week!

  2. I cannot express how much this means to me.

    I saw this on and followed the link.

    School food is horrid, I feel like one of the reasons why I'm not doing my best in school is because of the horrible "food" they serve us.

    I am a high school student in Montgomery County Maryland.

    You think the food you are eating is disgusting? Well compared to what we eat… your food looks like delicacy.

    Everyday we have 1. Chicken patty, 2. Fake hamburger 3. Pizza 4. Some random item.

    With a side of milk, day old fries, and some strange looking fruits.

    The food is barely enough, and the school charges insane prices for it. Like 3.50 for each lunch and 2.75 for two pieces of bread and thin meat patty in the middle.

    Keep up the good work! Hopefully something will be done that will improve food all over the US.

    I wouldn't be this mad, but when they put 20 posters up encouraging good health and healthy food… then they serve us dog food… It gets your blood boiling.

  3. I'm a PE teacher at the high school level, and I noticed that you mentioned that your students only receive gym class once per week. How long do they get for PE?

    My daughter is in Kindergarten and she has PE 4 times/week plus a morning recess! I'm so thankful for that because being a teacher in the district I see what the lunches are like and I'm glad that the kids get plenty of opportunities for exercise throughout their day!

  4. Wow! I too am shocked that you don't have recess. I thought it was mandatory. No wonder we have problems with weight in our country. Kids need a chance to work off some of that energy and calories. How do they expect them to concentrate with all that pent up energy flooding their minds. I would take my kids out for a different school that puts health and exercise in the forefront! This is absurd! I couldn't imagine not having recess when I was a kid.

  5. I am very disturbed by the fact that your school has no recess and that you only have gym once a week! I really feel for you and your students. I wish that I could do something for you. Do you know why they took away recess? As a teacher, I find that just outrageous. Part of me wants to believe that the school just made a poor choice about recess, but the other part of me knows that NCLB had something to do with this change. I hope, at some point during your career at this school, you and your students get their recess back!

  6. Well, the lunches don't seem to have gotten any worse, but no recess and gym only once a week?! Eveyday homeschooling looks better an better…

  7. As a kid I remember my k-4 recesses being RIDICULOUSLY long. It almost seemed as if half of my day was recess. I'm not sure if my sister even had recess. I know my brother had much shorter recess periods than I did.
    Gym class for me was always once a week, but it was an hour to an hour and a half of constant activity. There was always a game of freeze tag, or stuck in the mud, or a vicious game of dodgeball to be played. Now I know gym classes are about a half hour, once a week, at schools that have gymnasiums.
    There are people who are concerned about child obesity, and they should be. I believe I read in a newspaper somewhere that this current generation just getting into school has the possibility of become the first generation in a long time, if ever, where the parents may outgrow the children because of the health issues obesity presents. It should be a terrifying concept, and to me it is, but to some it doesn't seem to be.
    I hope that this blog addresses that problem. the meals you feature seem to lack any nutritional value, and the points you bring to head (no recess, little gym time) just encourages a sedentary life style.

  8. i just found your blog and i find it very interesting how things work here, i grew up in Peru (southamerica) and things are very diferent, most parents (if not all) send their kids with their lunch to school and there is 2 recess times one at 10:30am and another one at 12:30pm school is from 7:45 to 2:30 pm, i finished highschool in 2001 so it wasnt that long ago! but i'm shocked to hear there is no recess in the school you work in.. very different than other countries. still i cant say mine has it all perfect because we do deal with a lot of children (specially in public schools) that are of low income homes and dont eat adequate either.
    i actually started college in Peru and i was trying to become a teacher until i moved here.. i sadly neever finish my education but i wasnt a really good teacher either (never did great when we had to practice in a real school setting). anyways i think you are doing some awesome work with this blog and i hope it gets the *right* attention and things change for the better!

  9. I honestly don't think I would have been able to stomach school sans recess and regular gym classes. I don't know how kids today do it… especially those blessed with my horrendous attention span.

    I'm pretty sure we had gym every other day in elementary school… it alternated with art and music. Art and gym were my favorite classes, (when I wasn't stuck with our resident Severely-Disgruntled-Gym-Teacher-Who-Hated-Small-Children, anyway) and pretty much the only things that made school bearable. At my first high school (we moved around a bit), gym became an elective after the ninth grade. I opted to continue taking it, because even as a teenager, with recess out of the picture, I needed the opportunity to go outside and do something active in the middle of the day. It kept me sane! Even today, as a college student in my twenties, there's a limit to how much sitting down and shutting up I'm capable of sans reprieve. In lengthy lecture halls, after two hours, I'm done. I'll sit there. I'll attempt to follow. But tomorrow, when you ask me what we spent that last hour or two doing? Couldn't tell you!

  10. I have tears in my eyes for those poor children who have to eat these lunches and who have no opportunity to run around while at school.
    I am 28 and I remember my elementary school years well. I had two recesses and PE everyday. Morning recess was 25 minutes, lunch and after lunch recess was an hour combined, and afternoon PE was 35 minutes.
    I am so thankful that my children have the opportunity to go to private school where recess is allowed and healthy lunches are provided. But I feel terrible for these other children who are not as fortunate.

  11. Physical activity is way more important than good food. A highly active person can tolerate, if not thrive, upon a high fat and high carb diet far better than a sedentary one. But to hear that not only is gym class down to 1 day a week but there is no recess either. That is just nuts!

    When I was in grade school in the 70's and even HS in the early 80's, we had gym at least twice a week and often three times. In Elememtary School we had a big long recess every day, even in kindegarten. And balls and playground equipment were available for all kinds or self-organized fun. And we even had an orgaized yearly olympic where we would comptete in all kinds of different sports with oput siste school the other side of out parking lot. And even in HS we had free periods where if we wanted we could use an open gym, the pool or just go outside and get some fresh air (or smoke as was still the norm back then – it weas frowned upon but 100% allowed for HS age children to smoke – that was only 25 years ago – ouch!)

  12. HI there!
    I just wanted to let u i admire u for doing so! Finally someone understands why students in the US have anxiety problems, ADHD, just to name a few disorders. I graduated high school in 07 (im 21 now) and all i ate was fries. Because i did found a piece of cardboard on my cheeseburger (mind u it was wrapped in the manufactures plastic….) and the cardboard was 4×6 folded in forths. I got the pics to prove it. Anyway, long story short i come from Brazil where u nation wide u go to school 7am till noon (January to December calendar) with block scheduling. And tell me why i knew more than the average "honor" student? After i came to US i was told that my English wasnt good enough and i repeated 8th grade…. mind u i was out of 8th grade already… Embarrassing! It only took me 3 months to learn this language and after this 3 month period the counselor at my first high school was stunned at my progress. Just thought i would let u know that i know the best and worse of both worlds and if u need more info find me on facebook or email me at

    And stay strong with this! Not many teachers give a damn to us, students, in this CPS "Every" child left behind program"…. If u catch my drift!


  13. The gym once a week thing is whats shocking me, we had gym every day and recess twice a day. until we got older 5th and 6th grade we only had it once a day. Wow…I thought recess was a part of school, it provides exercise but also helps with social learning.

  14. Hi! I am new reader, and haven't read everything, yet. I am a substitute teacher (for 12 years) and it is incredible the amount of food that gets put in the trash. The students even put cookies(made from scratch) in the trash! Some kids will not even open their milk! I admit, I do not like many things served at school and take my own lunch most of the time.We have less than 20 minutes to stand in line, get our tray, eat, and get out of the multi-used room. Our students K-2 have 2 recesses, supposedly 20 minutes long every day. 3rd-6th have one 30 minute recess. All of our students have PE twice a week for about 30 minutes.
    I love your blog and idea and hope results come from it!

  15. It's no wonder so many of our children are being diagnosed with ADHD. Children NEED to have recess and free time. They cannot function normally without it. I have worked in a few elementary and Junior High schools and noticed that the children that were denied recess were increasingly becoming more of a distraction and a problem in the classroom! They NEED that time. They NEED to run around and exercise be social. I would like to see any parent sit their kid down in a chair and have them sit there for 6 hours with no breaks to stretch and run around. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE without some kind of meltdown.

    Also, I Love your blog! I was an inclusion aide for special education and I used to eat the school lunches occasionally. If I noticed there were no children eating their lunches, I would get one and try it. Most of the ones I tried were tasteless and overcooked. Honestly, I think they should bring back some of the not so healthy foods. Put cheese on the refried beans, actually serve real meat patties. No more of that yucky mystery meat! It would be healthier for these children to eat something to fuel their learning than to starve and fail.

  16. I am a substitute teacher. Most elementaries here have recess. One pre-k class one day in the morning did not because there was no time that day. Some classrooms in the district where we live have the physio balls for students to sit on, some rooms only have a few balls and the kids take turns, other rooms have it so that everyone has the balls. PE is once or twice a week, depending on the specials schedule. But everyone has recess.

  17. this is AWFUL when I was in elementary school we had 2 recesses every day and kinders had only a half day then went home for lunch. After that we also had PE once or twice a week and a daily run around the whole campus! the teachers would yell at us for slowing to a walk!
    (also I not only flatly refused to touch school lunches I could barely stand to watch my friends eat them)
    I was allowed to be a “lunch helper” in 4th grade. I thought I would get to cook and was thrilled! (I had never bee in the lunch line area which was separated from the cold lunchers door by a wall) My hopes fell flat when I realized all we would be doing was shlopping ladles full of yuck onto plates or passing out “uncrustables” ect. I continued it only because I got to miss math my least favorite subject.
    yet another reason I’m going to home school my kids!

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