Friday, December 7, 2012

Why not Ask an Expert?

Picture from the blog Life is unwritten 

I wonder sometimes about politics, governing boards and licensing rules. Why they don’t come to us experts? I have found that often teachers are the last to discover new laws, rules and mandates. Lately, and sadly often, these new rules and ideas are opposite to what children need most to learn. Take for example the idea of shortening recess, it seems to the uneducated person that recess is a waste of time, after all children can socialize outside of school. What that untrained person doesn’t understand is that children need the break, more importantly their brains need the break, the extra oxygen, the movement, the social skills, and the fresh air.

Our brains require us to stop the task and focus a different part of our brain, or our body. Ask any fitness trainer about a good fitness routine and they will tell you that you work out a muscle to fatigue and then move onto another, giving that one a break. Ask any Neuroscientist and they will tell you that our brain needs breaks too.

I was once on a flight from Phoenix Arizona to San Francisco, about a 2-hour flight, the man next to me started doing a Soduko puzzle. He began a new one as we sat down and finished shortly after we got into the air. He immediately turned to the next one and began it, working on it, scribbling, and erasing, About 15 to 20 minutes to landing he was still working on it but then the woman next to the window needed to get up so he stopped and we all had to move out of the way, a guy a few seats down started talking to him, When we finally regained our seats, about 10 minutes later, he began his Soduko puzzle again. He finished before we landed. I noticed this because it took him about 10 minutes to finish the first one and almost 1.5 hours to fiddle around with the second and after the “break” only a few minutes to finish. Why?  I theorize that it is because his brain was fatigued from the first puzzle, then he got a break talking to a friend and that refreshed his brain.
So why work our children so hard, when there is no gain. Why have them spend more and more time on focused work without any breaks? Of course the best teachers are the ones who offer more free time to their students despite the “Official” recess times. Their students will learn more, be better able to self regulate and focus better than students who are not allowed these extra breaks.

Most teachers, preschool, elementary, or others, know a lot about brain development and are so passionate about their work that they take the necessary steps to implement best practices in their own classrooms. They spend hours upon hours of their “free time” planning, discovering, learning, and buying things for the classroom that will help children learn best. We are extremely inspired and dedicated professionals. So why do “they” not ask us what works, what doesn’t. Why not trust us to know what we have spent years learning?


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