One of the advantages I have as a Superintendent of Schools doing recess duty during teacher job action is that I get the chance to act as a substitute recess supervisor. I fill in for district management staff who are unable to be there on certain days due to illness or unavoidable commitments. I’m at recess every day, but I get to sample recess and its variations at many schools, so I never take anything for granted. I usually get a specific area to supervise, but since I don’t know the usual drill and the children don’t know me, I have to work a little harder to connect with them. I’m really grateful that each school gives me a screamingly bright safety vest to wear to identify me as a supervisor. Otherwise I’m sure our well-trained children would be steadily reporting me to the Principal under the category of “Stranger Danger”, and that would be truly embarrassing for all of us.
But I digress. Recently I was filling in (rather poorly I suspect) for Will Martin, our cheerful and outgoing Manager of Financial Services, at his usual recess post at Diefenbaker Elementary School. I noticed some very small children walking around with the pincher tongs that are used to pick up garbage. One of them was so small she was actually carrying kitchen tongs, and they didn’t look out of place on her. In my previous life as a high school principal, this situation often meant that the bearer of the tongs was doing some sort of penance for littering, or worse. Keeping that in mind, and not wanting to embarrass the Diefenbaker tong team, I oh-so-casually asked them what they were up to.
Jonathon came to a full stop, looked directly at me, and solemnly announced, “We’re saving the earth.” Well, there’s not much to say to that but “Good job, guys!” is there? This encouragement produced a chorus of “We’re saving the earth too”, from the whole tong team, just in case I hadn’t picked up on that.
While this could just stand as another “cute” recess story, all of my recess road trip adventures have implications under the surface. To me this blog is more than a series of vignettes. It’s really about the educational importance of small and seemingly insignificant things that make up daily life in schools. Recess gives me a chance to notice and appreciate them, as often we’re all too busy doing big things to stop and pay attention to smaller ones. As I’ve said before in these posts, these small things are the lessons that stick with children years after they may have forgotten what they learned more formally.
The Tong Team is deadly serious about saving the earth because they’ve already learned that this is important, that the earth is in some sort of danger, and that picking up garbage is one way to protect the planet. This is a big mission for small children, and they clearly take it to heart. The chance to do things differently the next time is the hope children bring to all of us. With all that newness and potential going for them, they may just succeed and save the earth. We can only hope so.