Those of you who follow Recess Road Trips must sometimes wonder if anything ever goes wrong when I’m on recess duty. It all sounds so ideal in my posts, and I can understand that some skeptics among you may have doubts. Every recess can’t be that perfect, can it? The truth is, most of the time our students are well behaved indeed. They’re kind, caring and full of fun and energy. They’re not usually up to a lot of mischief.
But I admit, sometimes recess is star-crossed, and recess duty becomes the longest 15 minutes on record. It begins with a few minor mishaps and goes south quickly. These things are not at all minor to the the witnesses, and they create a outbreak of tattling, crying and general chaos that spreads like hives once it starts.
Here’s how it goes:
“Duty lady, they’re digging holes over there and they’re not supposed to,” reports Roger. Simultaneously I see Steve vigorously spitting something out of his mouth, surrounded by a circle of spellbound admirers. On inspection Steve seems to have a bunch of wood chips in his mouth, which at least explains the spitting. I move him to the sidelines, while observing his flowing output for evidence of less wood. At the same time, Roger lodges the protest over the hole digging again, and a new report comes in from a little girl – Aaron is crying. Indeed he is, a small crumpled bundle sobbing on a platform at the top of the play structure.
As I move towards Aaron, calculating the logistics of getting to the top of the platform, Roger, the whistle blower on hole digging, adds that it’s against the rules because people might trip in the holes. He seems unimpressed with Aaron’s crying and astounded that I haven’t arrested the hole diggers yet. While scaling the play structure to save Aaron, I notice the “big” boys in grade 5 have decided show their prowess by propelling the nearby tire swing in a huge arc that’s threatening to mow down a row of frolicking 5 year-olds.
While keeping an eye on that brewing disaster, I reach Aaron, who is pointing to his knees while coughing and crying. No hope of getting the story out of him yet, so I gently park him on a bench to recover, promising to return and hear all about it.
Meanwhile, the wildly-swinging tire has doubled in velocity, so I march over and put a swift end to that operation.
At least one thing has been addressed, though this feeling of satisfaction doesn’t last long. I notice that Steve has stopped spitting and is now running around throwing fresh wood chips at everyone, which goes a long way towards explaining how wood chips got in his mouth in the first place. I launch another Steve intervention. Meanwhile, after band aids are applied to his knees, Aaron has completely recovered and is playing happily. Before I can congratulate myself, Roger, crown prosecutor in the matter of the holes, is back on me, patiently explaining that not only are the girls digging the holes breaking rules, they banned him from the area, another thing to add to their rap sheet. This rejection hurts, and it has sent him on a mission for justice, so the reason for his persistence is clearer to me now.
I’m grateful that recess ended at that point. These hurts, mistakes and betrayals seem minor, but in the world of children they are as large and painful as the ones that await them when they’re much older. Fifteen minutes of that is more than enough for them on this day, and more than enough for me too.