One of the “no duh” things I have learned while substitute teaching is the extraordinary difference in time horizons between young people and older people. I don’t mean this in the typical sense that kids can’t think too far ahead. I mean it in the broader sense… that what we would consider a little time is actually a whole lot of time for them.
One place where this comes up is with recess. Recess at Redstone elementary schools runs at about 10-15 minutes. To me, 10-15 really isn’t enough time to do anything. But to say that they are thrilled about it is an understatement. Not just as a break from the tedious monotony of classwork. In the same 10-15 minutes that isn’t “time enough to do anything” they just bounce from one activity to another. They play this for a couple minutes, then that. And sometimes they ask for an extra five minutes. Five minutes is a half or a third of the time that isn’t sufficient to do anything, but it just makes their day if you give it to them. Five minutes.
Recess more generally is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s good for kids to be able to go out and play. I have become a believer that recess should not be considered a reward but rather a good thing in its own right. I didn’t used to really believe this all that much because back when I was in elementary school, we spent recess doing things other than running around as often as not. But judging by the Redstone kids, we are the exception. Or maybe it was related to the fact that we had PE almost every day and they get it once or twice a week.
On the other hand, as a substitute, that 10-15 minutes out of an 8-hour day (including lunch) tends to be the cause of about a half or a third of the major problems I’ve faced. A good portion of the time when they come back in, I hear stories about how so-and-so hit so-and-so. How it may have been an accident but the retaliation was real. And the bad blood from the playground can color the atmosphere for the rest of the day.