Playground Supervision: Who Needs It?

Every elementary school playground I have ever seen needs better supervision, on a couple levels at least.

First, school is a place for kids to engage with each other socially. In fact, I suggest that socialization is one of the most important aspects of school. Children need time and experiences to help integrate into the real world. Of the most important socialization experiences is the playground.

On the playground kids learn to share, take turns, accept a loss, be gracious in a win....WAIT A MINUTE! Do they really learn this stuff on the playground? Is is through osmosis, or guided instruction? Is it teacher led or a kid free-for-all? Or are there underpaid, under-qualified "yard supervisors", sitting on their asses, talking on their cell phones? Well, no matter what the configuration of your school yard, you can be sure there is not enough supervision.

  • Teachers should supervise the yard.
  • There should be hard and fast rules of conduct on the yard that are enforced religiously (I am an atheist, but its a great word).
  • There should be organized games for the kids that need more organization.
  • Rules of the games should be made explicit, and changing them should have a process.
Anytime you see a mass of youthful humanity on a playground, you should also see 3 or 4 teachers, not talking to each other, actively engaged in supervision. If you don't see that, you could be missing some rather harmful outcomes:

  • Bullying.
  • Inappropriate play.
  • Fighting (an emulation of our fabulously selfish sports heroes)
  • Horrible language.
  • Segregation.
  • Loneliness.
Just to name a few. Now, of course it is not possible to see everything that goes on on a playground. One thing I know, however, is that a teacher (or camp counselor, or any crowd-control professional) can view a playground and get information from what they see more completely than your everyday dad or mom. Teachers are (supposed to be) built for this kind of thing. Kids on a school playground need supervision. They need it so when they venture out on their own they have a quiver of proper behavior to pull from. If we don't give them that, we have shortchanged them, and our own future.

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