"You can’t get in front of the problem from behind the desk."
—Peter Wilson, Assistant Principal
With about 300 kids out on the pavement playground at a time, recess at Burbank Elementary was “scary.”
“It was chaos. Kids were everywhere. We have this blue game wall, but the kids didn’t really know what to do so they used it for soccer. They’d have one kid stand against it to play goalie, and everyone else would just pepper him with soccer balls,” explains Assistant Principal Peter Wilson. “It was a Lord of the Flies mentality and a lot of kids would get in trouble or get hurt.”
Then he heard about Playworks, which was operating at a nearby school. “We really liked the program, but realized we weren’t going to have long term money to sustain direct service. So we made a strategic decision to do it on our own with training.”
Wilson and a core of around a dozen teachers and playground staff signed up for Playworks Training’s Recess 360 program, which consisted of monthly trainings supplemented by regular consultations to help ensure the program was most effectively implemented.
And it has. According to Wilson, since the Recess 360 program was implemented, suspension rates have plummeted. “My first year, here we lost 178 total suspension days from discipline issues. That’s like a kid a day lost to suspension all year. The next year through addressing issue with staff, it dropped to 118. But last year, after we added the Playworks training, our suspensions dropped to around 44,” he says.
For Wilson, the decision to be out in front of the problem has made all the difference. “I’d rather go out and be present outside, active and involved spending 15 minutes playing every day instead of spending 30 – 45 minutes suspending a kid. Now, part of my job is to play with kids and teach them how to play instead of laying down the law. And this works for us. We wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t.”