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INCREASED PHYSICAL AND OTHER
CONSTRAINTS IN SCHOOL
AND THE CONSEQUENCES
Additional and More Frequent Tests and Exams
It strikes me that children
and young students submit to more frequent tests, assessments, and examinations, than was the case some years ago. What is the advantage for these students, their families, or the schools of spending more time answering questions orally or
in writing, and having such frequent assessments made of their on-going work which are noted on their school records? I should like to know the answer to this question.
Is there any evidence that more frequent examinations result in improved work produced, or enhanced study skills?
While the necessity of keeping
track of assessments and evaluations of pupils’ attainments and challenges is recognised and accepted by teachers, PGCs, a bureaucratic requirement for a constant flow of statistics, is another matter. I know many teachers are
unhappy with what they see as too frequent assessments, including the requirement for comments on each student’s efforts, in every subject. To do this job diligently takes a great deal of time, effort, and consideration, and many teachers believe it is not the best use of their time.
Further, the assessment criteria only suit a certain percentage of any class. If a student sees ideas in, and works with, ‘mind maps’,
or is kinaesthetically-minded, their abilities attained and work achieved, are never reflected fully in their written exam results. That HAS TO BE deflating and discouraging for these students, who know they
are DOING THEIR BEST, and know they ARE mastering the skills required of them.
Youngsters feel very strongly about what constitutes ‘fairness’, and not to achieve results that reflect their skills acquired, and the work they've put in, is seen
as very unfair by children and youngsters. One may ask, AT WHAT STAGE might a youngster feel excluded by this system, and decide to SWITCH OFF
his or her engagement in school?
I am aware that yard time, or school breaks, have been curtailed in many schools because the number of teachers has been cut to a degree that there are not sufficient of them for full, proper, supervision
of the students playing during a proper length break. Many teachers get no break at all. They are frequently on yard duty for every session, every day, and also supervise their class during every lunch
I read recently a suggestion from a very well-known American professional in early childhood education, that minutes should be docked from 'recess' for the whole class, as punishment for misdemeanours by a few students during class. I find this a startling, retrograde, notion! Children
need MORE exercise, not less. Further, if a child is seen as the cause of 'recess' being shortened for everyone, it is hardly likely to support good interpersonal relationships in the classroom.
As we know, there are three basic Learning Styles: Auditory, Visual, and Kinaesthetics. (Please see my Post, 'MEETING THE TEACHER', which gives a short outline of each Learning Style.) Kinaesthetic learners learn through movement. They tap their feet or swing their legs in class, they cannot
sit still, and are punished for being the child they are.
Due to insurance constraints, the call of "No running in the playground!" is
One of the many consequences of curtailed yard breaks, is that children and youngsters do not get enough time to expend their excess energy, which they have tried to keep cooped up during classes.
In a radio programme on the National Broadcaster, RTE Radio 1, we heard that one in four Irish children is
overweight or obese. It appears that there is an acceptance of overweight to the extent that some parents do not recognize that their children are an unhealthy weight.
According to Bill Murphy Jr, of TheMid.com, students, and especially boys, need hours of
physical activity every day; and they do not get enough because their schools will not let them.
Bill Murphy Jr outlined the following research results in points 1 to 3.
1. We over-protect children, trying to keep them safe from all physical
dangers, which ultimately increases the likelihood of negative health issues.
2. We inhibit children's academic growth (especially among boys), because the lack of physical activity makes it more difficult for them to
3. When they fail to conform quietly to this low-energy expenditure regime, they may be subjected to over-diagnosis (ADHD, and the like), and may be punished for reacting the way they are
naturally built to react.
[Many boys, especially, seem to be in a state of constant motion ~ running, jumping, playing, pushing, getting hurt, getting upset,
and then getting right back into the physical action.
The exception is at school, where they are required to sit still for long periods
of time. When they fail to stay still, sadly, often, they are punished for their exuberance by being denied their next yard break, and so end up sitting in their classrooms
while their friends are outside playing in the yard! My comments, ICOB.]
[See the following Link from Rae Pica, a highly regarded Childhood Educationalist. She writes of the alarming results for children who spend too much time sitting. Children understand what they learn by doing. Further, children who sit for too long do not develop a proper sense of spatial awareness, which has physical, emotional and social ramifications of real significance.
http://www.raepica.com/2017/03/21/unexpected-consequence-kids-sit-much/ The Early
Childhood Education Network, which contains many of Ms Pica's Posts, can be found on the LinkedIn Site.]
Researchers at the University of Eastern
Finland recently tried to document if boys actually achieve less in school when restricted from running around and being physically active.
They studied 153 children, aged six
to eight years, and tracked how much physical activity and sedentary time they had during the day. Unsurprisingly, according to a report by Belinda Luscombe in 'Time', the
less "moderate to vigorous physical activity" the boys had each day, the more difficult it was for them to develop good reading skills.
The more time children ... spent sitting and the less time they spent being physically
active, the fewer gains they made in reading in the two following years. [It] also had a negative impact
on their ability to do mathematics.
results appear not to apply equally to girls. Researchers offered a couple of possible explanations for this difference: (i) perhaps girls have physiological differences, or (ii) maybe the girls were just as eager to move around as the boys, but were
better able to set aside that disappointment and concentrate in class.
My observation on this is that many girls are often still expected to wait, to
please - and not to express their thoughts or feelings.
These findings are not just about poorer academic achievements. Many observers and researchers
now say limited physical activity leads to real physical and mental harm to youngsters, even in the short term, long
before they are grown up.
Angela Hanscom, a paediatric occupational therapist, interviewed young children, asking what their school break periods and play are like. Some
of their replies follow.
"We have monkey bars, but we aren't allowed to go upside down on them. They think we are going to hurt ourselves. I think I'm old enough to try going upside down."
"We have woods, but can't go anywhere near them. It's too dangerous."
it snows, we can't touch it with our foot, or we have to stand by the teacher for the rest of recess."
Restricting children’s movement like this, leads them to increased anger and
frustration, to a reduced ability to regulate their emotions, and to higher aggressiveness during the limited times they are allowed to play.
Angela Hanscom wrote "Elementary
children need at least three hours of active free play (my italics) a day to maintain good health and wellness. Currently, they are only getting a fraction."
Definition of ADHD and Reduced Physical Activities
In the United States, ADHD diagnoses in children are likelier now than they were in past years, and the percentage is rising at an alarming rate. In 2003 it was diagnosed in about 7.8 per cent of children, it rose to 9.5 per cent in
2007, and to 11 per cent in 2011.
That is a 40 per cent increase in eight years.
The definition of ADHD, in
the United States, has also been changed to make it more expansive. Many critics argue this is because of pharmaceutical industry interests; given
that the leading treatment for ADHD is use of a particular prescription medication.
Angela Hanscom, in a separate article, said the problem is
exacerbated because we are forcing children and youngsters to sit still longer, and they are simply reacting as nature intended.
"Recess times have shortened due to increasing educational demands, and children rarely play outdoors," she writes. "Let’s face it: children are not nearly
moving enough, and it is really starting to become a problem."
She goes on to state "In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order for them to pay attention, we need to let them
move." (My italics.)
This is a crucial statement, the crux of which should be central to the planning of all
aspects of children's and youngsters' lives, in order to help them reach their maximum possible learning and developmental opportunities ~ to fulfil themselves.
It is much easier to control a classroom in which the students are obliged to sit quietly, than one where students
are free to move around to check information in the class library, or to collaborate in work with others, which would involve discussions, and moving materials about the room.
Pupils and teachers need a good level of mutual trust and respect for this type of classroom activity to work.
Teachers also have to bear in mind constantly the potential conversations resulting from probable reactions of over-protective parents, who get very
agitated if one of their children trips or falls in the yard.
Students who get adequate time to play outdoors freely, are "less fidgety and more focused," one
teacher said. They "listen more attentively, follow directions, and try to solve problems on their own instead of coming to the teacher to fix everything."
Surely, this simple
idea is what we all wish for our children's school experience?