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In general, recess is your reward for
doing your work, minding your manners,
and being kind to others.

What Washington Needs

458 words


How to deal with ongoing battles in a classroom or in Congress
by Dianne Roth


Sometimes, I think what Washington needs is Behavior Police. I can offer a suggestion on how that might work.

I have to say that it might look a lot like a first grade classroom, but if elected officials act like children, they might need a bit of a refresher course from the likes of me.

Interesting: Our Senators and Representatives still have recess!

In my classroom, I use a strategy that no one thinks could possibly work. And yet, it works every time.

The scene is a long running battle between two children. They fight on the playground. They put each other down. They blame the littlest thing on the other. They tattle, tattle, tattle.

Hmm, that sounds a lot like Congress.

Finally, I reach the end of my strategies and patience. I just want them quiet.

I place two chairs not quite facing each other, corner to corner. One child is told to sit in one chair, the other is put in the remaining chair.

I say, “You can leave when she gives you permission. And, you can leave when he gives you permission. You can both leave when you both have permission.” Then, I walk away and get back to the business of teaching.

It is predictable. “Ms. Roth! I gave him permission, but he won’t give me permission.”

I shrug.

“Well, if you won’t give me permission, I won’t give you permission!”

The record is 20 minutes. But, and this is the juicy part, all of these stand offs end the same. They join forces against me!

Throughout, I keep an amused eye on them. Eventually, heads together, they start plotting. Then, when I’m not looking, they quietly pick up their chairs and tip-toe back to their tables, ...laughing, ...convinced they have pulled a fast one on me. I always play along.

It doesn’t matter to me how they resolve their problem. In fact, it doesn’t matter to me if they sit there for the rest of the school year! What matters, and what happens every time, is they became allies. And, the magical thing is, their battles end, for good, every time.

So, back to Washington and their recess.

Recess is a privilege not a given. You earn your recess through hard work, productivity, and civility. In fact, recess enhances hard work, productivity, and civility, so it is a good thing.

However, basic expectations are compromised by fighting, put-downs, and blame. All we hear is tattle, tattle, tattle.

So, I say to Congress, “You may go to recess when the Democracts give you permission. And, you may go to recess when the Republicans give you permission. Everyone may go to recess when everyone has permission.”

Go ahead, join forces. I dare you!


Dianne Roth is a teacher, mother, grandmother, and freelance writer. She lives in Oregon.




Last updated on September 16, 2013