Notes on Failure

Fail again. Fail Better. --S. Beckett

Padma Viswanathan

Padma Viswanathan
Padma Viswanathan is a fiction writer, playwright and journalist. Her first novel, The Toss of a Lemon, was published in 2008. Originally Canadian, she now lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.


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MARCH 8, 2009 11:33PM

Alternatives to Recess

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American public schools no longer have time to offer recess to children, despite research demonstrating that rest is essential to brain function (you can find many of these papers by Googling “Duh”or get a summary in this NY Times article:

 Given this, here is a list of Alternatives to Recess, intended to fit into any school’s busy schedule, with No Child Left Behind:

1. Install basketball hoops above all garbage and recycling receptacles. Extra points for students if they can basket their balled-up history tests without getting up from their desks.

2. Paint hopscotches down hallways--make use of those minutes annoyingly wasted between classes to hone math skills.

3. Pass out hula hoops and yoyos for use during school assemblies. Also potentially useable during choral music.

4. Build monkey bars across classrooms, including one for teachers so they can write on the board upside down. This will also assist in teacher fitness, setting a good example. Overhead projection sheets, of course, can simply be inverted.

5. Rename gym class “recess.” It’s true that students will have to play with kids they don’t like and do things they don’t want to do, but that’s life.

6. On days when they don’t have gym, rename some other class “recess.”

7. Make them stay 15 minutes in the playground after school, and call that “recess.”

8. Tell them to make sure and take lots of “recess” on the weekend. Just as long as they get their homework done!  

9. But then, kids’ time out of school is more and more tightly packed. One fears a parental backlash: if the tykes start getting breaks at school, they’re likely to want them during violin, chess, tennis…    

10. Okay, brains run better with breaks, but research has also shown that brain use affects function, and can actually change the brain’s form. We are molding small minds—let’s take that literally. Perhaps, by denying the mini-minds rest for a couple of generations, we can reshape our lobes or cortexes or whatever to run just as well without pausing at all! 

11. I swear I read something about a renaissance in therapeutic lobotomy.

12. Hey! Chain kids to their desks! Way more cost-effective than surgery.

13. Even more cost-effective: outsource schools the way we have prisons and make students act like what they really are: workers-in-training for the real world, not Munchkins in La-La Land.

Wait a sec. Breaks for workers are mandated. Will kids get recess by law? Or will labor laws change?

Oh, right, no. Back up. Focus on changing brain structure. Question of breaks will go away by itself.


Problem solved, move on.

Been at work on this for 84 hours straight! Reading on the toilet watching documentaries in the shower an alarm is triggered by my eyelids if they stay closed for over 3 seconds the sound is a high volume podcast of abstracts from the New England Journal of Medicine can feel my brain changing shape of my brain miraculous really triggering evolution in a way feels great when it doesn’t kill getting so much done so much done so much done

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