Most parents get really pissy if they volunteer, but aren't placed with their child's class, so I was approached very timidly and asked if I would mind not being in the nursery school so that parents with younger children could still volunteer and bring their young ones. "No problem," I said. "Whew!" said the organizer. So, I covered recess. From 12:00-12:30 we had Grades 1, 2, and 3 and from 12:30-1:00, we had Grade 5. I think there were five parents out for each period, though I was the only one out at recess for the whole time (the others covered lunch for half the time and recess for the rest).
Now, see, I have no problem not being in the nursery school, but I had forgotten how much I detest recess. My recess experiences weren't always... pleasant. Actually, let's see... in 1st and 2nd grade, I don't think I had recess (I was living in Spain and I went home for a long lunch, so I think there was no other recess). In 3rd and 4th grade (and half of 5th grade), I can't say I had any particular problem with recess.
But in the 2nd half of fifth grade, we moved to Maryland. This was a difficult move for me because it was the first move I'd had in the middle of a school year. I went from a class with 13 students (12 after I left) to a class with 37 students (38 when I joined). I did most of my work independently because the Connecticut curriculum was pretty far ahead of the Maryland curriculum. So I was in the 6th grade advanced reading class, I did all my math work by myself, teaching myself (with help whenever I felt like I needed it). I was not a popular kid. Recess was absolute torture for me. On the best of days, I was completely peripheral... too unsure of myself to be involved with anyone's kickball game, not assertive enough to get in on someone's tether ball, too scared to go near the jungle gym (large groups of mean people gathered there). I didn't have any friends, no allies, and mostly, I was happy if I could get through a half hour of recess without anyone talking to me, because if someone talked to me, it wasn't going to be to say something nice.
Sixth grade was slightly better because I was at still another school. But mostly, I spent sixth grade recess avoiding the kid who used to yank my ponytails. Hard. Ten years later, he professed his undying love for me, but that's another story. If you'd told me in 6th grade that the red-headed hellion who pulled my hair would be dating me in high school, I probably would have thrown up.
So anyway, recess? Not my favorite time of day. And so, I willingly, voluntarily re-entered the playground for an hour on Monday. And it was every bit as horrible as I remembered. There were five or six other parents and they all knew each other or at least had kids on the playground. I knew no one. I'm terrible at small talk. I don't know how to approach strangers. Even though we had a common goal, we had very little direction or instruction, and I stood, as always, on the periphery, watching the cool kids. I saw the awkward girl by the corner of the playground who was too shy to ask if she could join in the game of jumprope but so clearly wanted to. I saw the boy standing in the middle of the group playing catch, but couldn't quite insert himself into the game. I saw the girls that were just "too mature" to bother with all the kid stuff, who walked as far out on the field as they could get away with. And I watched all the rest of the kids who seemed completely at ease and wondered how they ever managed to achieve that confidence.
Mostly, I counted the seconds until I could leave, not because I didn't want to help, but because I couldn't wait to be off that playground. Heh. I never think of recess really. It's not like it has haunted me for decades. It's just that it didn't take much to trigger those very vivid memories! The absolute best thing about middle school was NO MORE RECESS. The worst thing about middle school was gym class and the dreaded locker room, but that's another story. And I promise I will NEVER volunteer to cover gym class!