Ankeny 1st Grader Wants a Break!

anger-managment-kidAre we being too rigorous, pushing too much critical thinking, doing too much assessing and testing, not allowing enough time for meaningful learning and limiting play time too much?

I was delivering political campaign signs, and young boy came up to me on his scooter. He curiously asked me, “What are those?” So I took a few minutes to answer his question. At first he didn’t understand, but when I gave an example of electing a President, the light went on. Then he started asking more questions. By the time I finished, I felt like I had given a US History lesson about elections.

I knew he was a younger elementary student, so I asked what grade he’s in and learned that he is in 1st grade. I asked him how he liked 1st grade. This is when his mood changed, and the tone of his voice was less excited than when he was asking questions about campaigns and elections. Instead of looking me in the eye, he started to looking at the ground and pacing back and forth on his scooter. Unprompted, the first thing out of his mouth was, “I wish we had three recesses like we had in kindergarten.” I asked him why, and he said he liked going outside to play. He then went on to say that he didn’t like school because all they did was work, work, work, look at the screen, and take tests. I asked him how many tests (assessments) he had to take and how often. Sadly, this 1st grader said he took at least 1 or 2 tests a day and that he hated it. He stated again multiple times that he wished he had three recesses like he had in kindergarten. I agree!

He said that all they do is read and look at the screen and do worksheets. He complained that he does not get to do anything fun in class. It is all work, work, work. He said again that he only had two recesses but wishes he had three like kindergarten. “All we do is sit in our chairs!” Are we being too rigorous, pushing too much critical thinking, doing too much assessing and testing, not allowing enough time for meaningful learning and limiting play time too much?

I have a feeling that this boy will remember our US History lesson better than if he had read it out of a book, done worksheets, and been assessed on what he knows. He was developing learning skills, not testing skills. Our elementary teachers are required to do the latter because of new education reforms. With the focus shifting from the development of learning skills to continuously teaching to the assessments and assessing, they have limited amount of time left for developing skills. I hear all the time from educators and parents that we are over-testing our kids. This was validated by a veteran teacher who is actively speaking out against these education reforms. Upon sharing my story about the 1st grader, she responded: “Jeff, that’s a great depiction of what’s happening.”

When are we going to learn that kids aren’t about test scores? Let’s allow our teachers to teach and use their professional judgment!


  1. I don’t think we’re teaching too much critical thinking. In fact the anecdotal evidence shows just the opposite. Kids swallow all the political correctness the public school system puts in front of them. The problem is critical thinking has to be taught to the developmental stage of the child. School of Montessori teaches preschoolers critical thinking but they do it through what kids at that age understand- tactile interaction. The kids don’t even know they are forming basic thought processes that will aid them later in life to think critically. As for testing, yes. We are testing to justify to the state and the federal government why they should return our tax money to us in the form of grants and government programs. It’s a horrible form of soft slavery and too many people are passively accepting it.

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