It’s easy now that I’ve barely left my room for months to reminisce on times that were objectively mediocre but are comparatively better than now. The common memories most people associate with recess tend to be about what you were doing, from skipping across monkey bars that you were already too big for, to kicking around one of the random gym balls scattered all over the blacktop.
I think recess was more important than that, though. For my memory, recess was always more valuable as a means of escape rather than it being some magical experience. The day would feel endless and anything to escape the boredom of the classroom was welcomed.
Methods of escape are still incredibly popular for high schoolers, but the purpose is different. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve gradually replaced much of the boredom found in school with stress. The biggest difference being that the stress comes with us even when we’ve left the classroom. And now that we’re always home, there isn’t even a physical separation between your stress and the rest of your life.
It’s unfortunately unnecessary for me to provide proof that teens are stressed, somehow even more than they used to be. Greater academic pressures due to lowering college admission rates and rising costs crash into the social stresses that come with the basic urge to just want to be liked. Recess used to tackle both of these problems to an extent (not the rising costs of college, obviously). You had at least half-an-hour where doing schoolwork was prohibited; you had to be active, or at the very least not completely sedentary. You had time to make friends and quickly lose them after punting a kickball in their face.
Study hall acts as the cool high school alternative where instead of running around an open field, you run around the cafeteria to find the best flavor Pop-Tart. The problem is that you’re probably spending most of that time doing work, or at least attempting to anyways. The separation that recess provided is replaced with an opportunity to spend more time trying to raise your grade instead of taking some time to put your books aside and just talk. Even this sub-par alternative is only optional, as many kids opt to replace that time slot with another class they may only be taking to improve their chances at the next level of schooling.
I’m not arguing to bring back recess; I for one have no interest in standing in the wet grass behind the school and pretend like things are just like they used to be. Unfortunately, there’s no going back to a time of greater naivety and energy. That also doesn’t mean settling into the fake idea that unnecessary stress is required for success in all aspects of life. Taking time while you work at home to just go outside and breathe in something other than the smell of your breath probably isn’t too bad of an idea.