At our school in Minnesota I only gradually became aware that light entertainment, such as Disney movies, were often being shown at the end of the day as the children awaited their rides. Obviously, it was a way for the teachers to keep wiggly bodies contained in a small space, so that their rooms didn't erupt in chaos. I couldn't blame them, but I wondered why something educational wasn't being shown instead, like a fun science feature or something. Added to this concern was my awareness that showing full movies in school was against the fair use law (at least, I thought I'd heard that). But because I didn't want to complain any more to teachers than I had to and become one of "those" parents, I never said anything.
Then we moved to Colorado, where late last spring my 5th-grade daughter complained to me that non-educational movies were being shown for indoor recess on cold days and during classes on the rare occasions when they had nothing important to cover. She had nothing against movies, but she was tired of them, she said. My red flags flew up. Tired of watching movies? In school?? Now I was kind of upset. Not only were the movies my daughter reported to me ones I wasn't sure I wanted her to watch, I didn't want her sitting for hours in classes, only to be told that she had to sit through recess, too! It wasn't even that cold outside, either.
Even if the school felt it was too cold, however, there was no question in my mind that removing any opportunity for free recreation during students' one and only recess was a terrible idea. Kids need to stretch their legs and walk around even more than adults do. They need to chatter and laugh. Why not board games? Why not organized group games? Why not just allow them to push aside the desks and chat in groups and make up their own play for a few minutes? And when it comes to that, what's the matter with having a morning and afternoon recess, too? Since when did that tradition affect a child's education? It doesn't take a genius to recognize that it doesn't, especially when the day has already been extended more than an hour beyond the traditional 6-6 1/2 hours.
As much as I didn't want to become "that" parent--you know, the kind that's always in the school's face, criticizing anything and everything that goes against the parents' vision for their child--I felt it was time to speak up. Whereas in Minnesota I could understand the use of non-educational movies at the end of the day (their lawful use a side question for the moment), using them during the school day outside of a special treat just wasn't acceptable to me.
So, speaking as politely as I could, I explained the issue to the principal and was rewarded with the assurance that the indoor-recess policy would change this year. I will be watching. At the same time, I will be wondering, too. Where is that line a parent must walk? On one side are the things that we may not like but should not bring up to the school, respecting its right to do its job as it sees fit. But on the other are those problems a parent must bring up, even at the risk of becoming the kind of helicopter parent teachers roll their eyes about in the teacher's lounge. It isn't always easy to know when to be a nosy parent and when to stay on the sidelines. What about you, those of you who have (or have had) children in school? Where is the line you draw between keeping silent and speaking up?