Trading Your Yard (Recess) Duty for a Club

Yard duty in the courtyard, ahhhhhhh. What a drag. I have a full timetable today, meetings before school and at recess and now yard duty for all of lunch in the courtyard. There is no time to rest, no time to eat, no down time and of all places in the school to do yard duty the courtyard is notorious for noise & incidents.

This was me in one of my previous schools. I was on yard duty every single day of the week. It was relentless and some day’s it felt more like a punishment that a responsibility. Don’t get me wrong, yard duty can be awesome and  can give you a chance to really connect with some students to understand them more and build a strong rapport. It can be a time where you can take your hat off and become a participant in a student’s world, a team member in a quick game or a parent to console an upset student. However for me as a fast paced Physical Education Teacher with many hats on top of my head it has largely become a time that takes me away from my priorities of curriculum designing, interschool sport, lunchtime sports equipment borrowing, coaching teams, coordinating sporting events, running swimming programs, coordinating camps and everything else that goes along with this job in schools.

So I was stuck with a problem, a problem that at face value I just had to cop and deal with as equality in staff workload was pointed out several times but on a balance scale the core of my workload was heavily outweighing the workload of other staff members across the school.

I needed a solution,  a solution that when pitched at the leadership team didn’t solve my problem but solved a problem that existed in the school and in turn actually ended up solving my problem.

I needed to be calculated and precise to execute the delivery of the solution. My problem was clear but not understood by others and if pitched to the leadership this way the solution only stood  to benefit myself which had no benefit to others within the school so this is what I did…….

At the school I was working at there were continual incidents at lunchtime with older students. Some of these incidents were violent but the majority were born out of boredom as there was nothing engaging for students to do. They walked around in the school yard in packs just looking to entertain themselves at others expense. Red cards were handed out regularly which meant that they needed to spent ½ of a lunch inside being supervised. However inside they had access to their iPad as the consequence was simply  to stay out of the yard. Can you guess what started happening when students knew what the consequence was? Yep you got it, red cards were being handed out faster than they could be printed and as a result incidents around the school were at an all-time high. This was the problem that I needed to angle at in order to help me help the whole school. This pitch was going to change the feel of the yard and in turn curve the incident rates outside.

The pitch to the leadership team lead me to a number of solutions. The first being that if I could select specific groups of students to spend time with me at lunch time then two outcomes can be met.

  1. We reduce the number of bored students in the yard .
  2. I can strategically place these students into sports teams that we can then work towards a goal.

Tough pitch and tricky one to balance personal emotion with school wide benefit. However I was confident I had the data set that could really make a different to the whole school. The pitch simply allowed me the freedom to have two days a week where I didn’t have to be out on yard duty but I could be coaching teams with hand-picked students. I was reducing the yard boredom by 30 students.

After a little to and fro it was clear that we needed this solution to offset the decline of behaviour and leadership agreed with me. As a result the CLUB nature was born at my school and a new outlook and culture has risen from the earth to provide students with a physical outlet to divert their energy and attention. The years following as a school we found the need for more clubs to be born but not out of solutions for redirecting behaviour but because students wanted more to do at school and had passions that needed to be nurtured outside of direct classroom time. Not only were we then catering for their physical needs but also their artistic needs, gaming needs, reading needs and the list goes on. Teachers were able to trade yard duty for clubs meaning that more students were spending time on passions of interest and as a school we needed less teachers in the yard. The greatest benefit after a number of years was that we reduced the incidents in the yard to almost zero. The solution in fact changed the culture of my school to a positive, caring and supportive space for all students and teachers to work together.

Yours in Happiness,

Andy Hair

This microblog post was a featured post in #slowchathealth’s #microblogmonth event. You can search for all of the featured posts here. Please do follow each of the outstanding contributors on social media (including Andy Hair, the author of this post) and consider writing a microblog post of your own to be shared with the global audience of

Pair this blog post with:

Striving For Your Personal Best by Andy Hair

Respect Recess by Andy Milne

Book: Teaching Game Sense With Focus by Andy Hair

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