October 19, 2006
Dear Ms. Hill:
The William H. Ohrenberger School is an elementary school located in Boston, Massachusetts. We have a diverse population of students but the majority are Latino. About half of our students live within walking distance and the other half are bused in from across the city.
For many years our staff has struggled with the disorganized state of lunch and recess. Teachers would come to pick up children from recess and find students and lunch monitors alike in complete turmoil. Often we would walk out to fist fights, children yelling, and lunch monitors frustrated and overwhelmed. Teachers often had to spend complete periods after lunch solving problems and lecturing on proper behavior.
Other times, out of frustration and the desire to avoid confrontations, we would give up our own lunch period to sit with children who just couldn't manage themselves outside. Even our well-behaved children begged to skip recess because it was a stressful place to be.
Last year we heard about Sports4Kids, and I was skeptical as to whether one person could change the disastrous recess scene on their own—until Coach Abby arrived from California for our one week trial. Within a day, there was an immediate change at recess. Children from all different classes were playing together—nicely!
The techniques even carried over to the classroom. We noticed two children run to grab the same chair—generally grounds for a shoving match. Instead, they played "rock, paper, scissors" and accepted the result respectfully. Even after Coach Abby left, my students continued to play the games, making recess a much calmer place. Needless to say, we wanted Coach Abby and Sports4Kids back for good.
We are now two months into having coach Abby full time and I never dreamed recess could be this wonderful. Every child wants to go to recess now, and we rarely get any negative feedback about behavior.
Instead of screaming and yelling at recess, I'm hearing children shout, "good job" or "nice try." Students are getting more exercise than ever before and letting aggression out in a positive way. The biggest change, from a teacher's perspective, is that children are calm and ready to learn when we arrive back to class.
The difference is night and day.
Participating with my class during Class Game Time, I've begun to notice a more important change in the character and demeanor of so many students. Coach Abby is not just here to get these kids physically fit, she is teaching them to become better people. Today, I noticed that a few of my students became aware that some of their classmates weren't getting a chance to handle the ball very often. They began passing the ball to those classmates, instead of taking the turn themselves. They did this on their own, without any prompting.
Sports4Kids has truly changed the children of the Ohrenberger School.
Thank you, Coach Abby and Sports4Kids !
Grade 4 Teacher
(Editor's Note: In July 2009, Sports4Kids changed its name to Playworks.)