You DO Like Recess Duty!

Editor’s Note: Today we’re bringing you a fun new summer series. No, we didn’t forget the “not” in the title.  Today Sarah is going to argue that you really DO like recess duty! Every Friday this month, we’ll be bringing you the flip side of a topic we usually think of as annoying or inconvenient. Let us know what you think in the comments! 
You Do Like Recess
Yep, I am talking to you, Art Teacher teaching one million classes. You like recess duty because you have literally 750 students this year. You can’t possibly remember all of their names while seeing them just once or twice a week. That would be ridiculous! It is a lucky thing that you have recess duty so that you can work on connecting names and faces. Talking with kids outside of the classroom makes personalizing instruction easier. When you have 17 Brodys, and an Artesia, Vontasia, Ontenasia, and a Ronnasia in one grade level, recess duty really helps!

I am also talking to you, style maven Art Teacher. How often do you have the opportunity to sport such funky outdoor wear? Those Mondrian-inspired sunglasses are definitely appreciated on the playground.  Your adorable beret with matching scarf and mittens would be wasted on that short trip from your car to the school doors.

Finally, I am talking to you, health-conscious Art Teacher. Getting outside and getting active is important to you and modeling that for the kids is awesome! Engaging in play with students is a great way to build relationships. Your fitness monitoring device always spits out great data on recess duty days. Plus, your double dutch swagger has never been better!

Yep, Art Teacher, you DO like recess duty!

What other duties do you have? Do you like them? 

How do you interact with students during that time?


Sarah Dougherty

My name is Sarah Dougherty, and I teach elementary art in a large urban district in central Iowa. I love working with our diverse population of K-5 students to bring art to their homes, communities, and everyday lives.


  • Ashley Fournier

    I too feel that this is a great opportunity to learn more about our students. For instance, I love the fact that I have kindergarten lunch duty everyday. It gives me a chance to learn their names much faster than I normally would by having them one time a week for 45 minutes.

    PS… I love this POSITIVE spin!!

    • Thanks, Ashley! You do get to see a whole new side of them…one that is covered in spaghetti sauce!

  • Jodi Youngman

    How about the ART side of this? It’s a great chance to add challenge to students that want more art-environmental art in the fall, sculpture and snow painting in the winter, etc. Use huge pieces of paper on the fence and throw paint covered sponges at it. The possibilities are endless and show that you are not only a team player, but make things work to enhance your curriculum!

    • Absolutely, Jodi! Especially if you are able to supervise kids and offer arts-based opportunities! Great ideas here. Thanks for sharing!

    • Such cool ideas, Jodi! Our school always has collaborative snow-sculpting challenges. So fun!

  • K Hyman

    I do enjoy recess duty. I would take it over any of the other duties; although indoor is less fun. I have been known to try to switch out my other duties, especially cafe duty to take on being outdoors instead. The health benefits are the best. I stay healthier with less winter colds when I enjoy the fresh air and sunshine with lil munchkins. I’ll take it any day!!

    • K, I did the same thing. Everyone in my building got together to choose their duty assignments. I always picked recess!

  • I DO like recess duty because of the Vitamin D you can get from sunny days, and nothing puts you in a better mood than a little fresh air and sunshine. After-lunch duty is most especially appreciated because it gives your body the ‘pick me up’ you need to get through the afternoon.

    • Agreed! If I had to teach two classes of kindergarten and two classes of second grade right after lunch without that opportunity to get my blood pumping, I wouldn’t have the same energy level.

  • I have to add here that I actually did have a grade level with an Artesia, Vontasia, Ontenasia, and a Ronnasia. Those girls were always so sweet when I mixed them up. Talking with them during recess duty really helped me keep them straight.

  • Tery

    There are days that I DO like that I get outside for a few minutes for fresh air at recess duty, but not when its the dead of winter and freezing or when it’s inside recess ( the majority of the winter ) and the duty literally becomes crowd control in the cafeteria… I do however prefer recess duty to lunch duty which by the way I have way too much of this coming school year… I would much rather have increased art time with my students… sorry, not feeling positive about this one… but thanks for trying… :)

    • Tery, I wonder if there are ways to improve this duty in your school! If you ever want to reach out to me at, we can team up to figure out some solutions!

  • Claire

    This past school year I had ‘arrival’ and ‘dismissal’ duties at one K-5 school where I taught four days a week. ‘Arrival’ duty meant keeping about 4-6 classes in line and relatively quiet in the hall for 5 minutes before they could go into their classrooms at 8:30. Some days 5 minutes seemed longer than others but I enjoyed seeing and greeting the students as they arrived at the beginning of their day. ‘Dismissal’ was much more complicated and longer. I either had ‘car pick-up’ duty or ‘walker duty’ which I shared with 2-3 other teachers. ‘Car pick-up’ meant making sure 50 -100 students got into their cars which lined up in the back of the school, similar to a drive-thru! ‘Walker duty’ meant walking 25-75 students up the hill behind the school to the town bike path, then up to the middle school parking lot where some students were picked up by car. The rest we walked, with the help of a crossing guard, across the MS driveway, down the sidewalk to the traffic light and watched as they crossed to their apt. complex. Walker duty is at least a half-mile round trip so definitely good exercise! Both dismissal duties gave me time to have individual conversations with students and I enjoyed that connection.

    I also taught one day a week at another school in town, a position I ‘job share’ with three other art teachers. I didn’t have a duty because I had the most classes (of the four art teachers) but I was required to participate in Interventions as a sub, filling in wherever needed. This meant I assisted in the Reading or Math Intervention plan for a particular group of students and I’d see a different group each week. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, which is not always a bad thing…

    (I think ‘Job Sharing’ and ‘Interventions’ could be two separate topics for two other days! I’d be very interested to hear how others handle them!)

  • I had a great duty two years ago. We implemented a school-wide behavior-management system called “Check-in, Check-out.” I was in charge of the “Check-Out” portion of the day. Each day, at the end of the day, about 10 students came to make a short connection with me and fill me in on how their day went before going home. It was amazing what a few extra minutes of adult interaction did for these kids. Their behavior issues virtually disappeared and many graduated out of the program within a few months. Hmmm…maybe I should write an article about it!

    • We had that too! Great article idea.

  • Angela

    Ha! I didn’t mind recess duty. I had 30 minutes breakfast duty and 30 minutes of lunch duty a few years ago, in addition to morning and afternoon hall duty. What I hated was the fact that my classes were so short, so that I could watch kids eat for an hour a day. I am so glad that I don’t have that any more.

    • Angela, did that situation change on its own, or were you able to somehow effect change. Let us know!

  • jmallorywelch .

    At the junior high level, there is no recess, but I do have lunch duty. There are days that are less than pleasant, but for the most part, I DO really like it. Being able to interact with the kids during this time helps to establish a rapport that carries on into the classroom. I learn a lot more about them, watching them interact with their friends.

    • Even when they interact with friends in the art room, it isn’t always authentic as it can be in places like the lunch room. I bet you make all sorts of valuable observations during that time. Do you use this experience to inform your teaching?

      • jmallorywelch .

        Absolutely. It’s all connected.

  • Beth Townsend

    Although I teach
    art to nearly all of our school’s student body, I am still considered part
    time; school officials decided since they couldn’t afford to pay me more, they
    could not demand I do extra things like recess duty. However, one of the extra duties I do have
    (to my delight) has always been the responsibility of the school’s main
    information bulletin board. I usually
    have a theme going each month on the bulletin board, so I have a lot of
    opportunity to use my art skills and the skills of my students to decorate the
    board. I can use it to show off student
    art work or as another teaching opportunity by emphasizing a process or project
    done in a class. I get lots of positive
    feedback from students and faculty alike.
    Sometimes I have an entire class work on putting up the bulletin board, a
    learning process in itself for students, and an extra opportunity for me to
    interact with students. The funny thing
    is, a bulletin board I used to be responsible for at my church 20 years ago was
    what caught the eye of the then principal of my school, to offer my present art
    teacher job to me!

  • Cassidy Reinken

    While teaching elementary art, I never appreciated recess duty as much as I should have! (I definitely liked it a lot more than lunch duty, that’s for sure!) Now as a middle school teacher, I miss that time. Not only did it give me a small amount of time to speak to my team (the music and pe teacher) but it allowed me to create connections and build relationships with my students. It really is good to look at the positives of each situation and this article does a great job pointing it out! So many awesome ideas on this post for how recess duty is something to like!

  • Mary Gallagher

    I really DO enjoy my recess duty, but I wish the powers that be would understand how hard it is for one lone adult to keep an eye on 52 10-year-olds! I always have my cell phone with me for emergencies and have had to use it more than once. But thanks for the positive outlook! Now I will try a more positive approach to lunch duty, bus duty, hall duty, door duty and my personal favorite: Safety Patrol!

  • Toby

    In my district it is stated in our contract that specialists are not to be assigned extra duties. We have enough to do as do the regular Ed. Teachers! Our district hires part time staff to watch the children! We are treated as regular staff! All districts should do the same!

  • Cheri

    I agree Sarah! I was given lunch and recess duty in the last two years. At first, not happy about it. Then I started trying to find ways to make it fun for me too. In the beginning of the year I would challenge myself to see how fast I could name the students when I looked around. In the lunch room I started making sculptures from the aluminum foil in their lunches. Pretty soon students were bringing in giant pieces of foil and making requests. If I could get to them all or didn’t feel like it, I would challenge them to make something and then show me. Most popular foil sculptures? Laptop computer, flip phones, soccer goals and balls, and of course animals!

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  • Sheila Kopaskam

    I am a MS and a traveling art teacher. Since the district went to this model I am not supposed to have to share in the duties of the regular teachers, but I admit that I volunteer to help. One year I just took after-school cafeteria duty every day (the regular teachers only had to do it for 6 weeks at a time). The principal thanked me often, and I let him know if I would be unable to come. I like getting to see the kids out of my classroom, and to know the ones I would never see otherwise: the ones who take band or choir. I want my peers to see me as part of the team; someone they can count on.

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