It used to be a common recess pastime to see who could catch the most or biggest grasshoppers. Ones with striped butterfly like wings were particularly prized… catching them without getting “tobacco juice” all over your hands was also a plus. It seems that either I’ve gotten a lot bigger or grasshoppers have gotten a lot smaller as none seem to be as large now as the ones we used to catch on the playground.
At least one time grasshoppers really got my attention. Recesses were much rougher 40 years ago, playing, running, tackling, tag games, various politically incorrect games and” terribly dangerous”(quotes indicating sarcasm) fun playground equipment” like high swings, monkey bars(sorry if any apes are offended by that name but I can’t think of anything else to call them), merry-go-rounds and teeter totters all of which have disappeared from schools almost everywhere . Replaced by equipment whose major function seems to be that of safe fake trees. I believe that I first time I noticed girls were different from boys was when I realized that only someone who was a little crazy would do the fast continuous somersaults and twirls on the monkey bars.(I have looked for pictures of real monkey bars but all I could find were the new sanitized non-dangerous fake tree variety) Monkey bars were like a series of U’s upside down with the rounded bottom of the “U” flattened into a horizontal bar. Often times found in a long row of different heights to accommodate different sized girls but always with a badly worn hole in the dirt underneath them, sometimes filled with pea gravel, that would become a swamp every time it rained. Girls would spin violently and frantically on these bars one leg locked over the bar, hands spread apart, hair brushing the ground and dresses flying. Boys it must be reported did not play on the monkey bars, this occurred either because they feared what their friends would say or more likely were scared to try it.
I would guess that many concussions and other recess damages associated with playground equipment and games went unreported or at least untreated as most elementary schools when I started teaching had at best a part-time nurse and every teacher had a box of band-aids in their supplies and the attitude was if there wasn’t lots of blood or a bone sticking out it will be okay.
I watched a girl one day hit her arm on door frame as we were going back into the building…. She was in pain and full of tears, I was unsympathetic as she had been trying to hit a boy at the time she hit her arm. She complained for the rest of the day, and I remained unsympathetic for the rest of the day. The next day she showed up at school with a cast on her wrist. I felt guilty, she spent the whole day silently giving me her best “I told you so look.” Only one of many lessons but an important part of my learning curve. Learning to listen to children even if when you think they were wrong, lying or being a drama queen. I’m not sure if this event led to a kinder gentler me but it may have.
Another day a girl came to me on the playground complaining that she had fallen hard and her head hurt. I gave her a hug and said it would be okay but then she really got my attention when she asked, looking at the ground, “where did all these grasshoppers come from”… it was a good question as it was January in Iowa… the trip to the nurse’s office was expeditious