Concrete schoolyard

Recess is a whirling chaos. On the “patio,” the concrete schoolyard ubiquitous in Madrid, children are throwing themselves at each other, down the slide in the tiny playset, or on the ground, as is the case with the majority of the three-year olds who waddle around like tiny penguins with snotty noses and pint-size clothing. Dramas are acted out daily on the school playground, complete with accusations, tears, and denials.

I never went to school in the center of a city (well, until college in New York), so I spent elementary school on expansive playgrounds with fields, lots of play equipment, and serious amounts of space to chase boys.

Here in Madrid, everything is confined to a smaller space, and tensions run high on the concrete schoolyard. The seven-year old second graders are the big kids, towering over the likes of the pre-school children, concerned with scoring a goal at all cost and hardly noticing if they knock over one of the waddlers or send a ball flying at the head of one the teachers who has recess duty. The first graders were five-year olds last year, and still waver between pre-school immaturity and joining the big kids’ game. So they dangle from the tiny, overcrowded playset, waiting for the right moment to go for the ball.

The three-year olds still don’t know they actually go to school, and stare with mucus-filled faces at the more experienced kids whizzing around them. Or they fall over and entertain each other on the concrete. The four-year olds are too cool for the three-year olds. They know how this playground thing goes, and have the guts to run around with some of the bigger kids and tattle on those who commit offenses. The five-year olds play among themselves—confident in their position as oldest of the infantil classes. They only call the teachers’ attention when one of them gets knocked over and all of her friends make sure that she’s properly attended.

At 11:30 the bell rings and it’s all over. Until tomorrow.

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