As a teacher I am obliged to look after children during the recess/break.

How would you call this situation in English? Let me elaborate a little bit: Each lesson lasts 45 minutes, then students are entitled to a break. During that break, usually two teachers take care/look after the children in order to prevent any dangerous situations to happen. I am curious about how we can describe this situation. I would go for 'I have a break duty after my 4th lesson on second floor'.

Am I correct when I use 'recess/a break duty' term?

  • 3
    Can you please improve your question? I can understand that you might be asking about which term to use to say "break", but I'm not 100% sure about this...
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 14:20
  • I have been 'awarded' yet another negative point for my hunger for knowledge...On what ground do you assert that a negative point is adequate in my case?
    – lukas
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 14:21
  • 1
    I wasn't the one who down-voted. But I suppose the reason is the same.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 14:22
  • 5
    What do the other teachers around you call it? That's probably the best answer.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:00

8 Answers 8


In my district, we had two breaks in elementary school: a fifteen-minute recess and a 45-minute lunch break. The students go outside and play during both breaks. Teachers look after the kids during recess; at lunch, that's done by a rotation of parent supervisors.

In high school, there were four classes a day, in different classrooms. Students got a five-minute break to move between their first and second classes. Between the second and third classes, there was a fifteen-minute long break. Lunch break was an hour between third and fourth classes. In all cases, students didn't have to go outside, so a rotation of teachers roamed the halls making sure nothing bad happened.

My teachers usually referred to this as supervision or being on duty, as in

"I can't meet then. I have supervision tomorrow."

"I'm on duty (at recess / after third period / etc.)"

"Who else is on duty today?"

I come from a family of teachers, so I can confirm that these are still common usage in my district. However, I'd imagine that usage differs from place to place, especially if a specific phrase like lunchtime supervision or recess duty is used in your collective bargaining agreement. Any combination of

playground / lunch / recess / break / ...

supervision / monitoring / duty

will give you an understandable term for this situation which I guarantee is widely used somewhere; the examples playground duty, playground monitoring, and lunch monitoring, are all cited in other answers. (Note that none of these take the article a; you'd say "I have playground duty" instead of "I have a playground duty.") So

"I have break duty after my 4th lesson on second floor"

sounds good to me!

Your best answer for what you should call it, though comes from Mitch's comment: use whatever phrase is most commonly used by the teachers around you!


A person who supervises others in a primary school during break times (i.e., when no teaching is involved) is often called a monitor.

mon·i·tor (mn-tr)
1. One that admonishes, cautions, or reminds, especially with respect to matters of conduct.

You could say you had monitor duties during those periods. You could also call these supervisory duties, but that would be more formal.

  • 2
    Yes - as I recall (it was a long time ago), on any given day one or more teachers would be designated as playground monitor. Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:07
  • 1
    So commonly called 'lunch monitor' or 'recess monitor' in AmE (to supply the OP with the phrase to use).
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:18
  • We used to say that those teachers "had" or were "on" Yard Duty.
    – user14070
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 16:58
  • 1
    In some places, monitor is used exclusively to refer to a 'student' monitor as opposed to a 'teacher on break duty'.
    – Kris
    Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 4:34

Both recess and break can be used to call "the period of time between classes".

The OALD deems recess as North-American English and break (or break time) as British English.

  • 1
    In AmE, 'recess' means the time during the school day when you get to go outside and play as you want (tag, jungle gym, swings, etc.). 'Break' to me sounds a bit like you're still in class, just not being taught at, with freedom to get up from your desk.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:04
  • 1
    @Mitch To me that last one sounds like "rare break" :D As it doesn't always happen eheh :D Or are there many of those times there?
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:06
  • 1
    In American elementary schools, you get (normally) one recess period a day. Anything that could be called a 'break' is informally so, and the teacher probably has her personal day's teaching plan with small breaks wherever as needed (so as many or few as the teacher says). Cultural clarification, in elementary school, there is no moving from class to class, it is one all-day class (obviously a change in content as the day goes a long, so there is no 'period of time between class'. In secondary school, the period of time between classes is called 'the time between classes'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:16
  • @Mitch Oh so you have both? We never have the moving from class to class, teachers move. :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 16:02
  • 1
    In the US, in elementary school, one classroom, one teacher, the students and teacher stay in the classroom (leave for lunch and recess). In secondary school, the students move around from room to room (not necessarily together); a teacher will tend to stay in the same classroom.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 18:05

When I was in elementary school, teachers who were assigned to supervise children during lunch time and recess were said to be on "lunch duty" or "playground duty". (The latter as after lunch we generally went outside to the playground for a while.)

By extension I'd think "recess duty" would be a logical term.

Does the school not have an "official" name for this task?


Both recess and break are acceptable terms and the alternative pair recess/break is also fine. You have to use the article a in both cases or neither.

during recess/break
during a recess/a break
during recesses/breaks
(plural is unnecessary, though).

[Edit-1 per OP's edit]: That should still be OK.

I have recess duty

would mean 'I will be on duty during/at recess'.
What the duty is may be irrelevant. It could be taking care of the children or some other work as part of duty.


I would not use "a break duty" - just "break duty". I think the reason is that it is an ongoing responsibility, not a set number to be achieved/undertaken. This may be UK/US difference though.

  • 4
    Nope, US usage would favor omitting the article, too.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:07

"On break duty" or having "break duty" is good, but I might also say "covering the break" or "scheduled to cover the break."


I think possible collocation is "at"

As a teacher I am obliged to look after children at recesses.

  • 'at recesses' sounds very strange to me. Do you mean 'during recess'?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:01
  • @Mitch, "At" is possible as well as "during" . The students play outside after lunch and at recess. From Merriam Webster
    – Mustafa
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:17
  • 1
    OK. Maybe it was the plural that threw me (the plural is definitely 'off' to me).
    – Mitch
    Commented Jan 20, 2012 at 15:21

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