It was a meeting Principal Bruce McLachlan awaited with dread.
One of the 500 students at Swanson School in a northwest borough of Auckland had just broken his arm on the playground, and surely the boy’s parent, who had requested this face-to-face chat with its headmaster, was out for blood.
It had been mere months since the gregarious principal threw out the rulebook on the playground of concrete and mud, dotted with tall trees and hidden corners; just weeks since he had stopped reprimanding students who whipped around on their scooters or wielded sticks in play sword fights.
He knew children might get hurt, and that was exactly the point — perhaps if they were freed from the “cotton-wool” in which their 21st century parents had them swaddled, his students may develop some resilience, use their imaginations, solve problems on their own.
The parent sat down, stone-faced, across from the principal.
“‘My son broke his arm in the playground, and I just want to make sure…” he began.
“And I’m thinking ‘Oh my God, what’s going to happen?’” Mr. McLachlan recalled, sitting in his “fishbowl” of an office one hot Friday afternoon last month.
The parent continued: “I just wanted to make sure you don’t change this play environment, because kids break their arms.”