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being playful

January 16, 2015

Billy's Desk

This is a colleague’s desk after being festively decorated for his birthday. The Brighton kiddies stopped by the staff “take-away” window all day, snapping pictures + selfies. Not a bad start to the week!

There is such a life and essence that comes off anything playful. Lightness! Joy! Absolute energy!

And I still stand in open-mouthed wonder and delight when I find myself in the presence of a secondary school teacher who whole-heartedly engages in play in their lessons. Daring to be playful with teenagers…without crossing into “try-hard” territory, without falling into the chasm of “pathetic” or inducing wild tumble-weed storms across the Sahara of your classroom…they manage it…how?!

More importantly, WHY?!

Why the hell take such a RISKY risk when you can get the lesson done completely adequately with little or no risk?

Because I believe play is the beginning point of connection, of self-awareness, of identity, of boundaries, of understanding, of vulnerability, of real rapport, of memorable learning. Play takes so many wonderful guises; it can be the way a question is formed, the way a student is addressed, the pathway into a topic, the “I wonder what would happen if…” questions, the jokes which fall down flat but show the students you dare to take a risk, that you care to break through their ever-so-cool Teflon coatings and reach them.

And even though the response is not as immediate as for younger kids, if you persist in being authentic, daring + playful in your teaching, they will eventually reach back. The “eventually” may take days, weeks…a year…perhaps when they’ve finished laughing at you and you have finished laughing at yourself…! But what is the teaching job if it is not a cumulative building of a rapport designed to strengthen learning of every kind?

I am totally and utterly captured by the concept of play within the high school classroom and I’m looking forward to unfurling the concepts, taking a closer look, holding them up against my own experience, and the wisdom + experiences of as many others I can convince to share with me…and putting names to them.

Where did this come from?

My own wonder at how the momentum of a classroom can completely change when a teacher decides to go in armed with play, a sense of daring, the “what ifs” and the wonder, the curiosity, the absolute care of the students, the rapport that resonates from laughter, or hilarity, fun, the unexpected, the creative diversion, the structured spontaneity.

I am inspired by the teachers who captured me and my thinking when I least wanted to be captured…

And I love to play!

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