Educators. Students. Community members. Much more unites us than divides us, particularly knowing we all wear multiple hats. Building relationships. Thinking BIG.
Challenging and supporting one another. Developing engaged, empathetic citizens. Please join me in pondering how best to nurture these common ground connections.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Classroom, Our Playground

"We all need empty hours in our lives
or we will not have time to create or dream." ~Robert Coles

For the 24th time in my career, I find myself bidding adieu to a wonderfully
Biking through Sonoma!
adventurous summer break. I took a glorious vacation to California—Santa Cruz and Napa Valley. I sat in my back yard/garden reading an assortment of books on my Kindle. I jogged, worked out, kayaked, and biked as often as I could. And my favorite part? I got to spend quite a bit of unstructured, connected time with family and friends.

As I purposefully floated through summer, partaking in as many spontaneous events as possible, I realized how much happier I felt, how much more creative I felt, how much lighter I felt as I dove into my days' explorations without having a "lesson plan." And then I read the book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, by Stuart BrownFascinating. And quite ironic. When I came back to school last week, the first word my Director of Instructional Technology (Ryan Bretag) used to describe our 2013-14 school year was "PLAY!"
"It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self." ~D. W. Winnicott
Play. A carefree, beneficial mentality that eludes adults way too often. I don't remember a time in my youth where I didn't feel like I was playing. Exploring the creek in my backyard, making up yard games with my siblings and neighborhood friends, playing hours of basketball in my driveway, etc. What followed those moments of pure joy included creativity, human connection, utter freedom and laughter. Lots and lots of laughter.

Picking pomegranates in Napa.
Of course, as an adult, the art of play becomes more difficult. "I don't have time." But sometimes, I think it's more that we've forgotten how to do it. We've forgotten how to let ourselves go, how to play. Isn't that unnerving? It certainly might be due to running out of time in a given day. But it also might be that play involves failure, falling, frustration. It has to. Because without those pieces, you wouldn't get to the creativity, the sense of community, the feeling of flying, and the treasure of having a sense of humor.

So how will I play during this school year?
  1. I will embrace the unknown. I don't know where the 1:1 Chromebook adoption will take my students. Nor do I know where it will take me and my teaching. Nobody does. But that's the FUN in it! That's FREEDOM! It's the curricular version of Lewis and Clark! It will be an experience that will bring our district closer together if we allow it to. We need to take the time to laugh and joke with one another. And we must respect the myriad of perspectives and stories that will blossom out of our classroom playgrounds.
  2. My students will be just as instrumental in mapping this journey as I am. It can't be about control and shutting down. It has to be about exploration. And watching them explore is fun for me! All the research in the world won't tell me how our Glenbrook students will benefit from this newness. Because our students haven't tried it yet. If they don't play, we'll never be able to see the benefits that lie on the other side of play!
"Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn." ~O. Fred Donaldson
Here's to 2013-14! Have a fabulous start to the year!

(Two more enjoyable, informative resources below.)

An article that summarizes Brown's work. The Importance of Play for Adults.


Mindy said...

Spending my summer watching the world through a 4 year old's eyes, I got to see how learning and experience is all about play. So I can really connect with what you said. As adults and even as teenagers, in the midst of responsibilities, we lose our playfulness. And when we play - we are creative, open, and full of opportunities. Thanks for sharing - looking forward to your next post!

J. Gallagher said...

It wasn't until I spent time in my sister's first grade classroom that I realized how little "playing" we do in education anymore. Working with ChromeBooks is exciting, terrifying, and challenging-all words that I would use to describe a playground. I am finding myself more excited to start the school year than I have in the past. I look forward to hearing more about your year and experiences in future posts! (From Danielle Fluegge. Thank you!)

Michael Leibow said...

I completely agree with everything that you said in this article. Especially around my family, people that I am close to have lost the element of laughter, playing and enjoying life, and it sickens me. Luckily, I have been able to cherish life and live every moment to the fullest through trial and error, but I look at the people around me, and they are chugging and dragging through life instead of enjoying the beautiful moments of life. Your article has given me skills to provide insight on the people around me.