What About Play?

Last week I wrote about balance, and I got quite a strong response from dozens of people who just like me, needed a wake up call to what’s really important in their lives. This week I’d like to talk about another necessary component of a happy life (in my opinion), and something that most educators in my experience tend to lose sight of as they struggle through the day to day grind of a school year………the importance play! Now I’m not talking about playing with our iPads, or the apps on our iPhones, or with the other tech toys that we use to fill up our spare time, I’m talking about really playing……like the kids at our school who literally cannot wait to get out on the playground and use their imaginations to create, explore, and escape. I spent much of last week just watching kids at recess and at lunch, and what I saw made me smile from ear to ear…..but it also made me a little sad because there wasn’t a single adult in sight taking part.

I watched kids playing tag, cops and robbers, hopscotch and hide and seek, not to mention all the great games of soccer and basketball and football where kids were pretending to be their favorite players from their favorite teams. I saw kids jumping in puddles and playing rock, paper, scissors, and every single one of them was smiling, free, and completely engaged. I started to wonder why as adults we don’t play more together? I thought about how maybe it’s actually the kids who’ve really got it right, and how maybe it’s time for us as educators to let the kids teach us an important lesson for once. Then I thought about the times in my life when I’m the happiest and it occurred to me that it’s when I’m playing. Either playing soccer with my boy, or dolls or moms and dads with my girl, or when I’m out for a run just letting my imagination and that dreamy state of mind take over. I also thought about the best teachers that I’ve ever had in my life and it struck me that it was the ones who played with us as students. The teachers who found ways to bring “play” into the classrooms, and the ones who found time to incorporate “play” into their lessons…..and the ones were out on the field at recess throwing footballs and playing horse. The teachers who hadn’t lost their inner child, and who knew the importance of having fun like a kid.

I’m not really sure when “play” becomes immature, irresponsible, or un-cool in the minds of most adults but I think it’s time to take “play” more seriously. I think most of us tend to get saddled with the seriousness of work, and paying the bills, and the responsibility that we have to ourselves, our students, and our own kids…….and I think it’s the wrong approach. I think that finding time to play may just be one of the most important things that we can do as adults. I think it will make us better educators, better mentors, better colleagues, and better parents. Last Wednesday, instead of a regular faculty meeting, we took time in the Middle School to play together with a trivia competition. Obviously, spending one afternoon a semester isn’t going to transform us back into kids but it will allow us to take a step back, and to take a break from all of the “serious work”. Like balance, finding time to play in your life is hard, and maybe something that you haven’t put as a priority of late. I guess I’m asking you all this week to think about how much you play with your students throughout the school day, and how much time you set aside in your own lives to escape like those kids on the playground…….it might just change your life for the better.

Have a great week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. No Musings next week as I’ll be running another half marathon, and waiting for my beautiful wife to finish her first full marathon…..champagne and chocolate at the finish line!

Quote of the Week……
The opposite of play is not work……it’s depression!
– Stuart Brown

TED Talk – Stuart Brown on play (I am begging you all to watch this video!)
http://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital.html

Article #1 – The importance of Play for Adults
https://firstthings.org/the-importance-of-play-for-adults

Article #2 – Adults at Play
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/11/15/the-importance-of-play-for-adults/

National Institute for Play
www.nifplay.org

 

 

About Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 
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One Response to What About Play?

  1. dan cristancho says:

    I absolutely agree with this. You really don’t start to bond with your kids until you actually get in there and get sweaty and dirty as you play with them. And it doesn’t lead to disrespect either. Kids know you’re the teacher and it’s amazing to them when you can relax and play. It makes you more approachable in the classroom and you gain their trust. It also makes you look like you can understand what they are thinking and how they feel. When I’m in the class room, it’s business as usual and I’m firm about that, but there are times when I just want to have fun with my kids and watch them have fun. It’s not often, but it’s often enough to remind them that I understand them and really care about them.

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