Monday, July 31, 2023

Watch the Children

I talked with a frustrated teacher the other day and felt my heart sink. She described trying to advocate for more play for the young children in her school and was told the school would form a “play committee” and she should bring in the “latest research” for the committee to consider. Even worse, the other teachers on the committee were resistant, asking the wrong questions like “How can we teach them to play?” How far we have fallen.


I suggested to the teacher that they invite me up to talk to those teachers and the admin about the importance of play. I always offer things like this, like giving a workshop to Board of Education people about grades or arts education or the mandatory sharing of the classes objectives at the beginning of each, what have you. I imagine giving a workshop where I can drive my points home forcibly enough through a hands-on experience that it might break through the armor of pedagogical dogma. That’s my fantasy,


But no one has ever, ever taken me up on it. So I keep preaching to the choir of people who sign up for my classes because they’re already pre-disposed to certain ideas of education. But I wonder what it would actually be like to try to work with those teachers who don’t understand the value, the need, the pleasure of play and whether I could actually open their minds to another point of view.


It’s clear that scientific research and quotes from any number of authors in all sorts of fields would have no effect whatsoever. I think my approach would be to bring the children into the conversation, as follows:

1) When you teach in the way you do, are the children happy?


2) Do you notice if they are or not?


3) Do you care?


4) Is it effective? Ie, do you get the results you hope for?


5) Are they motivated, engaged, curious?


If the answers to the above or no, I’d follow with “Well, there you go. Whatever you think is the right way to teach or have learned or accepted from someone else, it doesn’t count for a hill of beans if it doesn’t reach the children. 


Perhaps then I’d teach one class with them observing and ask them to honestly critique the results. Then we’d be ready for the needed conversation.


Any takers?


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