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Leadership and Activism, Philosophical Meanderings

Do teachers play?

Bounty Hunting School - Language Course by Stéfan

Bounty Hunting School - Language Course by Stéfan

Our #letkidsplay campaign reminds me of this conversation from back in the day on the Coöp.

Play is really dangerous to school. It’s very subversive. It’s antithetical to the status quo; it’s the generative, imaginative, organic solution to the problem of schooling, which is moribund, petrified, and mechanical. It’s adaptive; it sheds and assumes rules until all participants find an entrance and some measure of wonder and joy or fulfillment. It doesn’t insist on guarding and mercilessly applying a single rules set that makes no one happy. Play creates; schooling, at best, replicates. Pop #edreform is an empty promise and a hollow pursuit insomuch as it does not begin with tossing out the rules and consequences of schooling. Instead, it wants to amplify them. School does not play with possibilities; it seeks to eliminate as many of them as possible.

I think play can be one of the supports of a new learning space and experience for United States education, along with democratic composition and unconditional teaching, two ideas I hope to unpack in the future with as much help as possible.

We public school educators need to critically examine our attitudes toward play. If play pisses us off, it does us and our students no good to “protect” play only to judge it – and the kids participating in it – negatively. We will not fundamentally change schooling or the lives enmeshed in it if we view play as an interruption of our agenda.

But can we public school educators see ourselves at play? Can we embrace possibilities we do not see?

Can we play the imp?

Do teachers play?


About Chad Sansing

I teach for the users. Opinions are mine; content is ours.


3 thoughts on “Do teachers play?

  1. The words here play with big truths with skillful means. This has to be one of my favorite posts of yours ever. Can we play at transforming the work? Can we be playful revolutionaries?

    Thank you for this.


    Posted by Kirsten | March 17, 2012, 6:35 am
  2. The sad reality that I’ve seen is how rare play is within the teaching community. I want to believe we are imaginative, generative and creative. I want to believe we are subversive. But how many teachers do I know who go to protests, who read books, who write, who talk about relationships at a deep level, who tweet, who blog, who play games, who dance, who paint, who hike, who hack who do anything spontaneous?

    I realize that what I just listed might not sound like play. But if play can be defined so broadly, I think it’s critical that teachers engage in something like the activities listed above. We need to be creative. We need to be subversive.

    Play runs against consumerism and sadly many of the teachers I’ve met are consumers rather than creators. It’s why so few teachers develop their own curriculum – much less develop their curriculum democratically with student input. It’s why so few teachers support independent projects and personalized learning. Play is messy. Play is scary, on some level.

    Posted by John T. Spencer | March 17, 2012, 9:03 am

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