This year my word has been PURPOSE. I am intentionally thinking about what my purpose is and how what I do connects to it. What's my purpose? I'm advocating teaching young children as if they are young children. And that means play.
One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Rae Pica. She says that we shouldn't need to defend play for children. And we shouldn't.
But some adults look at children playing and see wasting time. They worry that children will not be ready for school or for the world of adulthood. They wonder if the children will have what they need later in life. What these adults do not see is that play is the way that prepares children. Play is the purpose of childhood. Play, as in experimenting and exploring and investigating. Play, as in doing something just to see what happens or just because it brings joy. Play is what's missing from school. Play is what's missing from adulthood.
When I worked in publishing, we were serious about what we were doing. We wanted to produce effective resources that helped teach boys and girls. We looked at what we were doing as an important calling.
But we had fun doing it. We told jokes. We pulled pranks (like rearranging or disarranging our manager's office while he was out - and he's very precise in where things go!). We had parties, planned and impromptu. We played. The times I remember things not going well are the times when things were too focused on work and play was squeezed out.
When I think about teaching first and second grades, the times I remember the most are the "play" ones. In a year that was very stressful and sometimes difficult, I can see that the times that were the most problematic were times I was focused too much on the work and not allowing any play. And usually those times were focused on what others thought or were imposing on us. We needed more play and less practice. What we usually got was less recess and more intervention.
In my church kindergarten class, I enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere. I am amazed at what my kid say and do. I watch them explore ideas and try out things. I watch them learn. Maybe not what I had planned for them to learn but what they have discovered through their play. They discover physics (force and motion and resistance) as they play with blocks and vehicles. They explore balance and symmetry and aesthetics. They explore how colors blend or how to create just the right design as they use paint or crayons or markers or paper scraps and glue. They explore how to negotiate or how to care as they play in the kitchen. They learn as they play.
Play is their purpose. It is our purpose. As I continue to make choices intentionally to support my personal purpose, I'm discovering more about an overall purpose. Play today and enjoy what you will learn, too.