So, 2019 gets underway and inevitably the majority of us begin a new year with a sense of looking forward, with plans both personal and professional and with a belief that betterment and positive development can come our way.
For the first few weeks we burn bright with optimism’s flame and then for most of us, Life seems to remind us that actually we’ve possibly over-egged our sense of what is achievable and that dreams and hopes are just that.
Maybe that’s just me but I have a feeling that I’m not alone...
One of the factors in this, is that we often wait for things to come to us or we commit to things that aren’t sustainable at the pace we set out with. Giving up alcohol, seeing friends more, eating more healthily, going to the gym, reading more books, less screen time, the list goes on.
This year however it IS going to be different....
Across 2018 I’ve increasingly become conscious of the battleground that Early Years has turned into here in the UK particularly.
Top down pressures for ‘readiness’, learning walks, book scrutinies, whole-school teaching schemes, ‘consistency’ and the view that ‘play’ is somehow separate from ‘learning’ have all led to a landscape where play is being squeezed and children are being ‘Key Staged’ at the ages of 4 and 5 and in some instances at the age of 3. We seem intent on sacrificing childhood - and the inherent desire to explore, to be physical and to wonder - at the altar of outcome and measure.
We’ve created a tension between teaching and play which doesn’t need to exist - the two can combine in an incredibly powerful way if only we would open our eyes. Unfortunately there seems to be a Play-blindness, an inability to see the power and potential of play and all it can bring about.
It’s why I’ve taken the decision to leave my teaching role. Not because I’m disillusioned. Not because I’m disheartened. It’s because I want to try to bring about change that I feel I can’t achieve if I stay within four walls of a classroom.
In my own practice, my children have achieved fantastic progress, I’ve closed the gender gap, seen my SEN children grow their learning capacities and I’ve done this by embracing the magic of children whilst ensuring my teaching is effective in its skills delivery. It’s a potent mix which enables children to play and explore within an open-ended environment, all the while rehearsing skills and bringing their own sense of themselves to the classroom. In a way, I’ve proved that play works.
It now feels like the right time to share my approach, to engage with practitioners, teacher trainers, school leaders and governors to demonstrate that there is a different way to see children, that there is a path we can go down where we hold hands with children rather than dragging them along. I’m convinced that play and it’s infinite possibilities should be our direction of travel. It offers everything and yet we’re reducing it to very little.
It’s my ‘new year’s resolution’ to bring play out of the shadows, to try to affect change, to be an advocate for the magic of children. Whatever your wish for 2019, I hope you might feel that my resolution is one that you share and if so, here’s to playing and playing hard... :)
Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....