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Play in the Physics Classroom and for the Physics Teacher

August 7, 2011

Wandering through my blog reader I came to view a couple videos about “play” in the classroom.  I don’t remember how I got there, but that’s par for me.  (After multiple tangents I say, “Now what was I going to do?”)

Here is Tim Brown’s TED talk.  I agree on the importance of play, but I wonder if parents will see it as valuable.  (Just remembering the mother who sued her kid’s kindergarten for playing too much.)  One point that stuck with me is: the more students feel safe, the more they’re willing to take a creative risk.  I need to keep encouraging this and being sensitive to students who do venture out of their comfort zone.  I think students feeling safe in this way is still pretty rare, due to past experiences.  Just wondering how I can build this sense of trust…

Then I saw the link to Stuart Brown’s TED talk.  What I gleaned from this is that we teachers need to employ a measure of play in our work and in our PD.  What inspires and motivates me?  What causes me to lose track of time and all bodily needs?  (see Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” and Daniel Pink’s “Drive”)  I can identify some examples, such as building and testing a new lab activity/idea or making a $400 piece of PASCO equipment for under $30.  Does my school’s administration know what motivates me?  I’m pretty certain they don’t.  Yet they control my PD.  I had a former curriculum director/dean of faculty who saw her job as feeding every faculty member the same thing: what she thought we needed for PD.  The inanity was breathtaking.  If I were a faculty administrator I would find out what ignites the playful passion in each faculty member and then facilitate each faculty member’s pursuit of that passion.  And that may mean simply leaving them alone.  One consequence of this type of PD is adminstrators don’t need to police their staff so tightly; a trusting environment exists more naturally. And paperwork/documentation is reduced.  And teachers feel worthy, respected, and empowered. (When’s the last time that happened?)  Unfortunately, this PD approach seems to be too bottom-up for administrations that are increasingly top-down minded.


From → Thoughts & Ideas

  1. O. Mycroft permalink

    I was at my most productive as a teacher at the Beijing World Youth Academy; the administration there almost never checked on me, and I had total freedom.

    Administrators need to realize that if they do a good job picking teachers who are motivated and care about their students, the absolute best thing they can do is to give the teachers space to be creative and productive.

  2. O. Mycroft permalink

    Also, you’d think that the mother in that story ought to have checked into the school’s curriculum BEFORE spending $19,000 on her daughter’s education there. I wonder what the outcome of the case was.

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