A student came up to me one day out of the blue and told me that it is a shame we all grow old. He said he thought it would be better if we all started out old and grew younger. I liked this thought.
When I was just getting into the field of special education I applied for a job doing at home therapy. The awesome woman who interviewed me told me that all was a go, but the only thing she needed was a video of me playing with a kid. She explained that she could teach me all the skills I needed to teach the children, but playing is something you either have or you don’t. As I continued in the field, I came to find this fact very true and a little bit sad. As adults, pretend play becomes unnatural. I know this is true because there were days I would leave work more spent than the kids. Creating silly and fun moments is something kids are good at, while I had to expend more energy because it is something I was relearning.
I’ve recently noticed that play has a strong relationship with inhibitions. Small children could care less what people say or think about them. We learn insecurities as we grow up and these insecurities fight with our ability to be silly and create new ideas. We start with no inhibitions, and as we grow, we become more aware of the "cool factor". Basically, we have the ability to mess around and we lose it.
My teens and early twenties were the highlight of my "cool factor" years. Now as I get older, I have begun to give less of a rats ass about looking cool and I have begun to have more fun. I have learned that a good player is somebody who goofs around for their own joy and not the joy of those around them.
When I started out, I played to engage students. I played to build relationships. I played to be the cool teacher. The more I taught the more I played. Practice, practice, practice! Now I can officially say that I go out to the playground because I feel giddy when I tap a student on the shoulder furthest from me, and hide while the student looks in the wrong direction. This makes me laugh.
My skills have taken hours of practice, but I know they have paid off because my laughs have become more guttural, my repertoire of cheese ball jokes has flown off the charts, and I officially play for me! I am happy to say I feel as though I am moving backwards and growing younger.