About this blog item: it has a peculiar status. It is a sort of semi-public, semi-private thing. It came about in response to a friends blog, so what you are about to read is a half-finished item with some rough edges. I’m posting it now because I’m not sure that I will get round to finishing it for months, by which time the debate will have moved on.
It was written in response to: Children’s play is not about you
and partly stimulated the writing of
both of which are a rattling good read.
WAYS OF SEEING: THE CRAFT OF PLAYWORK
which is identical with
WAYS OF SEEING: THE CRAFT OF MANAGEMENT
in reply to
Joel’s comments about my comments about:
tigers and gardening and the edge
( ‘edge of chaos/the ‘edge of order’/’zone of complexity’)
I have spoken about ‘management as horticulture’ in various places over the years. I’ve seen other management writers use the metaphor also, yet, without wanting to sound arrogant, they don’t quite get it.
The model for me is Beth Chatto. She has an incomparable skill in working out how to nurture a garden in any conditions: an example being a cold wet, dank corner of her own garden, starved of nutrients by, and shaded by huge trees. Years of patient experiment based on years of observation is her secret. Feel free to copy it, telly gardeners, you bangers-in of decking and shrubs over a weekend.
To quote myself:
“…the key thinking tool is this: try to understand organisations as if they are living systems [which of course they are], and try to manage them the way that Beth Chatto manages the damp and shady end of her garden, that is: be gentle, constantly attentive, patient and present-in the garden almost every day, pottering.”
“[we should see]…organisations as living systems in which relationships and communication are much more important than procedures and structures…”
Playwork is easier in some ways, because it doesn’t take years. ”Children are faster than umpires and less slow“, (me, just now – © Arthur Battram 2012). You can get results from your ‘gardening’ much sooner.
But, or rather AND (as in my dictum ‘and-not-but’) you can also screw up much sooner. So in some ways playwork is harder.
WAYS OF SEEING
The key to a Chattoist approach is your eye. This eye is a special eye – it is the eye of a Hockney. It’s a Zen eye, a beginner’s eye, developed by an expert, who has spent years developing it, so that it is almost exactly the same as, and as good as, a child’s eye.
You should read ‘Ways of Seeing’ by John Berger – the Chattoist eye is the painter’s eye and should be the playworkers eye.
Imagine that you are standing next to a child. The child is gazing at the flickering patterns made by the shadows of the leaves of the trees above falling on a torn, tatty piece of rotting cardboard lying on the soil in front of them…
Picasso strides up and, following the child’s gaze, pauses. Picasso stands quietly beside him. The two of them stand side by side, immersed in the flickering patterns made by the shadows of the leaves of the trees above falling on a torn, tatty piece of rotting cardboard lying on the soil in front of them.
Until a passing playworker, following their gaze, tuts and snatches up the piece of rubbish that had been missed on an earlier tidy-up sweep of the playground.
I like my version, and the idea is not original. I thought I had read the original in the marvellous ‘Making Sense: playwork in practice’: it’s a marvellous publication, full of marvels – it so perfectly captures the essence of play and playwork. I checked, and the anecdote I’m thinking of isn’t in there. It’s not in ‘Best Play‘ either. Maybe I read it somewhere else, or maybe I was told it- whatever. I’m not that concerned about what some might call ‘objective truth’: poets tell the truth when professors and politicians don’t. Here’s an original, as retold recently by its author, Mick Conway—currently working at PlayEngland after a long and distinguished career in playwork and play associations.Recently (in a comment on Tim Gill’s blog), Mick Conway shared the story he wrote for Bob Hughes’ ‘Evolutionary Playwork’’:
”A boy aged about five was playing with a knobbly piece of wood and pieces of the crushed bark safety surface, chattering away to himself and his play objects. A playworker came by and asked: “What are you doing?” “Nothing” he said, shrugging his shoulders – end of conversation. She shrugged in reply and went about her business of putting up the swings.
“About five minutes later, another playworker asked him: “Who’s that?” This time he said: “This is my dog. She’s called Fred! And she’s very, very naughty. But she’s hungry too. Here Fred, have some cornflakes” as he fed bits of bark to Fred.”
written: Friday, October 26, 2012 1:23 PM
revised: Monday, November 5, 2012 9:07 AM
More soon I hope…
PS: WordPress can be pretty smart about finding useful links, but sometimes it goofs – witness the link to ‘Best Play’ not the CPC/PlayEngland document, and, not that Tim Gill, or that Bob Hughes, unless there’s something he isn’t telling us.