Message found in a bottle of snake oil, in the Sargasso sea…

A friend of mine said, in a lovely,erudite presentation to some very smart folk:

“a weakness of my current thinking is a lack of explicitly encompassing the group, the social.”

Totally agree, we all lack this.

Re-examine page 49 of ‘Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management’, written by myself.

Then think about that botanical nostrum – Early Years textbooks teach that there are three kinds of play in young humans and many mammals: 

  • individual play
  • parallel play
  • social play

Know that this is botany – classifying plants by the shape of their leaves. We observe the spots of a leopard, but what is the mechanism that creates them?

What are the primitives, the atomic irreducible processes that underly the phenomena?

We do not have a language to describe phenomena in groups. I  suspect they are incommensurable, like weather prediction after Lorenz.

We do not have a language to describe phenomena in groups.

This has hamstrung playwork, education, professional football, orchestral performance, NASA budgetary oversight inquiries, Air Accident Investigation, Corporate Fraud Investigation, etcetera etcetera.

There are clues in the Miles Davis approach to group play.

There are clues in Taoism, and Zen.

But as Sapir, Whof and Wittgenstein, and probably Gibson (JJ not W) would tell you, language shapes thought and we do not have the language. 

Try explaining how to put oil into a car without using any car-related, or engine-related words. Go on, try it. Write it down, now go through it and strike out any car-related and engine-related words that crept in. We don’t have a big enough RAM, our short-term memory, to hold even one sentence of the resulting tedious arm-waving stuttering verbiage.

Why doesn’t the world move when I shake my head?

~~~~~~



M’learned friend also said:

“This has many implications, but that main one is that we should judge education by the value created for stakeholders (laudate Tom) – this is fittingly complex and circular. 

NO NO NO, NO!

Very pleased that you rate teecha Tom.

Not stakeholders, feck stakeholders. Leave that to the Tory Goovey Gradgrindians.

I  think you might mean participants? If so then I‘ll semi-agree.

How would you judge a Beth Chatto garden? Answer that and you’ll know how to judge education .

~~~

Read Seedstock by Frank Herbert… full text here… https://momentoftime.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/seed-stock-frank-herbert/

I  cannot link to that story without rereading it, and when I  reread it, I  cannot help but be moved to tears.

~~~

Koan for you: “how can we value things without judging them?” asked the abbot.

Answers on a postcard to my fastness by Ruabon mountain, please, or via ‘e-mail’.

~~~

Test-weary second-grader asks school board: ‘Is that all that matters to grown-ups?’ – The Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/01/17/test-weary-second-grader-schools-state-school-board-is-that-all-that-matters-to-grown-ups/

7 year-old girl to School Board:

“Have you ever been in a kids’ lunch room at lunch time? If you go to many of these cafeterias, you will see there is hardly enough time to even eat. Many kids end up throwing their food away. Some of the teachers often ask us if we are sure we want to throw the food away but many do anyway because we want to play for the few minutes we have.”

What else do we need to say about the importance of play?

__________________________________________

And by the way, this is also why Maslow was an idiot.

see: https://thebridgeatruabon.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/two-responses-to-a-lost-child-crying-in-a-field-in-the-rain/

__________________________________________

And, also by the way, this is why 7 year-old girls should rule the world.

The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders | Psychology Today

http://www.psychologytoday.com/collections/201409/the-power-play/the-decline-play-and-rise-in-childrens-mental-disorders

The rise of materialism, the decline of personal agency.

Probably the best article on children’s play this decade.

The Elf on the Shelf is preparing your child to live in a future police state, professor warns – The Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2014/12/16/the-elf-on-the-shelf-is-preparing-your-child-to-live-in-a-future-police-state-professor-says/

“…Digital technology professor Laura Pinto — the Elf on the Shelf is “a capillary form of power that normalizes the voluntary surrender of privacy, teaching young people to blindly accept panoptic surveillance and” [deep breath] “reify hegemonic power.”

She writes:

“Elf on the Shelf presents a unique (and prescriptive) form of play that blurs the distinction between play time and real life. Children who participate in play with The Elf on the Shelf doll have to contend with rules at all times during the day: they may not touch the doll, and they must accept that the doll watches them at all times with the purpose of reporting to Santa Claus. This is different from more conventional play with dolls, where children create play-worlds born of their imagination, moving dolls and determining interactions with other people and other dolls. Rather, the hands-off “play” demanded by the elf is limited to finding (but not touching!) The Elf on the Shelf every morning, and acquiescing to surveillance during waking hours under the elf’s watchful eye. The Elf on the Shelf controls all parameters of play, who can do and touch what, and ultimately attempts to dictate the child’s behavior outside of time used for play.

“The whole thing with panopticonism under the Jeremy Bentham structure,” Pinto said, “is that you never quite knew if you were being watched or not and that forced you into behaving in a certain way. The elf is the same way.”

EMERALD

http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/S1537-466120140000018001

Fascinating. Astonishingly bad translation into English though. Not blaming the author who is probably not a native English speaker. Am blaming the publisher. Besides taking the weird file slinging it on the web and charging me 25 quid to read it, what exactly do you people do to, as they say, add value. A suggestion: hit some editors, good ones and pay them well. It is difficult enough understanding new research and thinking without having to also simultaneously translate from gobbledygook into English. Again no blame to the author. You, air or madam, have been done a huge disservice by Emerald.

But despite all that,

Fascinating…

Massive strategic failures of Playwork #4, an occasional series:

http://www.naeyc.org/conference/sessions-for-faculty-and-trainers

Promoted by this posting on Facebook, nothing to do with this conference. Yesterday I visited the Children’s Day website, which had remarkably similar aims and draws on similar sources as the beloved Playday.

The two together provoked this thought:

Failure #4 is the failure to promote the key distinction between play for older children, over 5s, (and, to a lesser extent, from youth) and play in the early years.

They are different. The play we talk about is different. We weeble on about all children need play or all humans need play, but we miss the point about all this.

Which is this, to use an inflammatory metaphor:

The play we are about is after the apron strings have been cut.

It’s pavement play near your house, it’s playing out, is exploring, it’s hanging out with your peers, it’s that ‘when I look back I realise that most of my favourite play memories were of play with no adults around’ play.

I can unpack this, this is just the provocation, dear reader.

KIND THINKER OUT IN THE WORLD: an elegy for Perry Else

KIND THINKER OUT IN THE WORLD

 

Kind thinker, out in

the world, away 

from the white towers; 

down by the riv’r.

Forthright, flexible and firm — 

the three frees.

Living, in the realm

of the possible:

not ‘they should’, only

‘well, maybe we can…’ 

Else we forget, the

value of play

and the value of

his playful life.

Arthur Battram

10:26 AM, Thursday, June 12, 2014, revised 2:02 PM  Friday, September 5, 2014 , and again so the scansion is better Tuesday, September 9, 2014, 2:04 PM.

A fitting obituary is here:

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/people/obituaries/perry-else-1959-2014/2013792.article

Media coverage of play/child-related issues: David Spencer Ramsey’s ongoing (and therefore partial) list

David has kindly given me permission to share his list of media coverage of what I have labelled ‘play/child-related issues’.

The list is a partial one, as he explains below. He says:

“Interesting research fact: There have been more than 50 articles, news reports, and radio pieces in mainstream media (New York Times, Slate.com, Washington Post, NPR, KQED, ABC News, etc.) in the United States on children’s play since the beginning of 2014.”

“So right now I’ve collected data on the 50+ media references since start of 2014. I’m in the process of going back year-by-year over the past 5 years to see if 2014 does indeed stand out as having a significantly higher number of ‘mainstream media’ (broadcast, print, web) discussions of play. I can easily provide you the 50+ references for 2014 with date, publication, url, title, etc., it’s all in a Microsoft Word doc.”

“I am … interested in looking at things from a different perspective, ie., is there a potentially larger social-cultural shift occurring in America that is either allowing or actively encouraging this sort of mainstream media coverage to happen? In other words, why now? Why these particular stories? What does this say, if anything, about American society in 2014?”

 

My own cynical view is that this media kerfuffle does not, of itself, signal a change in US (or UK) society. I wish it did. Nevertheless, if nothing else the covering is cheering, and may inspire. Feel free to use the list anyway you wish.

Please contact David directly if you have any questions or requests. For my part I will update this item whenever I can (not guaranteeing!).

davidramsey1234@yahoo.com

——————————————————————–

DAVID’S LIST ( as of MONDAY, AUGUST 11, 2014)

——————————————————————–

The Overprotected Kid

The Atlantic, March 19, 2014

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/03/hey-parents-leave-those-kids-alone/358631/

Why Free Play is the Best Summer School

The Atlantic, June 20, 2014

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/for-better-school-results-clear-the-schedule-and-let-kids-play/373144/

Recess Without Rules

The Atlantic, January 28, 2014

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/recess-without-rules/283382/

Inside a European Adventure Playground

The Atlantic, March 19, 2014

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2014/03/europes-adventure-playgrounds-look-way-more-fun/284521/

How Finland Keeps Kids Focused Through Free Play

The Atlantic, June 30, 2014

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/how-finland-keeps-kids-focused/373544/

Kids These Days: Growing Up Too Fast or Never At All?

National Public Radio, March 20, 2014

http://www.npr.org/2014/03/20/291922339/kids-these-days-growing-up-too-fast-or-never-at-all

Where the Wild Things Play

National Public Radio, August 4, 2014

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/08/04/334896321/where-the-wild-things-play

Play Doesn’t End With Childhood: Why Adults Need Recess Too

National Public Radio, August 6, 2014

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/08/06/336360521/play-doesnt-end-with-childhood-why-adults-need-recess-too

Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build a Better Brain

National Public Radio, August 6, 2014

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/08/06/336361277/scientists-say-childs-play-helps-build-a-better-brain

When Kids Start Playing to Win

National Public Radio, August 5, 2014

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/08/05/331412567/when-kids-start-playing-to-win

What Kids Can Learn From a Water Balloon Fight

National Public Radio, June 25, 2014

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/06/25/325218402/what-kids-can-learn-from-a-water-balloon-fight

For Kids With Special Needs, More Places to Play

National Public Radio, August 27, 2013

http://www.npr.org/2013/08/27/213827534/for-kids-with-special-needs-more-places-to-play

Kids Need More Structured Play Time, Not Less

New York Times, May 1, 2014

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/01/kids-need-more-structured-playtime-not-less/

All Children Should be Delinquents

New York Times, July 12, 2014

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/opinion/sunday/all-children-should-be-delinquents.html

Mom Faces Felony Charge for Letting Girl Play in Park

ABC News, July 28, 2014

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/sc-moms-arrest-sparks-child-care-debate-24745801

Play for Children: Form and Freedom

Huffington Post, July 11, 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-rosker/play-for-children-form-self-discipline_b_5575864.html

If Children are Learning, Then Let Them Play

Huffington Post, November 1, 2013

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bethany-wilinski/if-children-are-for-learning_b_4184361.html

Dad Charged With Endangerment After Son Skips Church to Go Play

Huffington Post, June 30, 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/30/dad-arrested-son-skips-church_n_5544661.html

Stressed Out in America: Five Reason to Let Your Kids Play

Huffington Post, February 28, 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katie-hurley/stressed-out-in-america-5-reasons-to-let-your-kids-play_b_4869863.html

Banish the Playdate

Huffington Post, July 24, 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-bernholdt/banish-the-playdate_b_5577558.html

Best Type of Play? Let Kids do What They Want

NBC News, 9News Colorado, August 6, 2014

http://www.9news.com/story/news/health/2014/08/06/free-play-kids/13694309/

How Play Wires Kids’ Brains for Social and Academic Success

KQED California, August 7, 2014

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/08/how-play-wires-kids-brains-for-social-and-academic-success/

Let ‘Em Out!  The Many Benefits of Outdoor Play in Kindergarten

KQED California, July 23, 2014

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/07/let-em-out-the-many-benefits-of-outdoor-play-in-kindergarten/

A Land Where Kids Roam Free

KQED California, July 18, 2014

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/07/audio-file-wont-embed/

Can Free Play Prevent Depression and Anxiety in Kids?

KQED California, June 29, 2014

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/06/can-free-play-prevent-depression-and-anxiety-in-kids/

Cities Want Young Families to Play and Stay

Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2014

http://online.wsj.com/articles/cities-message-to-young-families-play-and-stay-1407279639

Playing Children, Out of Sight and Mind

New York Daily News, August 4, 2014

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/playing-children-sight-mind-article-1.1889019

Visiting Lecturer Says Play is Effective Learning Tool

Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 1, 2014

http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/local/2014/07/31/visitng-lecturer-says-play-effective-learning-tool/13395155/

In This Era of Helicopter Parenting, Letting Your Child Play is a Crime

Charleston City Paper, July 23, 2014

http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/HaireoftheDog/archives/2014/07/23/in-this-era-of-helicopter-parenting-letting-your-children-play-is-a-crime

Play: The Work of a Child

Green Bay Press Gazette, July 12, 2014

http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/life/2014/07/12/play-work-child/12534161/

The Best Toy for a Kid on a Plane is Not an iPad

ABC News, July 23, 2014

http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/best-toy-kid-plane-ipad/story?id=24588355

Send the Kids Outside to Play: Study

Chicago Tribune, July 17, 2014

http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sns-rt-us-kids-outdoors-fitness-20140717-story.html

Even Playing Dress-Up Teaches Children How to Handle Emotions

Springfield News Leader, July 11, 2014

http://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2014/07/11/even-playing-dress-teaches-children-handle-emotions/12546701/

Letting Imagination Win

Washington Post, August 8, 2014

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/08/08/playing-not-winning-the-game/

Ten Ways to Fix the Mess That is Kindergarten

Washington Post, August 7, 2014

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/07/ten-ways-to-fix-the-mess-that-is-kindergarten/

Why So Many Kids Can’t Sit Still in School Today

Washington Post, July 8, 2014

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/07/08/why-so-many-kids-cant-sit-still-in-school-today/

Are We Overprotecting Our Kids?

Katie Couric Show, July 9, 2014

http://katiecouric.com/2014/07/09/are-we-overprotecting-our-kids/

Should Parents Let Their Kids Take More Risks?

PBS NewsHour, May 9, 2014

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/parents-let-kids-take-risks/

Does Overprotecting Children Put Them at Risk?

CBS News, March 20, 2014

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/does-over-protecting-children-make-them-less-independent-and-creative/

Let Kids Run Wild in the Woods

Slate.com, May 2014

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/05/kid_play_zones_in_parks_leave_no_trace_inhibits_fun_and_bonding_with_nature.html

What Playfulness Can Do For You

Boston Globe, July 20, 2014

http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/07/19/what-playfulness-can-for-you/Cxd7Et4igTLkwpkUXSr3cO/story.html

How the American Playground was Born in Boston

Boston Globe, March 28, 2014

http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/03/28/how-american-playground-was-born-boston/5i2XrMCjCkuu5521uxleEL/story.html

A Parklet Rises in Boston

Boston Globe, July 14, 2014

http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/2014/07/14/parklet-rises-boston/6R0DwaikXFFpgILJ6trzGL/story.html

Help Kids’ Imaginations Soar

Miami Herald, July 13, 2014

http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/11/4231708/help-kids-imaginations-soar.html

For July, Let Kids be Kids

Columbia Daily Tribune, July 13, 2014

http://www.columbiatribune.com/opinion/columnists/for-july-let-kids-be-kids/article_95b39566-73a9-5fb2-9ec1-297e1ba16d03.html

The Cognitive Benefits of Play: Effects on the Learning Brain

ParentingScience.com, 2014

http://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of-play.html

7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders

Forbes.com, January 16, 2014

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2014/01/16/7-crippling-parenting-behaviors-that-keep-children-from-growing-into-leaders/

Too Much Too Soon: Why Children Should Spend More Time Playing and Start School Later

Forbes.com, January 30, 2014

http://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorrison/2014/01/30/too-much-too-soon-why-children-should-spend-more-time-playing-and-start-school-later/

Why Playful Learning is the Key to Prosperity

Forbes.com, April 10, 2014

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2014/04/10/why-playful-learning-is-the-key-to-prosperity/

Mom Arrested After Letting 7-Year-Old Son Walk to Park by Himself

KTLA News, July 31, 2014

http://ktla.com/2014/07/31/mom-arrested-after-letting-7-year-old-son-walk-to-neighborhood-park-by-himself/

REGENERATING THE PUBLIC REALM: Blenders, babysitters and burglars! – connecting neighbours in unexpected ways – Playing Out

“For my street – and the others who have shared their experiences – new and rich connections have grown from sharing time and fun on the street during playing out sessions. And they have changed the way I feel about living here for the better.”

We know more about regenerating a rainforest or a prairie than we do about regenerating the public realm.

We really need to get out more.

And we really need to study more.

PlayingOut, is one neccesary, but—of course—of itself, insufficient condition for this regeneration of  the public realm to take place. Pun placed intentionally!

Read and follow their excellent bloggery.

via Blenders, babysitters and burglars! – connecting neighbours in unexpected ways – Playing Out.

Parents Who Promote Less Rigid Lifestyles for Children Prove More Effective

http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/15514/20140618/parents-who-promote-less-rigid-lifestyles-children-prove-more-effective.htm

Seems to be a balanced article about a smart bit of research.

Shared from WordPress

http://policyforplay.com/2014/06/03/farewell-to-a-ludic-hero/

I hope there will be more tributes to Perry.

A small personal note: on learning that I would be celebrating my 50th birthday on my own, having recently isolated myself in what Bob called my ‘cave’ in the Peak District, he came over with presents: pertinently, a copy of ‘A Clockwork Orange’.

Thanks, Perry.

Now, please read Adrian’s fine words.

“Work is about a daily search for meaning as well as daily bread…”

As some of you may know, I am a huge fan of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple.

(I still respect him, but I’m no longer a fan of Apple’s products. Not since MacOS 10.4 in 2005. Just so you know I’m not a blinkered fanboy.)

Now, here’s one reason why I rate Jobs, which you can file under: “Insanely Great!” his most famous catchphrase.

When the Mac was produced in 1984, he insisted, at significant extra cost, in having the names of all the engineers who designed it engraved INSIDE the case, where almost nobody would ever see those names. I was lucky enough to see them, because I once watched an engineer remove the casing. (Oh yes, circuit boards can be beautiful, why are most of them ugly?)

You can also file under: respect for the dignity of the work of other human beings.

Which leads me on to my next couple of stories.

Studs Terkel has been described as a historian and a sociologist but he prefers to call himself a “guerrilla journalist with a tape recorder.” He created controversy we’re told when Tony Blair resigned and he asked: “Why was he such a house-boy for Bush?” Studs Terkel died in his Chicago home on 31st October, 2008 at the age of ninety-six. He asked that his epitaph should be: “Curiosity did not kill this cat.”

He said:

“When you become part of something, in some way you count. It could be a march; it could be a rally, even a brief one. You’re part of something, and you suddenly realize you count. To count is very important.”

Working (1974), is his account of people’s working lives. Terkel wrote:

“Work is about

a daily search for meaning

as well as daily bread,

for recognition

as well as cash,

for astonishment

rather than torpor,

in short for a sort of life,

rather than a

Monday-to-Friday

sort of dying.”

This is an edited excerpt from the interview that opens the book:

(Mike LeFevre was thirty-seven in 1972). He works in a steel mill. On occasion, his wife Carol works as a waitress in a neighborhood restaurant; otherwise, she is at home, caring for their two small children, a girl and a boy...

“You don’t see where nothing goes. I got chewed out by my foreman once. He said, “Mike, you’re a good worker but you have a bad attitude.” My attitude is that I don’t get excited about my job. I do my work but I don’t say whoopee-doo.
The day I get excited about my job is the day I go to a head shrinker. How are you gonna get excited about pullin’ steel? How are you gonna get excited when you’re tired and want to sit down? It’s not just the work. Somebody built the pyramids. Somebody’s going to build something. Pyramids, Empire State Building-these things just don’t happen. There’s hard work behind it. I would like to see a building, say, the Empire State, I would like to see on one side of it a foot-wide strip from top to bottom with the name of every bricklayer, the name of every electrician, with all the names. So when a guy walked by, he could take his son and say, “See, that’s me over there on the forty-fifth floor. I put the steel beam in.” Picasso can point to a painting. What can I point to? A writer can point to a book. Everybody should have something to point to.”

~

taken from this PDF which I found on the net,

so you can too: StudyGuide-Working.pdf

A Study Guide Of WORKING

From the Book by Studs Terkel

Adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso

Original Production Directed By Stephen Schwartz

FORT WAYNE CIVIC THEATRE

IN THE WINGS Arts-In-Education Program

PERFORMANCES FOR SCHOOLS

AND SOCIAL SERVICES

Saturday, May 8, 2009 @ 2:00 p.m.

Out of sight, out of mind, out of the brain of Mr Chown, for your reading pleasure

Out of sight, out of mind.

Excellent blog by the wise Mr Chown. Sample quotes:

20 years on I still see signs of children playing out, unnoticed by adults. Surveys and questionnaires provide only a partial picture of children’s independent mobility. We need more direct observation and engagement with children and families in their own neighbourhoods, not just in schools, if we are to create policies to support children playing out and to measure their success.”

‘We have given up haunting the places where children play, we no longer have eyes for their games, and not noticing them suppose they have vanished’. Children’s Games in Street and Playground – Iona and Peter Opie.”

Out of sight, out of mind.

Reflecting on reflective practice: “A thousand mountain ranges separate the one who reflects from the one who is truly present.”

“A thousand mountain ranges separate the one who reflects from the one who is truly present.”

Photo from: http://www.walkingforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=2750.0

This is a blog about reflective practice, which like Western civilisation, I think would be a very good thing.

I’m quoting Gandhi, who was asked what he thought of Western civilisation, as he stepped off the boat at Southampton wrapped in a sheet, having been a lawyer in South Africa. He replied: “I think it would be a very good idea.”

I’m suggesting that a lot of what passes for reflective practice is nothing of the sort, and yet it so easily could be.

Playworkers make notes in diaries, they keep records. They take photos, to attempt to present their work to others.  Some keep journals, some turn their journals into whole books, like m’esteemed colleague Eduardo Nuttall. Some write whole books, based on the work of a lifetime, or at least a significant chunk of it,  stuffed with observation and reflection – I’m thinking of  luminaries like Perry Else and Saint Bob himself (no offence). Some blog, like moi, and Joel, and Lily and many others. Some don’t do any of that, but they do think, and ponder, and talk about stuff down the pub or over a grotty cup of bad teabag tea in a hut.

But those honourable exceptions aside, often what passes for ‘reflective practice’ is nothing more than a few scrappy notes in an ‘incident book’ or an ‘office diary’, grudgingly scribbled as you rush to go home. Why do we need to write stuff up, we mutter. What’s the point?

Easy for me to criticise, but what am I doing about it?

Good and fair question. I’m currently developing  what I hope will be a new and improved approach to playwork reflective practice. I have started by distinguishing three aspects of the thing I’m pointing at –  avoiding using the term ‘reflective’ or ‘practice’ to avoid association with existing approaches, recognising that this may result in the usage of clumsy neologism, for which I apologise.

These three aspects are:

documentation – the recording of numbers and names and other details, as required by Caesar. “Render unto Caesar that which is Ceasar’s” said a Jewish prophet, and in our context that means: keep the records that your employer requires, for the good reasons that they require it. Chief among those reasons is, most likely, the keeping of funders happy.

promotion – the gathering of photos, and stories, etcetera, for reasons often confused with the above, to wit: to be able – at AGM or conference, or on telly or radio, or in print, be it press, or exhibition – to tell people what you do and why you do it and why it is deserving of their support, financing or involvement, be that as volunteer, worker or committee member or officer.

journaling – the writing of a personal and private journal of your personal reflective practice.  By which I mean recording some of what you observed and thinking about it, and writing down some of your thoughts, and relating them to your work, presumably with the intention of improvement – the making something better. I’m referring to a thing my erstwhile chums in management consultancy call ‘change management’.

(I’m not interested in ‘change management’, I’m interested in ‘improvement management’, which is, admittedly, a subset of change management, but is much harder. Given that change is happening all the time, the real trick is to detect and amplify the beneficial things, while avoiding the bad things and hoping they’ll go away. I say this because if we focus on the bad things, everybody gets upset and the good things get neglected – better to focus on making the already good a little bit better, which is nice and not too challenging for any of us, is it not?)

Anyway, a personal and private journal. Can’t be done in the office dairy because you can’t be yourself in the glare of your office spotlight. What will they think if I write that? I can’t write that, so I don’t, and so I don’t think about it either, which means that I’m self-censoring.  Not a good start. How can I reflect on the unthought and unwritten? Reflection is personal – what do I think about what happened? Not what do the Playwork Principles tell us to think (our very own PCness), nor what my boss wants me to think or do, nor what my mates or colleagues think, or want me to think. And, if it is personal it must be private, initially at least. I can always edit juicy bits for public consumption as part of our promotion or as an extension documentation later.

Hope all that helps. I’ll be piloting this approach soon, and I’ll let you know how it goes, if you’re interested.

This particular peak

Onwards and upwards to the top of this particular peak, which is the consideration of these words:

“A thousand mountain ranges separate the one who reflects from the one who is truly present.”

We don’t know who said this, the only reference we have is ‘Zen saying’.

M’esteemed colleague, Mr Joel Seath, has written about being truly present as a playworker. Bearing witness to the play of children, as our great play theorist* Gordon Sturrock, has it.  He doesn’t blog, so you can’t read him online. Joel does blog, here:

http://playworkings.wordpress.com

What do we mean by being present, by witnessing?
Ben Tawil has a wonderful story about not interfering in play:

A teenaged boy is contemplating a leap from a high tower on an adventure playground. Ben, from a distance, is contemplating the situation. If the boy makes the jump, he will massively injure himself, that much is certain.

You’ll have to ask Ben if you need to know what happened. If you have ever been present, witnessing, you’ll know why you don’t need to know what happened. Of course you want to know what happened, as did I. I’ll ask him, and he might give me his version of the tale, which I can share here.

I know I’m being annoying and obscure: I can’t help it. I don’t have the time or patience to write a longer explanation or a shorter one for that matter•. In any case, this Zen stuff is not about Western-style explanation, it is about Eastern-style contemplation.

And contemplation is another word for reflection.

When I hear the word, I reach for my gun

Now pay attention, dear reader••, as I pick up my Zen gun and shoot myself in my metaphorical foot, by essaying that very Western sin – explaining the unexplainable. I may amuse.

So when we say: “A thousand mountain ranges separate the one who reflects from the one who is truly present.” I think we are saying that reflection is impossible if you have not been present, meaning that if you have not been present in the moment, living it, being there, witnessing everything that is going on, around you and inside you, outside of you and inside your head and your heart. Me, I don’t do that often, and I don’t do it often enough, not by a long chalk. I’m just saying that if you weren’t there, you cannot speak of it, can you?

So I offer you this: the key to reflective practice – key in the sense of opening the door –  is being truly present.

And once the door has been opened, you may or may not choose to step through, of course – that’s up to you.  And if you step through, you may fail to wander very far in the garden of reflection, but it’s a start. I’m exploring that garden myself, so I might bump into you there.

So…

Think on, as my dad used to say.

(Which is, of course, just another way of saying do some reflection.)

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Footling footnotes at the foot of the present mountain:

*we have but a few truly great theorists of play: Bob Hughes, Bashō, Gordon Sturrock, Marc Bekoff, to name but a few (boys).**

** oh, and one  token girl: Judith Rich Harris.***

*** oh, alright then, one more girl: Penny Wilson

• A wise man apologised like this for going on at length –  well, I won’t take more time to explain, I’ll just refer you here:

http://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/04/28/shorter-letter/

•• reader? I hope for plural.