plā′wėrk′ings, n. Portions of play matters consideration; draft formations.

Reflection cubed

Question everything. The subject of reflection has come up a couple of times in the last few days, and with different people, when discussing children’s play and playwork. When training, is it possible to teach someone how to think? (Of course, we all think, but thinking play and playwork is another thing altogether). Maybe we can teach the value of thinking, or the potential for thinking, about these things. Or can we ever teach anything at all? Question everything.

I’ve been thinking about reflection because the subject area and the act have been sparked into life in me by the conversations I’ve been having. However, in order to get my thoughts down here, I need to take this one step at a time (it could get messy if I’m not careful; it probably will get messy!) I’m thinking of levels, and I’ve got three levels going on so far (there is the possibility for more). It’s rather like the film, Inception, where DiCaprio goes down progressively deeper dream levels. So, to start off: an observation as story, partly also in observation of myself; a reflection:


Lulu (9) is walking from the car park with me and a small group of other children. We’ve parked the minibus at the other end of the site and have to walk all the way to where we usually are. We go down the alley where there’s a low wall. It’s about three feet at its highest, going down to about a foot and a half high as the path slopes up. I’m talking with some other children. I turn around, after I get to the end of the wall, and I see Lulu up on it and she’s doing cartwheels along it. She looks quite in control of her movement, flipping over, even able to balance her weight on one hand at the very top of the cycle and slowly lean her feet down before spinning on again. Even so, she’s doing this cartwheeling and has bounced off the end, landing on her feet, before I can even think what to say or raise myself to any action. I open my mouth, shrug, move on.

Reflection (Level 1a)

What did I do, and why? I stood and watched. I thought slowly. I thought about what words to use, and if I should use words at all. I thought if I should just understand that this was play in front of me and that Lulu was quite capable. I watched because I was torn between personally having no problem with how Lulu was choosing to manoeuvre through space and by feeling like others might look unfavourably on this. I shrugged because I was fine, because I was happy to have my instincts proved right, to be relieved.

Reflection (Level 1b)

Question everything. Why did I feel the way I felt? I felt as if I should trust Lulu; that Lulu wasn’t trusted by others passing by and who didn’t know her (‘children don’t know how to move safely’); that others would look unfavourably on me for ‘letting’ her cartwheel along the wall; that I would look unfavourably on myself if she fell off.

Reflection (Level 1c)

Why did I feel the need to feel these things? I worried that others might think poorly of me, that playwork practice might be seen as deficient or even negligent in some way; that I would question myself so much, if Lulu hurt herself, that I would stamp down unjustly, in the future, on even such low-level risky play as this. I felt the need to feel this way more because I was worried about how people would perceive Lulu, children, play, playwork and me, more than I was truly worried about Lulu hurting herself. I was concerned about her, a little, but she has so much more ability in her risky play than even her mother gives her credit for, in my observation and opinion.

Reflection about reflection (Level 2a)

If meta-data is ‘data about data’, and if meta-communication is ‘communication about communication’, then could meta-reflection be ‘reflection about reflection’? I’m sitting out in the sun, thinking. I’m thinking about the act of thinking. I’m reflecting about my reflections, such as above. Why do I reflect? What do I get from it? Isn’t it better just to ‘do’? I reflect to find out things I didn’t know, things I thought I knew, things I might know. I get further thoughts out of the act of reflecting; I get confused by the act of reflecting sometimes. When I just ‘do’ I wonder if I am just doing at all. Even if I’m not consciously thinking of playwork ideas or suchlike, is it all still swilling around in me, agitating, making me ‘just do’ in a certain way anyway?

Reflection about reflection (Level 2b)

Question everything. If I get confused, sometimes, by the act of reflecting after the action, or by my reflection-in-action, in the moment of the play taking place, why do it? Why reflect? It must be that I enjoy being caught up in webs in my thinking. Do I actively seek out conflicting thoughts, stimulus for thought? Or, are these webs out of my control? – it not being a matter of enjoying the creation of them; rather, some things happen, the web-making, and I can’t stop them, so I cope the best I can.  If I ‘just do’, because I’ve read a lot, or because I’ve done a lot, or because I’ve already made a lot of mistakes, do I need to read, or think, any more? Or, if I ‘just do’, am I not doing enough?

Reflection about ‘reflection about reflection’ (Level 3)

Or, in a simpler way: thinking about meta-reflection. Is this a superfluous level? What is the message I transmit to myself, and to others, in declaring thought about ‘reflecting on reflection’? Why ask questions like ‘why reflect?’? What can I hope to achieve by these questions . . . ?

Question everything . . . Quick, where’s my ‘kick’ to get me up, out of this level, back up to the surface world?!


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