This blog has reached the stage where the Google-bots seem happy to say: ‘You want a playwork question answered? Hold on, I know a place you might like . . .’ WordPress has a useful backroom feature that allows the blogger to scan down the list of search terms others use; as such, I’ve had a recent run on terms like: What does playworker mean? So, there’s a cue if ever I read one.
What playworker means, what playworker means . . . I could easily just reel off a summary list of other playwork writers’ books, but this cue has given me the opportunity to write further on what playworker means to this playworker. What I’m thinking of here is based on being a playwork trainer and advisor and on being a ‘practitioner’ with (hold on, counting on fingers!) twenty one years of working with children in a variety of capacities, so far, behind me. Once, I wasn’t a playworker, though I thought I was. I don’t think any of us are ever ‘the finished article’.
So, where to start? Here’s a starting point: it’s amusing to me to see that, if adding up the number of different searches I’ve received for the Calvin and Hobbes ‘coffee table and nails’ cartoon strip, the total nudges the top of the search terms list for this blog! So, for those who are looking, I posted it up here, but I also re-post it below because I want to use it to make a point:
What playworker means is knowing (no, absolutely ‘getting’) one of these characters and why they say what they say!
Playworker also means being humble. It means recognising that you are sometimes, and quite often, wrong. It means knowing that a five year old can understand more than you do, and that throwing your weight around will get you nowhere. It means knowing that sometimes you are just tolerated by the children. It should be accepted that, with humility, and all things being balanced, what goes around comes around, and children will see your grace if you have it.
Playworker means not taking things too personally. If a child tells you, one day, that you smell, or that you have bad breath, then you smell, or you have bad breath. Do something about it because it troubles the child enough to say it out loud. Don’t moan about the child being ‘disrespectful’ or ‘rude’: accept and make change. The same goes for when a child tells you that you’re in the way. Understand that you’re in the way, or that your suggestions or presence aren’t needed, wanted or welcomed.
Playworker means serving. Time and again, I come back to a quote I picked up from a film somewhere, once upon a time. I forget the film title, but the line — as I remember it — is something like: I’m here to serve you, but I’m not your servant. It helps me focus when I’m working with children. I’m not at their beck and call; I don’t drop everything just because they demand that I come running; I do, however, know that I am in their place of play.
Playworker means being aware. This covers a multitude of sins: it means being aware of your surroundings, that you’re in a child’s place; it means, if you’re invited into the play, that you know how privileged you are there and then; it means being aware that the moment is now, that now is important for the child; it means going with the flow, even if your good intentions or plans are totally ignored or taken in other directions by children.
Thinking and seeing
Playworker means stop thinking like a sheep (OK, if sheep think at all, that is!) By this I mean, just because you may have learnt that ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ are ‘nice’ words, and that ‘being nice’ is ‘good’, or that play is only play if it’s ‘productive’, ‘co-operative’, or ‘kind’, it doesn’t mean that that’s the way things should be to others, or the way that things actually are. Playworker means seeing what’s there.
Standing up and telling
Playworker means telling others what’s there. It doesn’t mean being arrogant and holier-than-thou. It does mean being brave, standing up, and raising your head above the parapet. You may not be able to reach: so playworker also means carrying around an invisible soapbox to stand on. At such altitude above the floor, however, it does also mean that you’re going to be shot at sometimes. If this happens, and if you’re wrong, playworker means holding up your hand and saying sorry.
Playworker means having faith. I don’t know if it’s possible to ‘not believe’ in play once you’ve started being a believer. It isn’t something you can suddenly change your mind about. You’re stuck with it. It owns you. Know what you’re getting into if you’re a pre-playworker! There’s no ‘cooling off period’ or money-back clause. You can’t switch to another religion. You offer your soul, in exchange for all the knowledge of play, and the children happily take it from you and smear it in glue and googly eyes! (OK, a mixed metaphor somewhat, but playworkers should understand it and what googly eyes are!)
There’s more, but this article has to pause somewhere. Here’s a piece, something I prepared earlier, This playworker’s work, which links. Other playwork writers are available; as too are other little bits and bobs of writing floating around, like the Playwork Principles, psycholudics, compound flexibility, etc., which I shalln’t bother you with now (you’ll find them if you need to; if you can’t, then the search term may find its way into my WordPress backroom sometime . . .!)