During the summer I have been lucky enough to work with different staff each week, this could be considered both positive and negative depending on your thought process. There is an argument that the children require consistency in a staffing team, offering people they know and can build strong relationships with, there is also the basis that the playworkers offer something to the environment being a play resource themselves, so having new staff means the children have new characters to play with and suss out.
This past week I have been joined by a colleague who unconsciously reflects upon his practice and how the children differ between the borough’s playgrounds. This has triggered different thoughts for me around how the children play and the relationships this has to the area they live in. The children who choose to play at our playground are extremely streetwise and are considered to be disadvantaged young people by local communities, (but not the young people themselves). They are children who come in with their stories of what has happened the night before whilst out playing on the streets, these children come in and have a laugh and joke with the playworkers, make judgements on what they want to share with us and look for respect from the playworkers, an understanding of their way of living, and the staff to be non-judgemental of them.
Working in this particular area I find it hard when people talk negatively about the children, instantly becoming protective. However today whilst reflecting upon my practice and looking the differences between the playgrounds I realised that actually these children are so much better off than most in the borough, they have strong relationships (gangs) that stick by each other, they know where they stand and just get on with things. In comparison with other playgrounds where the children are described as needy and soft, these children are tough and enjoy the rough and tumble play along with the banter that goes around. What makes them want to keep coming back to their adventure playground, even at the age of 17? Well…
Yesterday my colleague said to me “I just love the way you trust these children”, at first i was taken back, i didn’t know how to respond but soon after i replied by saying “How can the children trust us, if we don’t trust them?”. For me this said so much in just a few words. They were strange words for me to come from another playworker, as I believed that we all put trust in the young people we offered these play opportunities to or do we in fact just work to offer a service, a place for them to hang out. By putting trust in the children, do we offer something more to the children than that space they can come to, it opens up that can of worms once again as to what the playworkers role really entails, where does it stop. This summer has been a learning curve for me, reminding myself that our role is never ending and it doesn’t stop at the door, these children come back time after time because we care and offer something different to most other places.
This year at Creasys we planned to have a low-key Playday, however as with most ‘events’ after a few conversations with the children, the activities that were being asked for became quite a bit more. We started with the idea of doing what we do on a daily basis…providing play opportunities, but a slightly bigger scale. However the children soon began to sound out ideas and became excited by the day. Many of the children wrote lists of stuff that they wanted for this ‘special’ day of play…Shaving foam, bouncy castles, waterslides, big boxes, and walls where they could graffiti.
The regulars planned their day and invited many of their friends, and family. The children made posters and proudly distributed them to the local community looking to show off their space, but as with any day at a playground we couldn’t predict what may happen throughout the day.
The day came and the ‘regulars’ arrived bright and early (earlier than the playworkers in fact) to get set up, although for most it was their way of getting into the playground earlier than the ‘proper’ opening times. The resources that we sourced for them led on from other games and moments they had been engaging in the previously couple of weeks, and fed back to what they had asked for. The children and family centre were invited to come along as an offering for parents with young siblings, knowing that it would offer a different element to the day.
Over the day around 350 people came and went, playing along the way. Everyone appeared to have a good time, not fussing over the state of clothing or if they had stopped for lunch. There is just something about National Playday that brings everyone together and makes everything acceptable to the outside eye. Parents giggled as playworkers got pounced upon by groups of children with cans of shaving foam, teenage boys who wouldn’t normally be seen doing arts and crafts, painted large card with their graffiti ‘S’s, and the children gained an extra two hours at the playground. The day offered something for everyone, it was a day where I thanked the children and staff for supporting me in making it possible.
Each year I set myself a new years resolution, and each year I give up after just a couple of days because of drive to succeed at it. This year I have decided to do something with a difference where I hand all responsibility over to friends and colleagues on Facebook in deciding 20 challenges for me to complete throughout the year. Soon after asking for ideas I had an exciting list emerging, some more extreme than others.
Here I will keep a regular diary of how I’m getting on, who’s knows there may even be some photos to share! See below for the challenges I will be attempting…
- Organise 20 Play Days in August with organisations/parks in your area.
- Start training to do a marathon for 2015
- Record a video about my experiences as a Playworker, my take on the state of play in the UK, what an adventure playground looks like, include the Playworkers travelling journal etc. for trainers to use with their students!!
- Get a local paper to do a big piece on the state of play in 2014, or a local radio station!
- Learn Tae Kwon Do
- Do a skydive and raise £1,000
- Once a month try a new restaurant and take someone new with me.
- Travel to a new country
- Learn how to fail – be a loser!!!!
- Give up my mobile phone for a month
- Smile at a stranger every day
- Give up my favourite food for a week
- Getting up an hour earlier every day for a week
- Make someone smile every day with a call or message saying something nice to them
- Make a new friend every month
- Have my picture taken in five interesting places (Interesting as in a place not many would know, been in)
- Learn something I didn’t learn as a child
- Swim with sharks
- Go gorge walking
- Cycle to work at least once a week
- Learn a new language
- Go swim in the sea on Christmas Day
- Spend a day with Play Torbay
Be back soon with the first of many updates 🙂
Tonight in session we were joined by another playworker from a different site, one who I have worked with just the once before. At the end of day we always take at least 30 minutes at the end of sessions to feedback on how the session went and on personal/ group practice. During this time feedback I was challenged with a piece of feedback which was
‘I’m not so sure other people in the service would necessary want, or would work with you, they might find it difficult’
Obviously I questioned this and It was backed up with the understanding that my values and beliefs are extremely strong and may put some of the staff off from working with me. So what is it that puts them off?
I have high expectations but shouldn’t we all as playworkers, always wanting to improve our practice within the next session and be better at our role? Having worked in different setting and for strong minded people in the past I find this is a natural process. I do however find myself going over what may be so negative, maybe not negative but maybe uncomfortable for staff to acknowledge the way I work. I’m up front with staff, and always start a meeting make it clear that nothing said is personal but instead professional and a way of becoming better at our role.
It would be appreciated from those of you that know me, or have worked with me (or those that don’t in fact) as to why it may be such a difficulty, or is it more the fact that this member of staff was uncomfortable with the deep discussions we engage within at the end of session? The sessions are filled strongly with praise as given to all staff on interactions…and interventions where needed but I find the need to reflect slightly more on this. Your thoughts please.
This week i have been offered the opportunity to join the Meynell Games Group at Glastonbury to work in the kids field. Totally awesome right?
So far for me the experience has been almost surprising, with lots of hard work but also lots of time to play i established my place in the field.
I began feeling slightly nervous as if i had something to prove but yet i embraced the moment and found myself taking one step at a time.
The highlight of my day came when i picked up on one girls play cue to play tug of war, a game that instantly grew and involved not only children but adults as well, after all is that not part of Glastonbury. The ability to provide a space where everyone can disregard other stuff and to enjoy their own opportunity for play and expression.