For the last week I have been watching the weather forecast and consistently looking at the sky, not to watch the clouds as usual but in case of one small snowflake was to fall. Snow is a natural piece of magic that comes so rarely, that when it does the entire family jumps for joy.
Thursday night I slept with the blind up waiting for it to fall, much to my disappointment there was none come Friday morning, until that was 8am. It was here! The snow was here. I drove to work excited about the change of events and how excited the children would be and how different the opportunities may be today to any other day.
It was great, snowball fights, snow men & angels with everyone. Its seems to be the one time when you can get away with throwing something at anyone who passes. Everyone is playing, the grumpy neighbour, and the family that are normally working and of course all the children who are home from school early.
It’s like a Playday where everyone has been invited.
In the streets today I walked and a small child from the other side of the road threw a snowball in my direction, which was returned by myself throwing one to hit her feet, which we bot then smiled and carried on our way.
Snow makes everything ok; people shop like its Christmas but without any signs of being moody. For me snowballs are strange because it just feels kind of cool, throwing it and it making no sound when it hits the snow lying on the ground, it’s so cool.
Everyone is happy, oh and its finally ok to be cold. The parents that usually complain about their children being out in the rain are now happy for their children to be rolling around in the snow. Big whoopee tee dooo!
And then the sound snow makes as you walk around, I know i find myself stomping through the snow as I did 15 years ago just to make prints and hear it go crunch underneath me, what a feeling.
Personal thoughts regarding working around family, the space where although we build up social relationships with the children I suddenly found myself working in a space where my cousin was also playing therefore changing it to become an emotional relationship.
Should this make a difference? What changes when you bring personal into a work ethic of play?
Cousin having an acknowledgement of what I do and his understanding of it (I go to work to play when the children want me to, or need me to). Does this effect his play process within the environment? Not really, his playfulness with language and gestures didn’t change and he adapted to a environment, sending play cues out and having them returned but with the boundaries with other children being tested. Children complained to me, or to another staff member if unsure about approaching me suggesting they would punch him if he continued to call them ‘queer’ or a ‘twat’. My response surprised myself sometimes by insisting that they should approach him and tell him that but just a small mention that he could handle himself. Was this my protective family instinct kicking in. Was it right bringing him to ‘work’ with me all week? Would I have responded to another child if they had said the same about a different child, probably not but because I knew Charlie inside out and how he ticks I was aware that
He was arriving early to leave to come along where he would start of ‘I’m going to do a fire today’ ‘Is Jack coming today, do you know’
The Thursday afternoon came and Charlie with a lot of the other children was making use of a new volley ball net, making the rules up as they went along staff were included and provided the children with quite a laugh when they slid along the floor attempting to get in reach of the ball. But it was this that power was resumed when Charlie and Harry both went for the ball but faces crossed paths and a shove went in Charlies direction. I mouthed ‘you alright’ to Charlie
Why I question this I am unsure at this moment but there is something kicking about back there telling me there is more to it than meets the eye.
I will come back to this shortly to continue…
I have gathered recently some stories of what have become interesting to me, some of which could be labelled as rebellious, troublesome or even inappropriate behaviour by those who are unfamiliar with playwork.
Now although playwork is something we all see as a great thing that should be recognised more, why do we or even I see it as something so far away from any other profession?
The play stories I have noticed have become to provide with patterns where the children swear, play around with adult’s boundaries and are just naturally cheeky. So what is it that makes me want to take note of these particular play experiences? I have pondered over this question for a few evening now and have come up with the following answer, now I cannot guarantee this is right but in playwork I have come to realise there is no right only a way that is right to the individual.
Childhood is the answer…As a child I loved to get into mischief with the group I would hang around with. One lunch time at school still stands in the back of my head, it was another episode of me ending up outside the head teacher’s office anyhow but this time was different. My friend who usually stood the other side of the office door was ill so I was left alone on one side with no-one to pull faces at whilst dodging the teachers who would walk past. Other times were fun to be sent it just to push the boundaries even further.
Does all of our childhood show through in our playwork practice?
I recently have begun to look more into depth of Un-play-out material (Sturrock, Else & Russell, 2004) explored in ‘Towards Ludogogy’. Un-played-material is a theory that can be seen in many other publications as well explores the way that adults play out their own un-played experiences through the play of children. A way of adulterating children’s play to meet their own needs, although it could be unconsciously happening we should recognise this and change our need for this, also sometimes changing the perception we look upon things. As a playworker we seek to ensure that children control the content of their play which where the playworker needs to ‘recognise their own impact on the play space’ (Playwork principle 7) and play process. This theory I hope to bring more on as I read more and have more to go alongside.
Back to the question, I do believe that all of us whatever our childhood was like will at some stage come out as an adult whether it’s through conversation, work or play. For playworkers this is easier because a lot of children enjoy to hear about what we got up to even if it’s the boring stuff because then they can have a laugh, but the cool stuff well they love to try it out themselves and soon realise that they already do it just in their own way.
That’s it for now 🙂
The playground had just opened for the session and the first of the children arrived, Robert and Carter ran towards the top of the playground whilst Dylan, Max and myself finished our before session meeting. Carter back through the door (seeming rather out of breath) and closely followed by Robert ‘Vicky come and look, this is your type of thing there’s a dead squirrel’ Now for myself although knowing these children well because they drop by most days I did wonder why if it was a dead animal they were coming to me, normally it would be Dylan or…me. Max showed no interest in the squirrel even as I began walking out the gate. The boys who seemed to encourage me to run to the top of the playground ‘come on Vicky’ Normally I would be the first one running past the children especially in a game of run-outs but today was the day I decided to take my time, after all the squirrel was not going anywhere it was dead!
I eventually almost reached the top where the squirrel was lying underneath a tree ‘ugh’ I said looking over at the squirrel, ‘what do you want me to do with that’. Although I was not sure what to expect I felt pleased that the children were not going to touch it at this stage, thinking back to a time when they chased me with a dead blackbird, lovely. I sensed that I was the one that was expected to move it so I walked away on the search of something to pick it up with, finding a piece of wood which was perfect.
Robert had begun to record the whole frame on his phone to put up on Facebook; this was bigger than just a bit of play in the playground. What is it that social networking does to incorporate this type of play?
Feeling ok with everything so far but still wondering why I was asked to come up instead of Dylan (were they expecting some particular response). Anyhow I dropped the wood to the floor and began to push it underneath the squirrel but it was proved difficult to get the slightly loose head to play ball with us, seeing Robert poke the squirrel with the stick I grabbed one from close by and began to also, which soon had the squirrel on the wood ready for moving. ‘Hello’ Robert said in different voices as he moved the head around. I felt abit squeamish by now but knew it was something I was expected to do and part of the role of the playworker to do so, although I could swap with another staff member. I was hoping to see where the squirrel took them in this game.
Why did I not swap if I felt uncomfortable? My own boundaries, someone who does not usually feel squeamish was willing to explore where it took me. Would the feeling change for the better or worse?
We began to walk down the playground where I was shouted to show Dylan who was still inside with Max; I stopped just outside the door laying the wood down on the wall. I was told to take it inside on the way down but yet I changed what they wanted why? Emotions of other children who may have arrived, playworkers feelings, the smell of the environment, all this changes the links that make it become an affective environment for all. The boys said nothing about me stopping at the wall.
‘Stick it in the bin’ Dylan responded after seeing it, we walked around to the side. Splat! The squirrel hit the bottom of the freshly emptied bin lay there as peacefully.
As children arrived, Carter and Robert shared the experience with others and took them to the bin almost to prove it was true and not made up. They looked to enjoy sharing the story and within 30 minutes a group of children had heard the story. Mary asked the playworkers if it really happened, agreeing Dylan shared an experience that back in Liverpool as a child they would find rats and put them in the road. Mary cottoned on quickly and asked me to support her whilst she climbed into the bin, unsure of the consequences I agreed but with a watching eye of a teacher nearby I was positive throughout joking with Mary about how much she smelt. Although the teacher seemed to be happy by everything going on I felt that something was going to go wrong as usual when a parent or teacher visits with children, but we carried on. The squirrel was lifted from its new found home and taken round the outside to the nearby road where it dropped from the bridge ‘splat! once again it went and then the children took it in turns to kick it into place when the cars drove past, each time it missed the children would scream and then finally after near on 30 cars driving past one hit it. The children cheered with joy and their faces although a couple seemed abit upset they all cheered, it seemed that the couple did not want to be the one who stepped away having come this far.
I welcome any feedback you have about this story, all feedback will help me to reflect so please do comment or feel free to contact me.
I was suprised when my youngest cousin began her turn of choosing a word and as we began to guess letters they were crossed off at the bottom underneath the _ _ _ which spelt Bullseye (the name of her dog) in her mind. This got me thinking about how langauge can sometimes be very clear to one but not another, another being someone who may not have a clue about it. With my cousin having a good idea of what letters we should guess we were none the wiser even after she explained. Is this the same with playwork? We continue to explain what we are trying to ‘achieve’ with playwork and the rights children have to when it comes to something so basic as play but do people really get it or is it as i did today just a nod of the head?
Are we using the right language or is that we have come up with such a individual langauge that only ourselves understand? Were we right to do this after all other professionals carry with them languages with big words that others untrained do not understand.
I believe that by having playwork terms if we have the confidence to explaint he meaning behind them then so be it, go on and use them but when there comes a time and we haven’t a clue of the meaning well…go and look it up and then use it. Playworkers are professionals in a difficult field where networks fall into one, playworkers knowing lots of names and lots of contact going around at anyone time. Is this what makes playwork so different to another profession, I’m not sure but it sure if great to be able to discuss different practice with other playworkers.
Oh and obviously the box in the picture is the man being hung, how can we not see that? But we do see that most of the time when children take on a journey through their play.