"At its very best, teaching is a form of intellectual play"

At its very best, teaching is a form of intellectual play in which students are invited to join. Play for the purpose of learning asks students to bring to their learning the same traits of mind and spirit called for by all genuine play--delight in chance and the unexpected, concentration, inventiveness. Those who interpret play in the classroom--whether it takes the form of games, acting, debate, or contests--as "the absence of seriousness" are mistaken. As we know from watching young children playing games, their grave attention is in pursuit of fun. So, too, with the obverse: A teacher's sheer playfulness with students can be in pursuit of knowledge. Through joking, the surprises of sharp wit, or role-playing, fun is in service to the broader aims of learning. After all, most laughter arises from recognition of truth. A teacher's laughter often means even more--an ease with a subject and mastery of it.

I found this in an article called "The Pleasure Principle" in Teacher Magazine (you have to subscribe - it's free - in order to read this). Written in 1997 by James Banner Jr. and Harold Cannon, the article set my playful heart aflutter. I think, as long as we live in a world that values success above happiness, we can never get enough validation for fun. I quote some more:

Pleasure is the one element of teaching whose acknowledgment can be made to seem illegitimate by our otherwise justified emphasis on the seriousness of learning. Yet without denying teachers' heavy responsibilities for the welfare of others and thus the gravity of their endeavor, we must also accept the place of enjoyment, both teachers' and students', as an instrument of instruction as well as a goal of learning. A joyless classroom, a seminar of unrelieved sobriety, a cynical teacher of gloomy mien--all are impediments to learning. It is laughter, playfulness, and wit that by contrast open doors to the mind as well as the heart, that are indispensable ingredients of the art of teaching.

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