It’s Play Time for Teacher

I am the youngest of four children. Therefore, it was my birthright to become a clown, the fun one, a good kind of “player.” Instead, I became a teacher. And, for me, this role brought all the attendant expectations: long days, not-a-few sleepless nights, regular coffee-fueled thrusts towards pedagogical glory.

So, it should come as no surprise that when I see a week of spring break sprawled out in front of me, I start to calculate how much I can accomplish in order to get caught up at work (as if such an elusive state actually exists). But then, that baby-in-the-family in me reaches out from the deep recesses to wave her tiny finger and say, “Not so fast, Missy!”

As a psychologist, I know the importance of play. But, I constantly have to remind myself that all work and no play actually makes Dr. Duggan a tightly-wound shell of a human. Not exactly what I’m going for in life.

Before we went on break, I asked my Health Psychology students about what they do for play. One of them immediately popped up with, “Define play!” (I love these people!) According to Merriam-Webster, to play is to “engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.”

It turns out, students and teachers alike can get caught up into cycles of overwork. Our talk about play in class quickly morphed into a discussion of “Who the hell has time?” However, one of my students mentioned giving and getting tattoos as a form of recreation. Another student said playing with her dog is her go-to for enjoyment. The conversation moved into other forms of play, such as watching TV, playing video games, and hanging out with friends.

My students inspire me, and so far my break is off to a good start. Yesterday I jogged around the park with my friends and went out for a nice breakfast after. Today, I read (for pleasure) and got a foot massage. And then there’s my daily Wordle and even more-fun Nerdle. I will do some schoolwork this week, of my choosing and on my schedule, because that feels good, too.

Me and my favorite playmates

As teachers with a seasonal schedule that includes breaks every few months, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “I’ll relax once (X).” But, “X” is always replaced with another “X.” We stretch ourselves tight with overwork during the semester because relief seems just around the corner on the calendar.

But as I’ve experienced, that rubber band of overwork springs back hard. As a result of the snap-back, the break I dreamed of could easily amount to curling up on the couch in a ball of protection, dreading the return to work. Again, not what I’m going for.

Investing time in play throughout the school year (and not just on breaks) is a goal for this serious teacher. I’m always looking for ideas – What do you do for play?

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