I just read the personal story of Cas Holman, the Associate Professor of Industrial Design at Rhode Island School of Design, and I am blown away by her inventiveness with play in the classroom. The account of the paths that got her where she is today begin with a discussion of her uncertainty regarding what she wanted to do with her life as an undergraduate student. I think everyone in college can relate to that feeling of not quite knowing what you want to do with YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. She talks about this, however, and how you should be more worried if you know exactly what you want to do. This limits your chance to explore all the different things that the world has to offer.
One quote of hers that I really liked was, “you don’t have to become something you already see.” She was saying this in the context of the broadening scope of humanity’s potential, most notably in sciences. But I was thinking how this might apply to English teaching. One of my reservations I had when becoming an English education major, was that most of my English teachers in school were not very good. I didn’t want to become what I saw. I saw teachers that didn’t really invest into their lesson plans, and didn’t seem excited about what they were teaching. But what Holman said really speaks to me. I don’t have to become a boring teacher. I can become a teacher the likes of which this world has never seen before.
I was also trying to think about how her piece on learning materials for play and discovery could translate to an English classroom. She was mostly talking about materials for younger students, but I do believe that play could be an amazing tool in the classroom to get students engaged and teach them in creative ways. What I came up with was that I could really engage texts with props, performances, readings, and other fun activities for my students. I could create games that students could play, role playing parties, RAFT assignments, cross-curricular activities which get the students up and moving, and having fun all the while.
Something else she talked about was leaving out instructions from learning materials. This was for creativity toys, but I’m sure I could integrate that into my classroom in the form of open-ended prompts, like, I’m talking very open-ended, one-word prompts, perhaps. Or just letting the students guide their own instruction more. This plays a lot into the connected learning materials I am reading about student interest-driven activities. If assignments are more open-ended, students will let their interests guide their direction, enhancing the connected learning. What I will most take away from the story, though, is simply to be creative with my students, and to let them show me what they can do. I’m sure I’ll be amazed with the results!