A letter from Washington DC Playmaker Cathy Morrison.
Thanks to the Playmakers, I have fallen in love all over again! This time last year, I found myself in quite a rut and stuck in the mud. Every morning, I would go into the classroom and greet the little ones who had been entrusted to my care with a weak, hurried smile wondering with dread how many crises I would have to deal with, how many tears I would have to wipe, how many more minutes I would have to keep up the happy face until dismissal. I’m not sure when or how my love for teaching started diminishing, but I could feel the fire burning low and after twenty years of teaching I was ready to walk away from what has been my life passion. Then one day as I was searching the internet for lesson plan ideas to inspire my students, I tripped upon a link for the Life is good Playmakers and that began my journey to be a Life is good Playmaker.
I signed up for training hoping to find a few ideas to get my class through the daily stress of the classroom. Play seemed like a good place to start. Over the years, my closet has become crammed full of all sorts of equipment, balls, jump ropes, dolls, trucks, and building blocks. At playtime I would pull these out and tell the kids to play for the allotted fifteen minutes. When I put them back in the closet, I would always make sure I kept the big bag holding the parachute carefully hidden. Why? The beautiful colorful parachute was the bane of my existence. Every time I pulled it out the students cheered, they LOVED the bright colors flowing in the air; but I had grown to hate it. To me the parachute meant chaos and tears. Someone would always get hurt or frustrated or have their feelings bruised and the wonderful flowing colors of the day that we imagined would end in a pool of tears with me feeling very tense and snapping at the students “if we can’t play nicely with the toys, we’ll have to put them away”. And with that I’d take the parachute and toss it back in the closet. Over time the parachute came out less and less until finally it was hidden and forgotten.
So you can imagine my dread when I walked into the first day of Playmakers training to see a HUGE parachute on the ground, all spread out with its beautiful primary colors gleaming. The one piece of equipment that had caused so much chaos in my classroom was inviting me to pick it up and engage with it. Thankfully over the course of the training, I began to see why the kids cheered and loved the parachute so much. It was indeed FUN and made you actively engage and interact with your friends in such a way that you immersed yourself into this colorful world. As I laughed and cheered while we played with it, I felt the spark of love for the parachute rekindling something deep down in me, re-lighting my passion for teaching and my trust in my gifts and talents to do it well. I knew then I wasn’t ready to give up on inspiring and teaching the little ones who were entrusted to me each day.
I now use the parachute every day. It’s part of our community. It’s the place where we reconnect as a classroom community. It’s where we say good morning to ourselves, our bodies, our friends and our world. It’s where we learn to take care of each other and keep each other safe as we wash our “smooshies” in the pot. It’s where we learn to use our voices to share what we want the parachute to become, whether a fruit bowl or a racetrack or a wave-maker. It’s home base and the place where we go when we’re not sure of ourselves during more active games. In fact, it’s home. Bringing back the parachute has reminded me that as teachers we are charged with guiding our students to do all these things – to reconnect, to take care of each other, to self-actualize and become advocates for ourselves and the ones we care about. All the things we do on the parachute are what living in a community is all about.
So yes, I have fallen in love all over again with the parachute, but more importantly, I have fallen in love again with teaching and with the passion to provide my students with a solid community where they can grow into wonderful, amazing confident adults who will always remember the value of PLAY!