Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.
– Joseph Chilton Pearce
We’ve arrived at that part of the school year where The Man can get you down. Usually, The Man is time – time together, time between breaks, time in the house during the bleaker months. This year, The Man has incarnations in the form of budget cuts, layoffs, the neutering of organized labor, and, yes, time.
Between sections of standardized testing today, I sent Chris a message.
“Can Pia lead us in a game at the staff meeting today?”
“Dunno,” was his reply.
I didn’t think about it again until I walked into the library a few minutes before the meeting.
There stood Pia, our health and P.E. teacher and one of my dearest friends, blowing up a beach ball.
“You’ve never looked sexier,” I said as the limp orb hung from her mouth.
We both cracked up.
Chris started the meeting.
There we sat, 30 professionals battling to get kids into college, through testing, to counseling, beyond adolescence. Somewhere in there, we teach and learn. If we have the time and energy after, we cobble together lives with friends and family.
“Before we get started,” Chris said, “Pia has a game for us.”
She broke the library in half with a clear dividing line.
“We’re playing chair volleyball,” she said. “This is the line. If it hits the floor after you touch it, the opposing team gets a point. Beyond the pole is out of bounds. You have to stay in your chair to hit the ball. All body parts are fair game.”
A couple teachers straggled in.
Both sides of the room erupted, “You’re on our team! You’re on our team!”
In our shirts and ties and our skirts and heels, we were 12.
Pia sent the new arrivals to my team.
After the other side protested, she said, “I cheat how I wanna cheat.”
I walked to her and palmed her a dollar.
“Okay, so it’s 1—0 to start,” she said indicating my team was up a point.
And then it began. It was tremendous.
The ball bounced off of people and bookshelves and the ceiling and tables and chairs. We were screaming and yelling and laughing.
Somehow, Pia’s scoring bounced around as often as the ball, and I got the definite feeling, no matter who scored the most points, the game was headed for a tie.
After about 10 minutes, Pia called the game and we clapped and laughed and sounded our barbaric yawps.
Sometimes, in the middle of a class just after lunch, when heads are bobbing and eyes are heavy, I’ll have my class stand and compete to see who can stand on their tiptoes or one foot the longest.
That’s what we did as a faculty today. March is the class after lunch of the school year. Later in the meeting, we talked about differentiation, multiculturalism and school partnerships – the business of school.
For 10 minutes, we took time to play and be people together.