When I first started working with children, I was barely an adult myself. At 16, I was met with a room full of tiny people all looking at me with expectant little faces. I was just a teenager, in a voluntary role, and the only thing I knew how to do was to have fun. So that’s what we did.
It was only around 5 years later did I realise that my first day looking after children was very significant. Though I was placed in a teaching and supervisory role, I never insisted that children followed my instructions precisely. I allowed creativity, exploration, green elephants and flying monkeys. And I never felt like I was teaching, but I had no other word for what I did. I allowed children to take the lead in our lessons together and tailored all the teaching materials according to their needs and wants. On that first day of teaching I had decided that I wasn’t a teacher.
And then one wonderful day when I came across the word “Playwork”.
It turns out, all those years, unbeknown to myself, I had been practicing playwork. I didn’t know that I was doing it, but upon reading the googled websites, I realised that I was wholeheartedly agreeing with the guidelines for being a playworker. I accepted a job at an afterschool club where I would be working as a playworker, but very soon I realised that the organisation that I was with wasn’t necessary working with the child’s best interests in mind. My role was a childminder at best, with a generous portion of parent and teacher roles on the side. I wasn’t working as a playworker, but I knew I wanted to be, so I left the job and went on a quest to find out more.
I am fortunate that after leaving that job I was able to find an actual playworking job in an organisation that had a passion for play. They trained me, and mentored me to become the playworker I am today, but for a long time I was very confused. I have always wished that someone could have come along to tell me the specifics of playwork, and explain to me just why play was important to children and why my role as a playworker had a significant impact in the world. I had to find out the hard way that there are like minded people out there who see children for who they are, and not just as a future adult. I look back and wish that I didn’t need to struggle through the first few years of my career, carving a path into a play when there was already an existing and vibrant crowd of professionals who are always ready to spread their wisdom on playwork, and their experiences in the field.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you are very lucky. You have an expert in play coming to you. You have Marc Armitage coming to your local area to talk about the importance of play and playwork, and not only that, he is a wonderful playworker, really fun to hang out with, and a joy to work with. If someone like him had come to me, right at the beginning, I would have been the first one there, on the front row, lapping in their every word. But this doesn’t happen all the time, and it definitely can’t get much better. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Marc Armitage on his Keep Calm and Play On tour. Don’t miss out on it.
For more information about Marc Armitage’s Keep Calm and Play On tour, please visit http://popupadventureplay.