“Dear Mr. Fantasy….
….play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
Do anything take us out of this gloom…” -Traffic.
We’re all creatures of habit. And there’s some comfort there. As teachers and students and parents we often sink into the familiar rather than explore unchartered waters. And that’s really where all the fun is. Kids know that when they are young: watch them play and spin reality into fantasy and back to reality faster than we channel surf.
At times the rigidity and gloom of too many school curriculums can rob them of their creativity unless we as parents allow, encourage and participate with them in creative activities like the one my colleague Matthew Worwood described in his wonderful 11.22.14 post on “ten items that must be included in a dressing up box.” Sometimes I think fantasy gets too much bad press from the sociological/psychological gurus. Here’s another guru for you:
“The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.” ― A. Einstein
There are no rules in unchartered waters. As parents and teachers we want to equip our kids with the navigational tools to explore these waters, but too often we are reluctant to go there ourselves. It has been reiterated many times that we are now educating students for jobs that don’t even exist yet. Unchartered waters.
It’s often the parents and teachers that need the encouraging to use their fantasies to explore and not the kids.
I used to teach 11th grade English at the high school. The whole curriculum was British Literature. Imagine teaching Macbeth (or Beowulf!) to a room of really reluctant readers at 7:30 in the morning the first week in September. Many of these kids had never read a book from cover to cover in their lives.
I shared a room with Sean Malloy – an amazing teacher but a misguided fanatic Red Sox follower. The students always enjoyed the playful banter between the two of us since I’m from NYC and a die-hard Yankee fan. As we drove to work in the morning passed trailer parks and local diners, we listened to sports radio and often talked of curriculum – and then tried, with mixed results, various instructional strategies to engage the students in Shakespeare.
The students loved our rat-a-tat-tat taunting of each other with regards to our opposing baseball teams. And one morning we slipped into unchartered territory and the whole game changed:
Both classes were reading Hamlet and one of us suddenly asked, “If Rosencrantz and Guildenstern played baseball – what position would they play?
Stop. The room went quiet. Everyone in the room looked at us. What are these teachers taking about? It made no sense. Where’s the logic? Baseball and Hamlet?
And the other shot back, “They’d have to play shortstop & 2nd base – they’re a perfect double play combination!”
And we were off to the races…..
The kids loved it. Instant engagement. We put the names of all the characters from Hamlet on the board and had the students discuss each one – and then had them assign characters in the play to baseball positions based on their personal attributes and their relationships in the play. Collaboratively teachers and students formulated a line-up that bears some resemblance to the following:
-Hamlet – contemplative, reflective, can be rash and impulsive – Center field
-Claudius – shrewd, conniving, tries to control the game – Pitcher
-Laertes = Claudius’ catcher, as he’s receptive to everything the “bastard” throws his way
-Gertrude – charm and grace – desires a good position – 1st base
-Rosencrantz & Guildenstern – Shortstop and 2nd base (double-play combo)
-Horatio – 3rd base – because Hamlet’s discussions with him are close to home.
-Ophelia – (DEEP) left field
-Bernardo or Marcellus – platoon in right field-based on righty/lefty pitching matchups
-Fortinbras – comes in from the bullpen to close it out.
-Polonius – Manager
-Old King Hamlet’s ghost – General Manager – as he gets the wheels in motion.
-Yorick’s skull would be displayed in Monument Park, and the Gravedigger would be the mascot.
The fluidity of the above exercise can stretch way beyond the classroom to spontaneous and creative moments that you can share with your kids. The other night our family was sitting around the dining room table laughing as our three pit bull rescue dogs, Flash, Stella and Arlo entertained themselves and us with an endless series of antics. We started talking about their very different characteristics – at which point my ten year-old daughter (having just finished yet another book in a adventure series about the Greek gods) – asked, “If Flash was a Greek god….which one would he be……”
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” ― A. Einstein