The Opposite of “Play” is Depression


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Play – its opposite isn’t “work” but “depression.” I heard this in a TED Hour story on  NPR called “How Does Play Shape Our Development?”. Among other findings, Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, learned in his studies of the lives of murderers that they all lacked play in childhood. In interviews of thousands of people to catalog their relationships with play, Brown noted a strong correlation between playful activity and success. Play in both children and adults lights up activity in the frontal lobe, creating connections that help in problem-solving and risk-taking.

I also read a story today that “Science Suggests a Relationship Between Geekiness and Happiness.”  Recently, in February, educators around the world celebrated Global School Play Day. In American society, we understand that the “work” of childhood is primarily to play.

Yet a school on Long Island NY cancelled its annual kindergarten show so kids could keep working to become “college and career ready.” Given all these finding and reactions to standardized testing, perhaps it’s time educators insist on spending more time on what research shows is best for children and less time on excessive testing and test prep. It’s downright depressing.



Sing Strum Smile

This is my Ibanez bass guitar I got for my birthday a few years ago. She lives in our “home studio” populated by my husband’s and son’s electric and acoustic-electric guitars, mics, mixer, sitar, guzheng, amps, and recording stuff I don’t understand. That’s my concertina behind and to the left, though. We jammed some tonight and my poor, tender fingertips suffered. But I’d forgotten how fun it is to make music together! I need to resume the habit to build up those calluses again. Depending on the research, it takes either 21 or 66 days to form a habit. So I’m looking at summertime. Stay tuned!

When Kitties Attack

Pictured is my normally placid and loving Siberian forest cat, Midnight. His ears are back and eyes almost as dilated as earlier when he attacked me (I’m fine). In all fairness, he warned me vociferously, then nipped at my hand, before feinting toward my face. Apparently he objected to my practicing one of the songs for our school’s upcoming Faculty Follies. I’m not that bad a singer, honestly! But Midnight freaks out every time I sing aloud. 

A cursory Google search reveals others share my “pain.” I found numerous YouTube videos of cats freaking out at singing as well as  queries on pet forums, but no satisfactory explanations. In the meantime, to keep the peace, I guess I’ll restrict my rehearsing to when Midnight is outside or I’m in the shower. Maybe I’ll ask one of my students researching pets for their 20% Time Project to add a tab on feline music preferences.

Science Fiction Simultaneity


For the first time in my career, ALL my students are reading science fiction at the same time. I am in geek heaven! My juniors are reading 1984 and my elective students are reading Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. The latter is tough to get into, especially for the non-readers in the class, but they find the story’s “what if?” fascinating, that this humanoid race is androgynous. What if WE lived in a world with no distinct gender roles?

Before getting too far into the novel, I train my students to identify the Cognitive Strategies (see Carol Booth Olson’s research) they use in reading so they can read more intentionally and closely. We do a fun activity where they record themselves reading and thinking aloud, then identify three strategies and document them, including the recording, in a Google Slides presentation. Students enjoy using their cell phones for schoolwork and hanging out outside on a spring day in SoCal to make their recordings.



Warm Fuzzies


My top Google search is “baby animals” because I choose a new image every day to project as my students walk into my classroom. This was today’s “awww-inspiring” picture. I explained to my classes that I picked it because I had spent the weekend visiting my mom. As she gets older, having survived my dad and most of her friends, I cherish every day I can still talk to her.

I joke about my blatant emotional manipulation, but finding a fresh, happy baby animal to share every day sets MY mood as well as my students’. I certainly prefer it to my former practice of projecting my agenda for each class. It’s also less demanding cognitively than, say, a quote of the day. Several teachers, as part of our WASC data collection, shadowed students one day. How daunting to have to switch rooms and gears within a six-minute passing period from taking a geometry test, to analyzing Wuthering Heights, to setting up a science lab, then performing a skit in Spanish, THEN lunch, learning a history lesson, and working out at sports practice. The least I can do is provide a visual warm fuzzy as they transition to English class.

The Importance of Being Empathetic


My Brit Lit juniors just finished studying  The Importance of Being Earnest, hence, this  post’s title. I participated in two stimulating Twitter EdTech chats yesterday where empathy emerged as a key element in student engagement, problem solving, and the design thinking process. I love the diagram above as a reminder for how to approach so many issues in life.

Empathy also came up during my journey home from visiting my mom in Fremont. The news that my flight was delayed an hour made me grumpy. Seeing five people in wheelchairs at my gate and assuming they would all take a long time to board made me grumpier, I’m ashamed to admit. Then I observed them more closely. All were elderly; most were cheerful; several appeared to be traveling together. I thought about how my frail mom refuses to travel by air any more and reflected on how wonderful and spunky these wheelchair travelers were. I want to be them when I grow up. I empathize.

You Can (Sort of) Go Home Again

image.jpegMy family lived here (155 Surmont, Los Gatos) for one year when we first moved to California in the 70’s. There were no bushes and only newly-planted trees at the time, and both the top floor (visible), the floor below it, and shrubs on the slope were open to the street. It’s located at the border of Los Gatos and San Jose, very near Union Middle School, where I attended EdCamp San Jose. Afterward, I took a nostalgic drive to the old neighborhood and my former junior high, now called a middle school.


I’m probably not alone in having less-than-idyllic memories of 8th grade. It was hard enough being an outsider at a school where everyone else had already attended for a year, but I was also an academic odd fish. I rewrote an Agatha Christie novel into a screenplay and performed it with half-hearted “volunteers.” I aced all the grammar tests. I read voraciously. My English teacher finally made me his “teaching assistant” to give me something to do while he delivered curriculum to my classmates.

Happily, teachers today are able to differentiate more effectively than back in the day. I love a motto that I’be heard but whose attribution I forget: “I want to be the teacher I needed at that age.”