Mel Hamada is a physical educator currently working in China at the International School of Beijing. She also runs her own website and blog, which can be found at www.melhamada.com. In the following post, Mel outlines how she has come to appreciate the journey of trying to guide her students toward the experience of delight.
One of the big conversations I have enjoyed as I have unpacked LAMPE‘s Meaningful PE and the features they have shared is to try and explain what is meant by Delight. Delight is not the same as joy or fun and it is important to try and distinguish between the differences as we create experiences in our classrooms.
Scott Kretchmar’s writings mention fun regularly. This is how he has explained fun:
“Things that are fun are often temporary, and they are usually not meaningful. Fun can be used like a band-aid, something that covers over a sore but doesn’t affect a lasting cure. Fun is used by physical educators to mask what could be a distasteful experience. One involving effort, sore muscles, exercise, and sweating.” Dr. Scott Kretchmar – Why Useless Play is so Useful in Educational Settings.
What we see a lot of is busy, happy students who must be having fun – and they may well be. Polling of our MS students often leads them to tell us that the activity or class was fun, but what I want to find out is how we can grow that ‘fun’ into ‘delight’. Kretchmar suggests that “growing movement playgrounds requires different approaches than providing exercise that is fun.” He suggests that to build meaningful relationships with movement we must establish opportunities for people to engage with movement over long periods of time so that the movement becomes part of our being and selves.
PE Teachers have usually tasted and experienced the depths of delight through movement. They know what it feels like, that time can disappear, that we are physically and mentally challenged and won’t always succeed or feel that it is ‘fun’ but that we always come back for more. Movement is part of our lives and souls and the collective experiences run deep. PE Teacher staff rooms can be full of sports results, training gear or workout plans, reflections of failed adventures or wish-list activities as we share experiences and results – almost in another language to students who pop in to say hello. Kretchmar often refers to this depth as the movement subculture, the place where others will wonder what you are talking about and not have the experience, language or ability to join in.
How do we guide our young apprentices (students) into this depth of movement and cultural understanding when they haven’t ever experienced it before? It is not feasible to plan a lesson around Delight; that is the Fun talking. Delight is a project that will take time. Just like eating a new vegetable for the first time, you may not like it but with more time and attention to the way it is cooked and served, you may well grow to love it. This may take a week, or a month or even longer depending on how often you eat it, who is cooking it, how adventurous you are and the engagement you have with knowledge and experience of cooking. But we don’t choose to refuse eating vegetables because of that initial encounter.
PE teachers need to plan and create long term partnerships with students to build learning experiences, by having them follow ideas and listen to conversations, we need to engage them by fully immersing them into the experiences of Movement and work hard to make whatever brings them delight a part of their life fabric.
I didn’t fall in love with Running on Day 1. I would say I didn’t really love it until I had done a full season with the MS team I trained with. The daily training, the camaraderie, the challenge of interval training and racing, the hardship of injury and learning how to look after my body and the support of my coach and teammates, helped me to see myself as a runner and through that newfound identity, I was hooked and have spent a whole life in the language of running. In the song ‘Shallow’ – there is a moment, where Lady’ Gaga’s character takes a deep breath and walks to the stage to sing. Of course, she is amazing – but all the work that happened before that moment has led to her jumping further into that deep delight – her face is priceless as she finds her confidence and then she just sings it out “I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in” – it makes my skin tingle with Goosebumps. So powerful, I have had this song on repeat for a few weeks now – it isn’t just fun, it is delightful and I lose myself every time I listen to it.
Fun can be a lesson’s work but Delight is a deep cavernous space that takes time to fill with knowledge, engagement and experience in order to understand just how powerful Movement can be.
Click here to check out the expanded version of this post on Mel’s blog.