First off let me say unequivocally that I have the utmost respect for teachers and the work they do. Their job is often thankless, definitely undervalued economically, and challenging. Balancing all the groups and goals, Americans especially, have put on schools has gotten to be a near 24-hour gig, and that isn’t good for anyone. Now, about play, a good friend of mine gave this response to your question, “How can we NOT incorporate play into the classroom?” to which, I give a hearty YES!
Play is the child’s job, the teacher’s job is to provide environments, opportunities, structures and values that incorporate play. By opportunities, I mean using games and puzzles, conundrums and paradoxes that intrigue the mind. This morning while thinking about this question a video came across my Social Media feeds that show a man (Tadashi Tokieda) pushing a large circular cork coaster through a small square in a piece of paper. He reveals the magic without hesitation, and the mystery is not solved but rather is enhanced. No child who watches this could help but wonder what is happening. Watch this video for yourself and see...you will know what he does...but you are likely to have more questions at the end than were answered. This is the heart of playful learning, where one idea draws out many many more. Look for opportunities like this.
Create in your classroom, social structures that allow students to foster their creativity and to ask the questions that plague their minds. It is hard in the middle of a day where you know you have to get through certain aspects of the curriculum, resist that tyranny. Isn’t that the very goal of disruption? :)
Lastly, value laughter and joy in your classroom over everything else or well at least enough that you make daily decisions to be playful and allow playfulness. Shift the work to the child, let them accomplish their job description: Play.One other postscript to this question, I am reminded of the Latin meaning of “curriculum.” During the Roman Empire, horse-drawn carriages and carts were the means of moving goods and people. After dozens of years of trudging ruts would be worn into those famous “Roman Roads,” those ruts were called curriculae. Don’t fall into a rut.