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Connecting the Dots

pbernal's picture

Jessica Bernal

Play in the City-ESEM


Connecting the dots


All I needed to learn in life to survive, I learned in third grade. Mrs. Washington, my third grade teacher, she deserved teacher of the year awards and perhaps a life supply of Diet Coke just to keep her smiling. That woman had been teaching for twenty-two years and still got out of her red Buick every morning. She meant well and of course wanted the best for a couple of eight year olds, which at that time just meant making it to high school alive. I learned what R&B music was like and how within minutes the rhythm would sway your body side to side. I learned why my best friend’s hair didn’t feel or look like mine and most importantly, why she was darker than I. She wasn’t the ideal teacher parents would want their kids in school with. Instead of focusing on fractions and spelling the hardest words imaginable, we’d watch movies. I learned more from watching those movies than I would’ve learned from any show on PBS or the Discovery Channel for that matter.

I learned to take a step back from it all and letting the play unfold character by character and each scene connecting to each other like connecting dots. Once the movie starts, everything in the room fades and everyone disappears into dust.

The movie plays for me, for my enjoyment, for my eccentric and sarcastic thoughts, not for anyone else. By watching movies, I not only played with life but I also learned how to analyze people and their actions, like Flanagan states, “Critical play means to create or occupy play environments and activities that represent one or more questions about aspects of human life.” (Flanagan, 6)

As I walk out into Philadelphia the idea of no one knowing my name yet alone caring who I am makes the movie even better. I’m walking and the soundtrack from my movie plays from all the corners of the city. The trees rustle as the wind blows its secrets throughout the city. The chubby black boy languidly walking next to his mom as they try to get to the next traffic light. They [the actors] prance in their own scene without caring who listens in. They’re making their own music with the beat of the city.

I just want to keep walking, keep watching scene by scene without interrupting. I want to sit back and enjoy the movie. My experience of both trips in the city is incomplete. I’m connecting the dots as the trips go on. I’m analyzing the bits and pieces of conversations I overhear as I’m walking on. They way the business man holds his posture as he tries to squeeze in through the crowd in south street as if knowing he doesn’t belong with the rest of the people who seem to forget there’s such a thing as a spine holding them up.

Watching movies throughout the third grade was one of the most valuable lessons I learned in my life. My experiences stream themselves into movies and evolve into their own stage and I am their one and only invisible audience member. I play critically by thought, not necessarily physically, my mind and thoughts have power upon my experiences, I simply connect the dots.  


Anne Dalke's picture

My life in the movies

It's very evocative, the way you present your experiences in the city as if you were in a movie.

This is quite a nice figure of speech.


What's the argument of your paper?

How is it structured?

What question does it end with, that you might pursue next week?

(You end saying that you "mind and thoughts have power over your experiences."

I wonder if the experiences never "push back"?)

Also, when you say that "by watching movies, you played with life," I'm put in mind of the TED talk by Jane McGonigle, "Gaming Can Make a Better World," which Tomahawk called to our attention.

Would you watch it and let us know what you think....?

How does it play with (alter or challenge?) the idea you're working here?

Muni's picture

Jessica's essay is about

Jessica's essay is about being a spectator to the world as compared to a movie. She experiences play in the city as if each person around her has a story, and she is an observer. At the same time, she is in her own world, her movie set within the city. 

Clairity's picture

The beginning and the end of

The beginning and the end of Jessica's essay are based on the valuable lessons from her third grade teacher which enabled her to appreciate the world differently. Then she uses a beautiful movie metaphor inspired by her teacher to write the rest of the essay. Her experience of playing is like being in a movie and observing other actors performing. She's still connecting dots in her two trips to Philadelphia, which are to be continued.