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Playing in the City and in the Classroom

Samantha Plate's picture

Samantha Plate

Play In The City


Playing in the City and in the Classroom

I can’t quite remember what I expected this course would be like. It seems like so long ago that I was scrolling through the Emily Balch Seminar choices and the one entitled Play in the City caught my eye. Whatever it was that I did expect I know I was nowhere close to imagining the amazing experiences I have had this first quarter.

While I came in knowing that we would be playing in the city, I did not realize that we would also be playing in the classroom. From the first day, when we spent time exploring the physical classroom, I knew this Emily Balch Seminar was going to be a different experience than the other seminars that had been options. This thought has only been enforced over the past few weeks. Our unconventional assignments have really encouraged the idea of playing in the classroom and I have enjoyed every minute of it. One of my favorite assignments was when we created a mosaic out of the reading. Not only was this a nice break from writing responses and other dull assignments I had in my other classes, but I also really connected with the reading and this assignment helped me to view it in a different way. These assignments have helped me to read in different ways and view readings from different angles.

This is exactly what this class is all about to me- learning to view things in different ways. Taking the simple act of reading and considering all the complexities it encompasses, like we did during The Quiet Volume. Viewing a day in the city as a mosaic itself. Imagining the city as art and play, through the lenses Flanagan creates. Letting go of rules and letting serendipity guide me. Before this class I had never really thought about how I viewed the city, or anything else for that matter. This includes my writing.

This course has already taught me how to write in so many different ways. Gone is the constraining 5 paragraph essay structure. I now think a lot harder about how I want to structure my essay, since it is not preset for me. I’ve begun to reform not only how I write, but also how I think about writing. I’m used to having teacher’s grade my papers, tell me what’s “right” and “wrong” and how to improve. In this class, however, I’ve only been given insight into how I write, and how others view it, with no concept of whether it is “good” or bad”. This took a little while to get used to at first. After making the adjustment however, I find it liberating. I no longer need to worry whether or no I’m hitting all the marks on a rubric. I always used to be so worried about what I had to do to get a good grade and it made me very self-conscious about my writing. Instead I can now focus more on what I want to write and forming my own style. I also find the feedback I get very helpful because other people are often able to see nuances that I can’t in my own writing. In addition, by having us post our essays online, we are forced to let go. I’m used to only having my teacher, and occasionally a peer editor, read my work. Now that I am posting my essays on the internet, I have to accept that others are going to read them. There is a sense of releasing when I press the button to publish my essays and it is forcing to me to let go of my insecurities. All of these aspects have helped me to become less self-conscious about my writing, which makes the writing process easier and more enjoyable.

My journey in this course so far has been illuminating. I have been able to slowly start to shed all my preconceived notions of both writing and the city. As I discussed in my first essay, I have lived near the city my whole life, but I haven’t really experienced it. We are only half way through the semester and I already feel like I am becoming a part of the city. I am starting to know my way around and feel more comfortable traversing the city. This class has made me realize that we don’t play enough. Our everyday lives don’t leave much time for play and serendipity. Having these set days where I can forget about my busy schedule and classwork and just play has made me realize how important play is. I am excited to continue these trips the rest of the semester and even after. I want to make sure I continue to play in the city when it is no longer mandatory.