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Gambling with Nonsense: Play and the Secondary English Classroom

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Dominant and common-sense contemporary conceptions of practice tend to frame the emotional volatility of the classroom – most commonly explored in discussions about student behaviour – as a fundamental obstacle to teaching and learning. The ‘outstanding’ classroom is both orderly and, paradoxically perhaps, characterised by its passionate, and vocal, student engagement. In this piece I draw on D.W. Winnicott’s writing about play and aggression, exploring his ideas in the context of my work with two classes as a secondary English teacher at an inner-city comprehensive; doing so, I attempt to reframe both my own and my students’ affectively charged experience of the classroom as valuable rather than problematic. I posit certain moments of playfulness as a kind of pedagogical patience: less an evasion of, or a disruption to, the business of the curriculum, and more a route to meaningful engagement with it.
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Keywords: Winnicott; affect; play; psychoanalytic theory; transference

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK

Publication date: January 2, 2015

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