Leisure activities transforming teaching and learning

Nov 21, 2012

The feeling of liberty, of self-awareness and of acquiring knowledge is fundamental characteristics of experiencing leisure. Leisure experiences can regenerate human acceleration, how things flow and overconsumption, concepts common to contemporary cultures which can cause anxiety, fatigue, stress and various mental illnesses.

We know that resting (both physical and mental) provides us with an essential balance which is crucial for performing activities which involve learning. According to Cuenca (2000), playing constitutes a leisure experience. Playing is part fantasy, part distraction and allows us to create a secondary conception of reality, all of which can generate enthusiasm. Stimulating these reinvigorating sensations may be an important resource in preparing the mind for the learning process.

Transmitting knowledge through the medium of playing is a regular feature in the teaching practices of Cultural Studies doctoral students, teachers Ana Evaristo, Inês Gamelas and Natália Lameiras. They each work as teachers of languages and cultures, and they consider that their professional activities which provide leisure experience are enriching both for those who learn, and for those who teach. In supporting playing games which aid learning, Ana notes that “play is essential for the age group which I teach (children from 2/3 years of age to 10 years of age). Without this entertainment element, the children would not feel as motivated to learn the English language”. Ana feels that she experiences leisure through her work, and very often, that work is simply leisure time, as during her classes, she regularly tells stories, presents the students with images and sounds or creates theatrical performances in order to present content. This leads to an emotional involvement with the activities and with the children.

Like Ana, Inês and Natália are also passionate about their professions, practices which they developed with a great deal of liberty, which allow for leisure experiences to occur whilst they are working. “As a teacher – or as a student teacher, because every day I learn something new in order to teach – I tend to follow one of my former teacher’s mottos: “teaching is sowing the future”. Basically, this is the motto in which I believe each time I enter the classroom, trying to convey knowledge about the German language and culture as clearly and succinctly as possible.” Natália stresses that teaching is not merely an activity or a work obligation, as apart from teaching and learning every day, with students of different nationalities and cultures, and having contact with her mother tongue (the French language), above all there is the opportunity to see the progress and satisfaction of the students, which makes hers an extremely rewarding craft.

Innovative activities or situations in an everyday context can rejuvenate work or study routines, resulting in the occurrence of leisure experiences. Teachers Ana, Inês and Natália are constantly innovating. Whether they are devising play activities to perform in class, in order to provide a break from reality and instead explore the unexpected, or through sharing information, they are themselves both teaching and learning along with their students. The success of this approach is displayed in the testimonies of these professionals, and also quite possibly felt by the students who learn whilst playing, freely and happily.