External Brain

This summer I worked some days at an adventure playground. I was there Saturdays, with two other adults and sometimes volunteers. It was work I really enjoyed, and I have lots of thoughts about it, but the biggest impact it’s had on my ALC-NYC school year life is that it’s where I started keeping a day log.

Because we were so busy during the day, staff didn’t get much check-in time until after we’d closed the site and sent the kids off for the day. We’d spend hours immersed in our work as the activity on the playground ebbed, flowed, and whirled. There were children in tires, children on forts, children with hammers, waivers upon waivers, and adults with questions. I always felt like I’d lived several days between when we opened in the morning and closed in the evening, so it was a relief at the end of the day to have intentional time set aside for reflection and sharing.

Asher, the lead playworker on Saturdays, would pull out a book, and we’d sit together to talk about our days. In the book, he’d log big happenings and observations from the day. I found the practice really helpful; sometimes my brain gets busy with all its ideas, and I lose details from the day that I’d like to remember. Sitting down with a blank page (a pensive, Harry Potter fans…) lets me hold and examine different pieces of the day. As a collaborative practice, it helps me hear what my partners are experiencing. As a personal practice, it helps me check that I’m giving equal notice and attention to multiple things.

The reason I’ve started keeping a daily log book this year at staff check-ins is something that I felt the potential for this summer but didn’t really get to experience with the ever-changing cast of kids at the playground. My external brain of a notebook at school provides all the benefits of my playground log book, with the added bonus of allowing me to look back over days, weeks, and months at individual kids’ development. Two months into the school year, it’s already starting to get interesting to read back and notice how people and dynamics have changed. Not to mention that it’s sometimes helpful during parent conferences, since specific notes let me share stories with much more detail than I otherwise could.

So grateful for transferable tools!

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