When my son Misael was a little boy, our favorite game to act out was the daughter and the dad. I was, of course, the daughter, and he, being five or six of age, my dad.
On those occasions, I was a demanding and spoiled little girl who asked thousands of questions and who wanted –and asked for- everything and more. It was my chance to misbehave and, through that exaggerated misbehavior, I found in Misael an amused partner who, as an ally in the drama, was amazed by my quite convincing performance, understood the situation, knew how to adapt, how to adequate to his role, and, the best part, he grasped the teaching.
While I represented a spoiled brat, he grew in the role of a mature and understanding father who explained to me with endless patience why I couldn’t eat half a gallon of chocolate ice cream, or why I had to go to school, or do my homework, or wash my hands, or brush my teeth; he looked at me, numbering all the reasons he could think of in spite of his young age, and, in that look, I discovered his love and tenderness.
The game of the daughter and the dad was my favorite game to play because it was the best way of showing him –of showing me- inappropriate behavior, it was the best way to laugh at our own roles, the ones we had to perform in real life; it was the game that let us see ourselves reflected in order to understand, to connect, and to learn from one another.
Taking this to the classroom, I did something similar with my students: at some point during the class, usually after a given explanation, we used to play a game in which one of them was the teacher and I was the student who sat in his spot and asked the thousand questions I’ve been famous for in this game. With room for laughter, students did an almost perfect impression of me: my gestures, my manners, the way I grabbed the chalk, the way I talked. Besides, I could listen to their own version of my explanation, enabling me to question from another perspective.
Role playing is the chance to assess us, to enrich one another with different points of view, turning playing into learning.
Roles change, we change. Playing to be someone else is liberating. Seeing us reflected, as in a mirror, and being able to laugh at ourselves is cathartic.
The day is soon coming when those students, those children, those youngsters, would become professionals, teachers, doctors; in years to come, we’ll surely meet one another, performing other roles, but always with the same love and wisdom of he who knew how to look at himself in someone else’s mirror, she who played to be someone else.
Regarding my favorite game, well, with his 6’2¨ height and the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen, Misael still looks at me with the same tenderness that a father looks at his daughter.