What ever happened to Ms Eve R. Reddy?

The power of purposefully structured, stimulating play activities.
Giulio Bortolozzo
Nov 30, 2021
Enjoy it
Having fun helps kids to learn.

Alice McGinty couldn’t wait to get to school each day. She was in Ms Reddy’s class and each day was an adventure in learning, living and laughing!

Ms Eve R. Reddy (R for Rosalina) was an expert teacher of language. She had set up play areas in her classroom where children could act out and practice language in context in a way that was natural and practical and dare it be said ‘fun!’ She had the ‘shopping’ corner, the ‘plant shop’ and wouldn’t you know it she even had a ‘garage’ set up! It was interesting to visit her classroom and to hear all the different kinds of language used, all related to the topic; the context of the situation. Who was talking to whom and for what purpose? The teacher would gather everyone around and talk about how language was different in various situations and the children would learn how language was used in meaningful and practical ways. She would review and debrief at the end of the lesson and the children listened and they learned. They were chilled, relaxed, engaged and enthralled!

‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.’ Benjamin Franklin

Ms Reddy had established a vegetable garden outside the classroom and the children would go there and examine the changing and evolving environment as they learned about nature, sustainability and climate and food production. They observed the changing weather cycle and how things altered in different ways. They observed, recorded and reported their impressions and they learned how to get along with each other; to negotiate, problem solve, relate respectfully with each other. Children from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds for whom English was their second (or third!) language experienced language in context. They were growing into confident speakers, writers, readers and relaters.

‘Play is the highest form of research.’ Albert Einstein

The vocab generated became the week’s word bank as the children connected with the language of the structured play they had engaged in; it meant something to them, it had meaning. The teacher skilfully and purposefully structured stimulating play activities and her children grew in confidence and their language competency and knowledge blossomed. Ms Reddy knew her stuff and she had agency and she knew what she was doing and she was trusted to do so and parents and colleagues alike respected her for it.

‘Teachers are more than any other group the guardians of civilisation.’ Bertrand Russell

Then something happened or was happening over time and things had changed. Ms Reddy had a new bunch of students but there was a qualitative difference in their demeanours and attitudes compared to when Alice was at school with her classmates. The students sat in rows and they learned words about stuff. They chanted the words, sounded them out and put them into sentences. Where Alice had learned stuff in real life situations, talking and laughing with others, these children spoke in monotonous tones, in unison, in collective boredom. And to make things worse the vegetable garden had been enclosed and turned into a new inside learning area! What was happening!?

An air of monotony, predictability and performativity replaced the former culture of shared, interactive play based learning and teaching. Teachers no longer were trusted to do what they had been trained to do as what they did and how they did it was determined by the ‘experts.’ Ms Reddy was now doing as she was directed by the expert others and as hard as she tried to remain optimistic her enthusiasm began to wane and she started to question her role and ability as a teacher and whether or not she should consider doing something else.

‘The worst enemy of creativity is standardisation.’ Pasi Sahlberg

Alice had kept in touch with Ms Reddy over the years and she had herself become a teacher so inspired was she by her learning experiences as a child. She had been teaching for just a few years but she was tired already and she too was questioning whether or not she should move on.

PS Ms Eve R. Reddy went to Finland and she is a consultant to schools specialising in Play Based Learning (she’s earning more and is highly valued)

PPS Ms McGinty went on to trace her Irish roots and is now herding goats in County Clare, Eire, whilst she works out what her next move will be (Ms. Eve R. Reddy has asked her to go to Finland I heard)

Selected references
Sahlberg P; Doyle W, 2020, 'The Long Island play revolution', Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 101, pp. 16 – 18

Sahlberg P, 2013, 'Teachers as leaders in Finland', Educational Leadership, vol. 71, pp. 36 - 40

Sahlberg P, 2001, 'From non-formal education to lifelong learning', Lifelong Learning in Europe Journal, vol. 1, pp. 48–54 - 48–54

The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels