Playing by the Rules

This is what my piano teacher sounds like when she hears my play the piano:

“Louder, LOUDER, and softly. No, no. Wrong. I can tell it’s wrong. You missed a beat. Play it again 20 times. YOU need to RELAX your fingers. It’s like you’re just banging on the keys right now!”

This is what “playing” is like to me now. It’s sitting at a piano and pressing keys that follow the rules of whatever is written on the music sheet with my teacher standing behind me and telling me that I’m doing it all wrong and that I need to do everything again. In the presence of my teacher who act somewhat like a coach, piano is actually very stressful, and make me feel as if my years of study have amounted to nothing. But, on the other hand, without the presence of anyone, the instrument becomes a medium to express myself. Without rules the force my music to turn into Mozart’s music, piano becomes fun.

But aside from playing on the piano, playing in general has changed greatly over the years. Playing has turned into something that requires to be governed by rules and regulations for fairness, but without these rules, creativity and imagination takes over. This is what makes playing truly fun.

Just the other day, I experienced Global School Play Day. From this I realized just we instantly follow rules when we see them despite the fact that a deviation away from the rule could create a more interesting game.

I began the Play Day celebration with playing a card game with set of strict rules to follow. My friends and I started with this because I had brought a deck of cards with the thought that many games could be played with it so I was a versatile toy. This was fun during the first round with my friends, but the card game jam-packed with rules began to lose my interest after the first five minutes. After all, this was a common card game played repetitively with the same rules over and over again.

After leaving the deck of cards, I decided to go outside of the classroom to see what games were taking place outside the classroom. A few people were playing handball, and I decided to give it a shot. Handball, in my perspective, has rules that are more open to change depending on who is playing the game. As we played, we had to make up new rules and adjust old rules to adapt with playing on the side of a school building. Making up new rules all the time made the game interesting for a longer time. There was always a change somewhere in the rule book for each round which made the game a new game each round with underdogs were being banned, and one hand hits were being allowed in.


Changing the rules all the time to keep the game interesting reminded me of what I listened to in English class. This podcast talked about chess. And how the same exact games with the same exact moves were being repeated over and over again. But when one person decides to deviate from the set path to make an unforecasted move, real chess begins with the player having to think through every single move they make since there is no longer a way to predict how the game will end.

So if anything, there is at least one thing I learned from Global School Play Day. You have to break the old rules and trade them in for new ones. Nothing should ever be set in stone because nothing will ever have the chance to improve. I thought that bring a deck of cards to class to play with would be fun since many games can be played with a deck, but I was absolutely wrong. Those games were boring because everyone at my table had already played thousands of rounds with cards. On the other hand, it was too complicated to create a whole entire new card game with a new set of rules. When we went out to play handball instead, we have much more fun because each round was a fresh new game with different rules.

Our class was given one full hour to play, and during that hour, to continuously entertain ourselves, we had to force our creative engine to start. This became more than just a play day, but a day to exercise our creativity and imagination in a school where the ringing of a bell tells student where to go and what to do everyday.

And guess what? Many other schools are also catching on and beginning to understand the importance of play. I hope that next year, you will also be involved in #GSPD2018!


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