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75. Work Smarter, Play Harder: How to Harness Play to Teach with Joy & Combat Burnout with Special Guest Jed Dearybury

Oct 10, 2023

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Playful Practices for Teachers: Boosting Creativity and Reducing Burnout

Have you ever been working, yet it didn't quite feel like work? For educators, this might seem like a rare occurrence amidst the late nights and the ever-growing demands of the classroom. If you're here, tuning in to this episode, it's likely that you've experienced those moments when teaching begins to blur into a cycle of never-ending toil, inching dangerously close to workaholism.

The truth is, teaching can be a demanding profession, and as educators, we often find ourselves with more on our plates than we can comfortably handle. The routine can turn monotonous, and burnout looms on the horizon. However, there is a magical component that has the power to transform this struggle. It can turn your work into something that doesn't feel like work at all; it can infuse your days with fun, joy, and the sense of 'flow.'

Unleashing the Power of Play: Transforming Teaching and Learning

What is this magic? It's play. Ever heard the saying "Work Hard, Play Harder?" Well, my friend, Jed, has written books based in serious research about this very topic and how you can incorporate play into your classrooms and more importantly your life. That's exactly what we are chatting about in this episode. 

Jed began his EDU career in 2001. He was featured in GQ Magazine as Male Leader of the Year, met President Obama as the SC honoree of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math & Science Teaching, & was a finalist for SC Teacher of the Year. In 2015 he began leading professional development across the country, & training the next generation of EDUs through teaching in Higher Ed. He published his 1st book,The Playful Classroom in 2020. His 2nd book, The Courageous Classroom, in July 2021. Book number three, The Playful Life, was released in October 2022.


  • Inspiration and influence of Jed Dearybury
  • Jed's Motivations for writing books and working in higher education
  • Importance of teaching assistants and their experiences
  • Why it's Important to make learning meaningful, relevant, and fun for students
  • How meaningful, relevant, and fun learning translates to teachers in the classroom
  • Incorporating playfulness into adult life and its benefits
    • Neuroscience that backs this up
    • Practical ways to make play a part of your day
  • The Most Effective Ways to Incorporate Playfulness in Education
  • How to Intentionally Incorporate Play into Your Life to Reduce Burnout
    • How to make it not one more thing on your to do list
  • Playfulness in education and its impact on grades and mental health
  • Rewiring the Brain Through Play: Healing Trauma and Promoting Growth
  • Healing past traumas and personal growth through play and therapy








The Resilient Teacher Podcast is the show that will give overwhelmed educators the support, tools, and mindset to reduce teacher burnout and keep teaching sustainable. Each week, Brittany Blackwell, M.Ed. & her guests will share inspiration and actionable steps to avoid or recover from the dreaded teacher burnout. You'll be inspired to individualize self-care and learn to prioritize your well-being and mental health, all while making a bigger impact on your classrooms and community.



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] Have you ever been working, yet it didn't really feel like work?
Maybe you had a project and you just get lost in the fun of it?
For teachers, that might seem like a rare occurrence because, let's be real, the late nights, the ever-growing demands of the classroom, those kind of overshadow those fun times.
If you're here tuning into this episode, it's likely that you've experienced those moments where teaching begins to blur into a cycle of never-ending to-do lists, entering dangerously close to workaholism.
And that's something that we talked about in the last episode in episode 74.
But what if we could rewrite that old saying? You know the one I'm talking about, the work hard, play harder one?
More into work smarter and play harder.

[0:42] There's some extensive research that's been done on the idea of flow state.
That's also known as being in the zone.
And there's some positive impacts on reducing burnout, enhancing well-being, and really increasing that job satisfaction.
But how can we reach that flow state in such high-stress classrooms?
Well, it's by simply incorporating more play, not just for our students, but for us as educators.
And I know that might seem scary, but in this episode, we get to chat with my friend Jed Derryberry, who is a huge inspiration to me.
In my first years out of my bachelor's program, I met Jed substituting at his school, and I thought to myself, I want to be just like this guy as a teacher.
And that's because he was having fun.
He didn't seem bogged down, his kids were really happy to come to school, and his classroom was the epitome of the word play.
So if you're ready to discover how to infuse your teaching with more joy and passion that comes from working smarter and playing harder, then stay with us because not only is Jed a hoot, but he is going to chat with us about how we can reach that state of flow by practically adding more play to our day without adding it to our to-do list.

[1:51] Jed began his educational career in 2001. He was featured in GQ Magazine as male leader of the year.
He met President Obama as the South Carolina honoree of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math and Science Teaching and was a finalist for the South Carolina Teacher of the Year.
In 2015, he began leading professional development across the country and training the next generation of educators through teaching in higher ed.
He's published his first book, The Playful Classroom, in 2020, his second book, The Courageous Classroom, in July of 2021, and book number three, The Playful Life, was released in October of 2022.
Seriously, if you're trying to reignite your passion for teaching and beat the burnout cycle, you will definitely wanna listen to this episode. So let's not waste any time and let's get into it.I am so excited to have Jed Derryberry here on the show. Welcome.

I'm so excited to be here, Brittany. Thank you for having me.
Before the show started, I found out we're basically neighbors.
We live just right down the road from, I had no idea. I honestly had no idea that we were that close to each other.
So it's pretty cool to now be on your show.
Yeah, we're just a hop, skip, and a jump away from each other. We really are.
And I shared this in your introduction, but true story, when I first started teaching, I had the pleasure of being a substitute teacher at the school that you worked in, right after I graduated with my bachelor's degree.
And I can remember specifically thinking, I want to be like Jed Derryberry when I grow up.

[0:40] You were a huge, you were a huge inspiration to me. And I just, I wanted to be like you were as a teacher.
So I'd love for you to share just a little bit about your, your teaching journey.
What led you to writing books and working in higher ed?
Wow. Brittany, first, thank you for that compliment. That is such a high compliment coming from a peer who was in the building.
And honestly, I went to work every day and did my thing and I didn't know if anybody was even paying me any attention. I didn't think they were.
And then this one random year, I won like all these teaching awards.
And so I was like, well, I guess somebody's paying attention.
And then that was about, to answer your question, that was about the time I started working in higher ed.
It was around, well, around 2010, 2011, somewhere in there.
So a little bit before the awards, but I went into higher ed because I just loved, teaching teachers how to do what we do. I think, I thought there were a lot of people out there who weren't doing it the best way.
Right. And I wanted to throw in my expertise of, expertise of how to train teachers of what they needed to be looking at and focused on.
Cause I think too much of us were focusing the wrong things of teaching instead of the heart of teaching, and I really wanted to be a part of that. And that's also what led to the books that Julie and I have written and the one I wrote with Dr. Taylor.
It was all in an effort to help teachers.

[2:08] I would say see a different path in education, because I think one of the paths that we see when our pre-service training, it's very traditional. It's the same way we've always been taught.
I mean, I didn't wanna perpetuate that. So I wanted to show, hey, there's different ways to do this thing, and let's look at it and see which one you want to do.
You know, give those pre-service teachers options of which teacher they wanna be, and equip them for both pathways, you know.
So that's kind of how I got into higher ed. I've been a teacher since 2001.

[2:41] A lot of people say, well, I thought you didn't have your own classroom to 2003.
That is true. I was an assistant in 2001.
And I dare you to tell me not to count that year because I will come back at you real fast and tell you that I worked just as hard, if not harder as an assistant, than I did my first year teaching.
Teaching Journey and Importance of Teaching Assistants

[3:01] Teaching assistants are the most undervalued part of our profession.
I would say, if you talk to a new teacher or talk to a veteran teacher, the first thing they'll tell you when you start is to make friends with the custodian, the secretary and the lunch ladies. Make friends with those people. But I'm telling you right now, make friends with every teaching assistant in that building because they can get stuff done that nobody else can get done.
So I started my journey in 2001 as a first grade assistant. I got my own classroom in I taught in that classroom for four years, then I rolled into second grade.
For the rest of my elementary tenure, I did loop to third grade one year.
But yeah, I've been in this journey now for the start of my 23rd year.

[3:51] And I absolutely love the work I'm doing in higher ed and the help that my books are providing to you.

[3:57] My college students, but also teachers across the country. I hear stuff every day about how the books are reinvigorating their teaching. And it does your heart good to know that your work is connecting with people out there. It's interesting that you said that about, you know, you realized that what was happening in teacher prep programs just wasn't working well. It had had been done traditionally the same way all, like all the time. And I can remember having a class with Dr. Julie Jones, who is part of, you know, like, y'all are great friends. And she was the change that I saw. Like, I took a technology class with her. And now I'm like, you know, a super techie person now, just because I took her class.

[4:41] But I think about that. And I hear you say, you know, like, it was done the same old way. That's exactly why I started my podcast, why I started doing the things on social media, was because I knew that people were talking about self-care, but they were just saying, like, these blanket statements, like, you got to take care of yourself. You got, you can't burn out. But they were never giving, like, individualized supports and things like that. And so I was like, I've, I've got to bring what I know, what my expertise is, and bring it to teachers so that they know that there's not just one way of doing things, that it's really an individualized process. So like, kind of talking on that a little bit, did you ever experience burnout as a teacher?
Oh, oh gosh. Yes, I did. Many times I would, you know...

[5:27] Leave the building so incredibly frustrated because not just of what I was doing, I felt like the system as a whole would sometimes limit the ideas and the dreams that I had.
Now, I will say the principal that I worked for the bulk of my career was my biggest cheerleader.
She was the one who always encouraged me to go after those things and try fun, exciting experiments and hands-on learning.
I never once felt like she held me back, but I felt like the system as a whole, when I would look at my peers who were doing the same thing they had done for 10 years in a row, and they didn't want to try new things.
And when I tried new things, they shamed me and guilted me and belittled me.
You know, I worked with a couple of ladies one year who they were, they just were so hyper-focused on the standards.
They were like, Oh, we've got all these standards we got to cover.
And I was like, you know, you can cover those standards in fun, energetic, you know, Julie and I say meaningful, relevant and fun.
You can cover those standards in meaningful, relevant and fun ways. And it doesn't have to be all sit and get and cram it all in their head.
And, you know, most of those kids probably don't remember any of the information that, you know, was crammed into them.
Now, at the same token, sometimes kids might have forgot the information that I taught them, but they didn't forget how I made them feel.

[6:50] And they didn't forget the excitement that I brought to it. None of us remember everything the first time we learn it.
That's why if you look at our standards, a lot of the standards are replicated throughout elementary school, right? South Carolina history, for example, you learn it in elementary school, you learn it again in junior high, middle grades, right?
And then odds are you learn it again, even in US history as you talk about.
So nobody's going to learn it the first time. Multiplication tables.
I think the multiplication facts now start at the end of second grade, and you go all the way through what, middle school?
You're still learning, you're still practicing, applying them and so.

[7:32] I want to make sure that any way that I bring the learning is meaningful, relevant, and fun because, in my research, we've learned that the neuroscience of meaningful, relevant, and fun learning, it helps the learning to stick in a different way than just that rote memorization.
I remember one time in college, I studied 14 hours straight for an exam that I had to have at least a D on to pass the course. Okay. We're just being honest here. It was a rough course.

[8:04] And I crammed all that information in there in those 14 hours. I made a B on the exam. I passed the class. Ask me anything from that class and I cannot tell you. I cannot tell you the answer.
Don't ask me. I crammed it in there to get through that test and then we moved on. But that's not learning. That's not learning. And that was me playing a game of test taking. And if we want to make learning stick, we've got to make it meaningful, relevant, and fun. And neuroscience supports that.
So that's the bulk of our work. And that's why we wanted to... Back to your question, though.
Did I experience burnout? Yes. And it was that burnout that is what led me to this work. How can and I help other people avoid that.
By focusing on the work of meaningful, relevant, fun, it lessens the burnout.
Now, there's still gonna be times where the workload of being a teacher just wears you out.
It's so much.
And we do have to protect ourselves against that. And I think one of the things that helped me was I tried to create a classroom space that brought me joy, that made me happy to be in.
Everything from the walls and what I had on them through the organization of how how I had the tables and desk organized, you know, all that stuff played into.
Creating a Peaceful and Joyful Workspace

[9:24] Lessening my burnout. Because when I walked in my room in my classroom, I wanted it to be a space that brought me, you know, a little bit of peace. I don't know if your viewers or if your listeners get to see us. I don't know how you put this out there in the world. But you see my office here brought the same joy and happiness. This is my home office. I'm at home. This is my guest bedroom. We don't have any guests that ever come. So I just turned it into an office. And it's, you know, if I gave you a little tour. I'll just spin you around. You're on a stand up desk. I'll give you a little tour here. You see there's a wall of Golden Girls right here. We keep spinning around. There's a little rainbow Christmas tree there in my front bedroom. A fun little corner of some stuffed animals. A little whiteboard that says Big Magic. Sometimes I do live events right there. Then, we're back to where we started. I created this space that I I would want to work in and create in.
And that's what I did in my classroom because that lessened the burnout.
If I was happy in my space, it could help me, you know, refocus, center on the work and forget about all the things or outside of those walls.

[10:38] Yeah. And I think that that's a big piece of autonomy because you touched on it a little bit, like multiple times when you were talking. You want to be able to do what you feel like is best for your kids, not those standards. When you're making it meaningful, relevant, and fun, like you said, you're bringing that piece of autonomy, your individual individuality to your classroom and making it a place that's fun and enjoyable and that feels good for you. That's going to translate to your kids over and over. And, you know, you wrote this book called The Playful Classroom, and then you wrote the second book that really sticks out to me, The Playful Life. I think so often, like, we think of play as limited to kids, you know, and we often see the impact of play. And I want to keep it, we want to keep it for those younger students and things like that, but your book emphasizes it like as important for adults.
The Importance of Playfulness for Adults

[11:36] So can you share a little bit about why that playfulness is important and relevant and necessary and fun for adults? Yes. Well, I'll tell you what really got us going here. We started digging into the research, the work of Dr. Stuart Brown. He is probably the nation's leading play researcher.
He's 90 years old, he's been researching play for, you know, almost 70 years now.

[12:01] And the bulk of his work has been researching play in adults, what it does to our mood, what it does to our health, what it does to our mental well-being. And when you look at society, and when I say society, I'm talking here about adult society. When you look at adult society as a whole, we have gotten ourselves so wrapped up in work.

[12:26] That we have forgotten. We have forgotten that that's not what we were created to do.
We are literally created to create, right?
Yes. If you look back through our human history, even hieroglyphics on a cave wall, it was created, right?
To communicate. And so that's literally like, that's what we're supposed to be doing.
We're supposed to be making the world better through what we give back to it.
And the work sometimes is, we have to work because we got to make money, right?
And so, but there's got to be a balance of that because we're losing part of who we are.

[13:06] And when we wrote the book, The Playful Life, it was the second one, The Playful Classroom was specifically for like how to make learning more fun and the power of play for all ages.
But we wrote The Playful Life because so many people said, yeah, this is great for our classroom, but I need this for my everyday life.
Can you put it into some context? And so we talk about how to make doing the laundry more fun, how to make the work commute more fun, how to spruce up your office cubicle if you're stuck in that place all day, every day, you know?
Because when we got into the research of Dr. Stewart Brown and we realized, you know, this increases our serotonin, our dopamine, our catecholamines, all these things, all these neurotransmitters that are released in our body when we have playfulness around us, guess what?
It makes us better at the work. It makes us better at the creativity.
It makes us better at our relationships.
I can tell you just from my own personal experience, when I put these playful practices in place in my life, it changes my whole body chemistry.
I can feel the stress leave. I can feel my blood pressure go down.
Embracing Playfulness in Everyday Life

[14:17] We spend a lot of our time in life sitting in lines at the grocery store, at the bank, at the doctor's office. We're always sitting and waiting. Our go-to these days has been a phone. That's true. We use our phone. That can sometimes be a little bit of a distraction, a moment of play, but we get addicted to it. I take a book with me wherever I go so I can play through reading.
My great friend, an artist, an art teacher named Cassie Stevens, she takes little makeup bags, little pouches, zippered pouches, and she puts little art materials in them. And she just grabs a bag when she walks out the door. And so if she's sitting at a doctor's office waiting.

[15:00] She can make a little art. She's got a little colored pencil, a little pad, and just little things like that can just add so much joy to the day that distracts you from from the mundane, but also take it a step further, how to make the work you're doing playful.
We talked, I mentioned laundry, turn that laundry basket into a basketball goal.
And every time you match the pair of socks, you know, shoot it over there.
Time yourself while you're folding the shirt.
See if you can beat your personal record for how fast you fold the shirt, you know, and make sure, give it parameters. It's gotta be really folded.
Something that I always try to do is I try to figure out new and fun ways to fold my clothes that might be better beneficial for my shelf space, right? Yeah.

[15:49] And also to make it more economical, like time-wise, while I'm getting ready.
I know this is going to sound silly to some of your listeners, but I go for a walk every single morning. I go for a three-mile walk every single morning.
Jed Walks, yep. Jed walks. Yes, you see on Instagram. I go every single day. I haven't been today. So I'm going to sit. That's why I'm wearing my hat. I'm ready to go as soon as we get done. But I started putting my like athletic socks in the pocket of my running walking athletic shorts. So every morning, I just have one thing to grab instead of shorts and socks. They're already in the pocket.
And I feel like it's changed my life. I just reach in the drawer, there it is, shorts, socks, let's go, right?
I don't know. But that came from being playful with my laundry. Yeah.
Kids do that all the time, though. You know, kids will make things fun just by, you know, my stepson will throw things into a hoop and make it a basketball, kick it around, make it a soccer ball, and we lose that as adults.
We think because we're adults that we can't have fun and we can't play.
And I love that you're just kind of bringing up all these different ways that we can do it because we lose that somewhere along the way.
Society's Impact on Playfulness and Creativity

[17:09] I'm going to help shift your mindset just a little bit right here.
I'm going to tell you, you didn't lose it.
Didn't lose it. It was beat out of you, Brittany. It was beaten out of you. You were told as an adult, this is the way you do. You didn't lose it. I would say it was taken from you, honestly.
It was taken from you because our society has, they see play as something just for the little kids. And it starts as early, I mean, I think it starts around third grade when state testing comes into play. Teachers take things a little more serious. We don't have time for all that.

[17:48] But even look at sixth grade. Most schools, sixth grade and up, if you're out of the elementary school, you don't have any recess. You don't have any recess. Most schools at that age, you get 10 or 15 minutes to socialize after lunch, which you're outside on the asphalt or the concrete patio. And there's no play equipment.
Look, I'm telling you right now, if high schools across America would put playgrounds that were appropriate size for juniors and seniors, I promise you grades would go up, test scores would go up, mental health would be improved because those kids, look, they want to play.
They want to do those things. Several years ago, I'll never forget this, I went to a school in the county next to where we live. And I did just a little simple experience, but I used markers instead of pencils, and we used white paper instead of notebook paper. And at the end, each student who was a senior in high school had this little neat piece of artwork that they had made with their friends.
And this guy, he was like, I don't know, like a defensive player on the football team at high school, he was like, man, this was awesome. I haven't colored since I was in the fifth grade.

[19:12] And my heart broke. I'm sad that in his daily life, he never had opportunity to color, but in his school life, there was no coloring. It just broke my heart that in his learning journey.

[19:30] That was the first time in seven years that he had had markers. Now, I'm sure some people would would listen, say, Oh, well, I'm sure he had opportunities he just forgot. But imagine if they were meaningful and relevant and fun, he wasn't going to forget them. Could you think about your own journey? We remember those meaningful, relevant, and fun times, you know?
And sadly, sadly, I remember them happening and the teacher across the hall.

[19:57] More than they did mine, you know? Yeah, yeah. And so I just, I think about that kid every day.
He's probably, well, I mean, this was 10 years ago that that happened.
So who knows, he may be a dad by now, you know? It's been 10 years.
He's probably married with his own kid, but I think about him all the time and I hope wherever he's at, he's coloring even right now.
That he's just bringing markers to work and just coloring, yes. I hope so, I hope so, so bad.
I hope so, so bad, yeah.
Yeah. So like, okay, what, do you have any suggestions about like how teachers can help reduce that burnout by adding some play maybe to their workday and then maybe to home? I know you talked a little bit about like laundry and things like that, but like, what are some ways that teachers could just like start implementing a little bit of play so it's not overwhelming and they're not like, I've got to play, you know? Some people will do that when they, when they get into like self-care and things like that.
They're like, well, I got to put it on my to-do list. How can I make it a little bit more fun? You know?
You set me up so great there because there's two things I want to say.
One, play, and I say this all the time, it's in both of our books.
Play is not one more thing on the plate, but it is the plate.

[21:16] So think of all the things that you have to do and put it on a playful plate.
Don't take play and put it on the plate with all the other things, thinking, oh, that's one more thing I've got to get done.
Think of all the things that you have to do and think of a playful way to do them.
That it is the plate. And the next thing I tell people, because I don't want you to become burned out trying to bring more play into your life, right?
You have to start so very small, look for the nooks and crannies of your day.
Especially if, you know, teachers listening to this, I tell them to look, don't try to rewrite your whole science curriculum tomorrow.
That will burn you out, okay? Don't try to go to your grade level team and say, hey, our social studies curriculum, it needs help.
You know, don't do that.
Look at your nook and cranny, Like the five, 10 minutes while students are coming into the classroom in the morning, what can you do with that time?
The two minutes that you transition from writing in your journals to starting math, what can you do in that two minutes to bring a little dose of play?
And then as you start to fill in the nooks and crannies, what happens is you will start to see the results and you will want to start to add it to more things.
And I tell people this all the time, with the work that Julie and I do, I promise you, it was not like we just said, oh, we're just gonna sit around and be playful all day.

[22:46] No, we were teaching, I was building a business of working with teachers across the country.
Like it was hard work and I had to think, okay, when I am walking through the airport to go to my next thing.
How can I make that walk more playful? You know, and I found myself making up music to my steps as I walk.
Like I would feel a beat boom, boom, boom, boom.
And next thing I know I was writing a little song, you know, that was what I found. Some of you that might not sound playful to you.
You have to figure out what to do with the nook and cranny on your own that will make it more playful.
Right. And when you, when you focus on those little small pieces and you do those over time, then, you know, two, three years from now, you're gonna turn around a little back and you're gonna be like, wow, look at all this play that I've infused in my life. And you did it one little nook and cranny at a time. That's, that is the reason why we mentioned laundry.
Embracing Playfulness in Everyday Tasks

[23:41] Because it's something that everybody has to do. You know, everybody has to do laundry, right?
Even if you only have, you know, three outfits, you got to wash them, right? You got to clean know, you know, whatever. And so that's a nook and cranny. Fixing, dinner, washing dishes, walking to the mailbox, walking to the mailbox is a nook and cranny. Instead of just walk, skip one day, hop one day, twirl one day. Now, the first few times you do it, I promise you, you're going to feel like a fool and be worried about your neighbors looking at you, right?
Yeah, I can see people thinking that too. Yeah, they're going to. Odds are, though, nobody's really looking at you, right? That's the thing. We always think they are. But here's the thing. Then they're going to notice. I wonder why they're doing that. I wonder why they're doing that. And then they're going to say, why are you doing that? And you say, I want to be more playful. I want to have, I want to enjoy my life.
You know, I want to make it. And then your neighbor is contagious. You're going to look out your window one day and your neighbor's going to be skipping to the, mailbox. Yeah. So yeah, it's, I mean, that's, that's the best advice I can give is to start small and look at those nooks and crannies because it really will Don't bring big change when you start small.

[24:53] Yeah. And it's funny that you said that, because I was on, I had to go to a school in Ohio the other day and do a professional development session. And I was doing that in the, in the, in the airport, walking down the airport in Charlotte, which is awful. It stresses me out to be in those areas. So I was making a song while I was walking. And it's so funny that you said that. Because I thought if anybody could be in my head right now, they'd be like, What?
You know. And, and, you know, people think that when you're doing these things, and they look a certain way, you know, Oh, well, I'm really worried about what everybody's thinking. And the truth of the matter is, is that that kind of behavior, that, that thought process, that's, that's really contagious. You know, like you said, your neighbor's going to be doing it the next day, and it's going to be this chain reaction that is really powerful. But But for that teacher who's like, I'm worried that I won't look professional, do you have any suggestions for how you can still be professional and incorporate play?
Balancing Professionalism and Incorporating Play

[25:53] I have so much beef with the word professional. At the heart of it, professional is really just one person's opinion about how you should or shouldn't behave.
I think about the former district where I worked, they were very big on professionalism, But behind the scenes, so much of what they did was so unprofessional.

[26:19] You know, they were worried about outward appearances, but I don't want to get super spiritual or religious, but I grew up in the Christian faith and I remember a verse that I was taught very early on.
It says, man looks out at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.
And I have just really held on to that my whole entire life.
God knows my heart and people who know me know my heart. whole, like, I think I look professional today. I got a nice little collared button up. I am wearing a hat. Some people would say, oh, hats are unprofessional. But hats, I don't know. Because somewhere in history, we were taught, oh, if you're inside, you should have a hat off. You know, you shouldn't wear a hat inside. I don't even know where that comes from. It's, it's not, relevant to today. For me, I'm thinking about people who may be losing hair because of alopecia.
They maybe have lost their hair because of cancer treatment.
They may have had stitches in their head from an accident over the weekend.
Challenging Societal Norms and the Concept of Professionalism

[27:27] Or they may just not like their hair. And a hat makes them feel more confident, more comfortable.
Why is a hat deemed unprofessional? I don't know, but it is.
So I have so much beef with that word. Of course, I know there are societal norms that we have to follow in certain places. But I try every day to push those and to ask the question, why? Why? Why is this a professional? And a lot of it, I mean, there's a lot of history of the word professionalism has some historically racist overtones. Professionalism in a lot of circles is just another word for whiteness? Are you going to follow the white norm? I think that's why I have problems with that word. I can't imagine that it would be unprofessional for me to hop to my driveway.
Like, it's my driveway. I'm making it fun, right? If you saw a five-year-old do it, you'd be like, oh, look, that's cute. They're having fun. Why can't I have that same amount of fun?
I mean, you know, we only live one time and I want to make the most of that and I don't want to do it, Falling in line with these norms that are robbing me of joy that are robbing me of brain benefits health benefits you know, I.

[28:54] Think you know the biggest thing for us when we really dug into the neuroscience of of how playful living helps your entire body. It's just a shame that we have shunned it so much as adults. The reality is adults do play, they just don't call it play. Like we love to go on vacation, right? We love to go to Disney World, we love to go hiking in the mountains, those are forms of play.
Adults and the Dignity Dilemma in Playful Living

[29:20] I think a lot of it for adults is they're worried like about this dignity.
Like they may lose their dignity if they hop to the mailbox, right?
But for me, if I saw you hop into the mailbox, your dignity goes way up with me.
Because that means you put off. That's a friend.
Yeah, absolutely.

[29:39] I love that. I love that. You know, in your book, you talked about like how, you know, playful living can contribute to healing past traumas, compassion fatigue even, and promoting personal growth among educators. Can you talk a little bit more about that, a little bit too?

[29:56] Yeah, so I don't know if you know this, but in between the playful classroom and the playful life, I wrote a book with another author. Her name is Janet Taylor, Dr. Janet Taylor. She is a psychiatrist from Florida. And the book is called The Courageous Classroom, creating a culture of safety for students to learn and thrive.
I sometimes forget the right wording of that subtitle, but the book is all about fear and trauma and how it's affected our students, but also how it's affected us as teachers, both as we deal with student trauma, but also as we reflect on our own trauma that comes into the classroom with us. And honestly, the books I wrote, The Playful Classroom, The Courageous Classroom, The Playful Life, I kind of wish I would have written The Courageous Classroom first, because the answer to helping that trauma heal is, play. Play through the arts, play through recreation, play through exploration, play through community, all these different ways to play. It all helps in in the healing of the trauma because our brain is beautiful, and it has the power to heal.
It has neuroplasticity, which literally means that it can rewire itself.
And it's crazy that we're talking about this is just this morning.

[31:21] We had a breakfast with my sister and my grandma and my mom because it's my sister's 40th birthday today, so we took her out for early breakfast before we got on here and, We were talking about some things and I learned about some some pretty, you know, deep trauma that happened to my great-grandmother.

[31:41] And I never knew about it until this morning and she carried that with her her whole life You know and I couldn't fathom how deep that hurt and pain was was. But then I also remember how playful she was. She was a very playful person. She loved to play bingo. She loved to dance and sing. And those things, I really believe, I think those things are what helped her to carry the weight of that trauma and heal her brain from it. And just when I look back and think of the memories that she was carrying that at the same time she was playing, I think the play is what helped her to make it through.
And I look back at my family history, my mom, she is one of the most playful people I know.
She has a room like this in her house. It's the bonus room, the big bonus room in her house is this big old play space. My mom is 65 years old and she still has a Barbie house, And she decorates the Barbie house for whatever season it is.
She's putting little mini pumpkins all in the Barbie house right now.
That's the way she is, you know?

[32:56] And it spilled over into my sister and I, and that spilled over into my sister's kids.
And we just, I don't know. Play helps you work through those traumatic moments.
Of course, I'm a big fan of therapy. I go every other Tuesday.
Try to do it by yourself. Don't try to do it by yourself. I'm not a therapist, so I'm not giving anybody official therapy-ified, but it does help to work through trauma, you know?
It's funny that you said that about therapy, too, because we looked into a play therapy for my daughter when I went Yes.

[33:34] Through my divorce. Like, she start, we looked for a play therapist. We wanted to find somebody who was really into that, because kids don't know how to talk about things, but they do know how to play. And I think that adults are the same way. My husband uses art to really go through things. I use writing, and that's just the way that we really are able to process the way that we think sometimes because we can't, what's the word I want to use? We can't rationalize our thoughts until we can really process them. That's not the way that I want to say it, but you get what I'm going with here. And so I just, I love that you even, that you brought that up and especially about your grandma, because now that's getting me thinking about how my grandmother plays. Like she makes cards and does those types of things. And so just crafting and things like that, those are great ways to really just keep play at the forefront. You know? We, we really do have more play in our our adulthood than I think we're aware of, because like I said, play has been taken from us.
The Power of Play in Adulthood

[34:45] We've been taught that we're not playing.

[34:49] So another point of our Playful Life book was we wanted to help redefine play, re-image play, if you will, in adulthood so that other people could see, hey, I do play, and this is a form of play, and I can be intentional about it.
I can say, hey, I'm blocking off time to play today.

[35:09] Play dates are powerful, not just for kids, but for grownups as well.
And the more you're intentional about it, I think the more you become aware of the benefits of it, the happier you are to be intentional, blocking out that time.

[35:23] Yeah. So Jed, I just want to thank you so much for taking the time today to hang out with me and talk more about this because it is really powerful. I'm going to put the links to your books in the show notes. That way people can go and grab them because I just know that there's going to be, I mean, I have one friend, Ms. Matisak, she posted your book and she's been putting it in her stories and things like that. And I thought, oh my gosh, that is so cool that, you know, your book is making it to other people and stuff like I'm so excited.

[35:53] I just know that there's going to be some teachers out there listening like.

[35:56] I need to get that playful classroom book. I need to get that playful life books. We'll put that in the show notes for everybody to go and grab. But can you share a little bit about where teachers can learn more from you? Maybe where they can find you on social media, what teachers can expect from learning from you as they follow you on social media?
So the best the best place obviously is social media. The social media platform that I am most into at the moment would be Instagram. I'm just I love Instagram. I love the it just feels very different for me there than other platforms. I'm at Mr. Dairy Berry. You probably won't know how to spell my name unless you see it in the show notes but it's pronounced dairy like a cow berry like a fruit but just not spelled that way. But if you typed in Jed Derryberry of any combination, I'm sure you'll find it online. I also have a website,, which has information about all the workshops and consulting that I do. If your school maybe wants to reach out and talk about that, you can order books there as well. Also, Julie and I have a podcast called We Are Playful.
It's a different kind of podcast. We don't have guests. We literally just turn on the phone and start recording our conversation at the coffee shop or at lunch or at Walmart, wherever we may be. And we just are talking. And sometimes it's very silly banter. Julie and I have a relationship much like a brother and sister.

[37:26] And so if you have a sibling, I think you will definitely realize very quickly that our banter is sibling-ish.
Like we cut each other off, we interrupt each other, we sass each other.
You know, it's just how we are. It's our fun relationship, but we talk about the power of play in our lives, how we're playing each and every day.

[37:46] We love to connect with you there. We are playful. Also, I have a new adventure out there in the world.
I've been a doodler for a long time, and I have decided to start selling my clip art graphics, all Teachers Pay Teachers. So if anybody wants, the shop is Jet Creates, but if you search at Mr. D'Abrio, you'll find it too. But I've got like 10 sets of doodles in there that you can use those clip arts and all your fun things. So go check that out too. It's a brand new adventure.
I just started just a month ago. So- Yes, I'm going to put all of that in the show notes too.
Because we've got a lot of Teachers Pay Teachers friends out there. But thank you so much again, Jed. It was really like a full circle moment for me to get to interview you on my podcast after you influenced me so much in the beginning. So I just want to thank you so much for being a part of this. You're more than welcome. Congrats to you on all your success. And I look forward to seeing see in the episode when it drops.

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