Two Sundays ago before the snow, I took my ten year old son, Albert, up to the local pool. We did a bit of jumping in at the deep end and some slow motion, underwater, superhero fighting before Alb spotted a collection of hula hoops hanging from a hook at the side of the pool. The lifeguard said it was okay for us to play with one, so we popped it in the water and discovered that it floated vertically, suspended just below the surface. We challenged each other to swim through head first, face down without touching the sides and we both succeeded. Then Albert suggested we try going through on our backs, effectively swimming backwards underwater. Underwater backwards swimming is difficult especially when you are trying to get through a space significantly smaller than the span of your arms. I tried a few times, trying to work out what to do with my arms and legs whilst avoiding getting water up my nose. It was fun for a while and then we moved on to another game.
Walking home later, the idiom “jumping through hoops” came into my mind: to have to do a lot of things that seem difficult or unnecessary in order to achieve something. I think as teachers we are sometimes guilty of presenting learners with what seem like repetitive, difficult, unnecessary practices or drills, when we should be encouraging investigation and play. Helping learners to use hoops, metaphorically and even literally, to entertain themselves and make discoveries rather than just jumping through them.