Category Archives: Education

Anecdotal narratives on the supreme calling, “educator.”

The Playful Continuum

I have been a student of the socio-cultural phenomenon American’s know as PLAY, for over ten years. My obsession started when I began working as a substitute teacher for the so-called, “Elementary” grades, (a terribly outdated label), especially Kindergarten and first grade. It was the first time I had ever experienced an environment that was purely playful by right. In other words, 90% of Kinder and First instruction better have some PLAYFULNESS in it or you will NOT REACH THEM.

And I am not referring to orchestrated or formalized playfulness. 

TRUE PLAYFULNESS has a journey. There is unexpected outcomes, even if you do the same thing every day. Thus, non-stuctured PLAFULNESS, is growth. Plain and Simple…It is GROWTH, and thus, HEALTH…and HOPE.

Upon this somewhat romantic thesis, I have tried to assess the evolution of PLAYFULNESS in America, so far as I have had an opportunity to observe what we all know as PLAYFULNESS and its antithesis. 

What is PLAY?

A basic definition of PLAY for this essay would be 

  1. An act, either social or independent, in which the individual is able to experience growth and self-affirmation, through the unstructured practice of JOYFUL and experimental self-actualization, that produces self-realization, through self-animation.


The heart of my studies begins and, to a large degree, ends, at/in/on the PLAYGROUND. 

The joy of the PLAYGROUND is, and always will be, its lability. PLAYGROUNDS are the humans first encounter with complex organization and sociality, but always in a PLAYFUL context. While I agree with the need to resist UNIVERSALIZING or essentializing a practice, I have yet to meet a single philosopher, ancient or otherwise, who doesn’t recognize unstructured PLAY, so-called CHILDISH PLAY, as a universally understood idiom.

I read a book recently, and the central question was, DO YOU RECOGNIZE PLAY WHEN YOU SEE IT?

Of course you do. GO to any PLAYGROUND. And you will see and experience PLAY.

 That’s because, to a child, everywhere has the potential to be a PLAYGROUND. 

Thus, there is a dualism which exists between the child and the PLAYGROUND. It can be actualized anywhere, at any time, and yet there is a formalized understanding of the PLAYGROUND as a particular space, with recognizable practical features that encourage PLAYFUL sociality and interaction. 

Unfortunately, as children get older, schools, and society begin to redefine for the child, the purpose and meaning of PLAY. Unstructured PLAY is equated with childishness, and thus, useless and perhaps, dangerous to establishing order.  As a child grows, PLAYGROUNDS are supplanted by PURPOSEFUL play, like athletics or competitive academics. By the time the student reaches seventh grade, opportunities for unstructured PLAY are almost non-existant, and what is perhaps more impactful, the PLAYGROUNDS are gone. 

For some reason, American academia has decided that PLAYGROUNDS are no longer necessary for all students, elementary and above. 


When I discuss this interesting historical PLAYFUL procession with those in Junior High and above, all the way to college, they say the same thing. THEY MISS THE PLAYGROUND.  They miss the swings as much as they miss the social spaces that PLAYGROUNDS create spontaneously and organically. 

This suggests that by removing PLAYGROUNDS we are eliminating historical spaces of intense and satisfying learning that are always optimal because the behavioral and psychological predispositions they enable are favorable and adventurous, regardless of the age-group.

PLAYGROUNDS are and will always be the most impactful practical basis for  human development. 

You know I’m a man right?

experiments in boom.

Greetings dear readers. It has been awhile since our last post and I wanted you all to know where I’ve been and what’s to come.

Back in January, I was given the opportunity to test out my theories regarding learning and teaching in a live environment, K-8.

Since then, I have accomplished some truly amazing things while validating my various pedagogic hypotheses. Moreover, I have begun to develop an approach to teaching that has the ability to renew programs that have suffered long-term dysfunctionality, regardless of the subject or the grade.

A methodology that is based in great part on the work of Dr. Susan Isaacs and her emphasis on PLAYful activity as a learning modality.

In any case, I promise a lot of content is coming. A LOT. Until then, please enjoy what we’ve already produced. Take a look in our archives. We’ve been ahead of the game for years. 

My very best to you all.


Life of a sub: Greatest burp ever.

(Editor’s note: The following, like all of my accounts as a substitute teacher, is best qualified as creative non-fiction. Though the account is true, the site, school, grade, or subject may have been modified. More importantly, the  names of the students have all been changed.)

Esme: Mr. Flowers, Braydon won’t stop burping.

I was surrounded by students, all wanting my attention, but I could hear, from across the room, the discordant noises of a rude belly full of gas.
Me: Ok, ok. Have a seat, everybody. No, now.
I stood and walked over to the table labeled DIGNITY.
Entire class, except for Esme, erupts in laughter.
Me: Dude! I’m standing right here. Are you crazy or something?
B: I’m sorry Mr. Flowers, I can’t help it. I drank my soda too fast.
Me: Ok, no worries. But instead of belching why not try just blowing the air out.
B: What do you mean? BWAAAAAAP!
More laughter.
Me: (Trying not to laugh) I mean. You don’t have to force it out, just try and do it quietly.
B: But I don’t know how.
Me: Ok, how about this…
Me: (over the laughter) just relax, that’s it. Now don’t focus on your stomach just concentrate on not burping.
Braydon looked up at me, doubtful, then took a deep breath, blew it out and tried to relax.
A minute went by, followed by another, then another. I smiled at him and he smiled back.
Me: See, what did I tell you, all you have to do is rela…
It seemed to go on forever and ever. No one was laughing, we all looked on in silence until he finally finished.
Esme: GROSS!
Alec: Dude. That was the GREATEST BURP EVER!!!!
An atom bomb of laughter.
Me: (genuinely worried) Bray, you alright man?
Braydon looked up at me smiling and relieved, like he had just had a giant splinter removed from his palm.
B: Yeah, I’m fine. I think I’ll be ok now Mr. Flowers. I just had to get that out.
Me: Ok…good.
Took me twenty minutes to get everyone back on track.

Life of a sub: The second

(Editor’s note: The following, like all of my accounts as a substitute, teacher is best qualified as creative non-fiction. Though the account is true, the site, school, grade, or subject may have been modified. More importantly, the  names of the students have all been changed.)
It was my first day at a school I had wanted to teach at since I first saw it nearly 30 years ago. It was the ideal of a rustic, rural town at the base of a mountain range, the Sierra Foothills, which extended well beyond the incorporated areas of Placer County.
Like its surroundings, the school itself was an amalgam of old and new with an emphasis on the former.
The architecture had not been updated since the 20th century. It looked and felt like a time before the advent of smartphones and social media. My IPHONE 12 PRO MAX never once held a signal. And yet, that was the beauty of it all.
“…a time before the advent of smartphones and social media.”
My job was to teach 2nd Grade, Home Room.
For reasons I won’t go into now, 2nd Grade is my favorite.
1. They stand in lines.
2. They don’t know what ‘lines’ are and never will.
3. They are ALL fragile in their own way.
I had just finished giving out the assignment: making wreaths out of branches they’d collected from the redwoods nearby, when I felt the tiniest poke behind me. I turned around and there was HOPE.
Big brown eyes framed with brunette hair. About two and half feet tall.
Damn if she wasn’t crying.
I leaned over as far as I could so she could whisper to me. I asked, “What happened?” In my most gentle voice.
She responded in kind, “I miss my momma.”
I will never forget the way she looked at me when she said it. I hugged her, as best I could, and said, “I miss my momma too.”
The rest of the day, I caught her looking at me, not smiling, observing.
To be honest, it made me wonder if I had crossed a line by sharing my feelings.
But then, as they all filed out at the end of the day, I suddenly felt tiny arms wrap themselves around my waist. I looked down and there was HOPE smiling up at me.
I hugged her back, best I could, and then watched as she walked down the old stone steps where her Momma was waiting and then, disappeared amongst the other parents and students.

Life of a sub: First Man on the moon.

(Editor’s note: The following, like all of my accounts as a substitute teacher, is best qualified as creative non-fiction. Though the account is true, the site, school, grade, or subject may have been modified. More importantly, the  names of the students have all been changed.)
I was standing outside, leaning against the open door made of metal and painted a rusty-red.
One by one, they walked in.
Each with a world ahead of them.
Turner: Yo Mr. Flores!!!
Hand in a fist headed for my face, in very slow motion.
Me: (FIST BUMP) Yo Turner. Are you going to be good today?
T: (A smile with curly blonde hair) What do you mean?
The day before he asked to go to the bathroom, then disappeared for 30 minutes. I had security looking for him.
Me: (LOL) Yeah. nice. You know they put people in jail for less.
T: (suddenly serious) They do?
Me: No. I just like to see you with fear in your eyes. Look no trouble and I promise I’ll let you be the “teacher’s pet”.
Me: Yeah, freakboy, get inside.
Turner passes me by and I can hear him and his favorite friend greet each other. Suddenly,
Turner: YO MR. F? CAN ME AND …
Me: No!
T and Friend: Ahhhhh!
I chuckled
…and then I saw her.
She was maybe a sophomore or younger. She had dyed her hair a dirty platinum. Her eyes were red and it was clear she was struggling.
Me: (I smiled at her) Hi, hold on a minute. ( I whispered to her).
She stopped and looked up at me.
She had freckles and blue eyes full of tears.
(It’s times like this I have to remember I’m a teacher, not a father.)
Me: (I nodded) Can you talk?
She tried and it ended in more tears.
Me: Okay. It’s going to be okay. You are safe here. You understand? You are safe.
D: (nods).
Me: Ok, how bout you sit right there on the bench in the garden and take a breather? I’ll be right back.
I promise, I’ll be right back.
She nodded and started walking.
Now, I’ve been formally trained how to help students that are experiencing crisis, even those with severe trauma. It’s rare though that you have to use every bit of learning and talent for one person.
Eventually, we sent her home.
Turns out there wasn’t any particular ‘thing’ that’d happened.
The poor thing was unhappy…and tired.