Well, after starting back to work Monday a week ago, we’re finally back at school today. We’re one of the latest schools to start back in our area—my county’s school district started back classes last Monday, and Florence County schools resumed on 2 August 2021—but it still seems too soon. The Florence start date seems insanely early as far as I am concerned, but they’re transitioning to a semi-year-round model, in which the students will get a week off in October and February, as well as some other juicy breaks.
Of course, any time off is never quite enough, is it? I often find myself thinking, “if I only had one more weekend to finish this up” or “I really need another week of break so I can work on writing.” That said, during the peak of The Age of The Virus in 2020, when I had virtually limitless free time, I didn’t complete any of the big projects I had set aside for myself. That puts to the lie the idea that more time necessarily means getting more done.
Indeed, I often find that I am more productive when working against a deadline. As I’ve gotten older and more experienced—albeit not much wiser—I’ve learned to plan ahead, and to churn out a great deal of work in long stretches of focus, in order to save me some time later. That’s a necessity with my crazy schedule, and helps keep me from getting caught flat-footed by some unanticipated deadline or task too often.
Regardless, school is starting back today, and things are (mostly) back to normal—no more remote learning, no students tuning in from their cars or bedrooms to class, no more mandatory masks (again, mostly) [update: we have received word that we are starting the year with masks—nooooo!]. I’m hoping it’s going to be a normal-ish academic year.
Currently, I’m teaching a mix of Social Studies and Music classes. The departure of a long-time colleague for a better gig (he is expecting twins, and naturally needs to make more money) meant some shuffling (likely frantic scrambling) to fill Social Studies classes. That means half of my classes this year fall under Social Studies: two sections of Honors US History (same as least year), and a semester of Economics (which will become Government in the Spring).
On the Music side, I’ll be teaching another year of Pre-AP Music Appreciation (brace yourselves for more pieces on famous composers!), as well as my ubiquitous High School Music Ensemble. As of the time of this writing, I just have one section of Middle School Music, instead of the two I had last year. It looks like the administration has consolidated the two sections into one, because otherwise I’d be over my full load of six classes.
My HS Music Ensemble course has a whopping twenty students (again, at the time of this writing). The Music Room at my school is tiny—in the old, old days, it was the Senior Lounge, back when the school had less than 100 students, and a “large” senior class consisted of maybe ten seniors—and while I managed at one point to put nineteen middle schoolers in there (along with myself), I’ve never had a high school class this large.
My solution is to move the class onto the stage in our Gym (it’s a combination gymnasium and auditorium, and also tripled as the dining hall at one point in time) for the better part of the first semester. It will still be tight, but we can at least spread out a bit more. Since it’s football season, we’ll have a number of pep rallies this fall; if the band plays for those, we’d have to setup on stage anyway, so we might as well have everything ready to roll. I’ll just have to make sure Drama classes have room for their stage work, but they don’t typically tread the boards until much later in the semester.
I’ve also commandeered a small classroom for my two other Music classes, both of which have academic, non-performance components (MS Music is a mix of music theory, music history, and music performance; Pre-AP Music Appreciation is completely music history, with a sprinkling of theory, and no performance; HS Music Ensemble is almost completely performance-based, with occasional bits of theory for practical purposes, and some music history on rare occasions). I’ve even managed to get setup with a sweet desktop computer in my new room. That should get me out from the shadowy wings of the stage, where I had a small workspace I took over from a former Drama teacher.
Anyway, here’s hoping it’s a productive and fun school year. I enjoyed some elements of school last year, especially that we were running in the educational equivalent of Windows “Safe Mode”: we were just running the essential “drivers” of the educational operating system—few extra events, no pep rallies, etc. But the lack of these fun, non-essential events cast a pall over the entire academic year.
Let’s face it—students forget a lot of the trivia and such we teach them (they seem to remember the important skills, though). But they remember the fun stuff for decades. I’m often amused when a former student from the distant past comes back and reminds me of some ridiculous thing I said in class, something which I’ve totally forgotten (and am often mortified to know I said to a classroom full of impressionable-but-indifferent youngsters).
Regardless, here’s to a great school year!