Post-Concert Analysis is Coming

Yesterday’s Christmas concert went well, and I’m relieved to have it done.  I’m blessed to work with some super talented kids, and they are very dedicated to our Music Program.

I’ll be writing up a full analysis of it, as well as a gig I played with my buddy John last night, for SubscribeStar subscribers.  I should have the posted sometime Sunday afternoon.

For now, though, I am celebrating Christmas with my girlfriend.  We got each other some LEGO sets, so we’ve been building those this afternoon while watching TV and generally chilling out.

See you soon!

—TPP

TBT: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

My school’s big Christmas concert is tomorrow—the first once since December 2019, the infamous “Corporate Christmas” concert—and my Middle School Music class is playing and singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”  It’s one of my favorite carols, and is apparently my pastor’s favorite.

We’re doing the iconic first verse, as well as the third verse, which echoes the themes of the first.  There’s a great line—“ris’n with healing in His wings”—that just sounds epic.  It’s such a regal tune, perfect for The King of Kings arriving on Earth to save His fallen Creation.

Fortunately, my Middle School students seem to agree, and I am proud of their rendition.

With that, here is 8 December 2020’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing“:

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Christmas Concert Preparations

My apologies to readers who are used to waking up to a fresh Portly post in their inboxes, ready to enjoy over a hot cup of coffee at 6:30 AM.  Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been working pretty much nonstop.  Since probably 2009, when I started my two-year stint as the Cultural Coordinator at the Sumter Opera House in Sumter, South Carolina, the first half of December has been a brutal yuletide slog for yours portly.

Christmas 2010 was particularly grueling, with an event at the Opera House every night for the first two weeks of the month, including outdoor music on weekends for the City’s Festival of Lights.  I was so stressed that I developed a painful sore on the roof of my mouth, which made it unpleasant to eat anything but the softest of foods.  That was an unintentional blessing, as it kicked off my 2011 Weight Loss Odyssey, a journey during which I shed a whopping 110 pounds in about eleven months.  Even in extreme stress, there are hidden blessings.

Regardless, my Christmastimes for the past decade have been jam-packed with events.  That’s not always a bad thing:  I like keeping busy, and Christmas gigs can be very lucrative (about four years ago I played a bank Christmas party while suffering from a gnarly head cold, but a steady supply of cough drops and water got me through to the $300 reward on the other side).  There is one event that looms over all others this time every year, though, one that I paradoxically love and dread:  the annual school Christmas concert.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Yuletide Mania

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

The Christmas season is upon us, and nary did Thanksgiving end did the insane scrambling of the season commence.

Regular readers know I’m a hustler—I’ve always got some moneymaking schemes going:  primarily private music lessons, but also gigging, writing, calling sporting events, staging concerts, selling t-shirts, hawking weird art, etc.  These are all fun activities in addition to being lucrative, but it’s easy for them to get overwhelming, especially when they all hit at once.

Well, Christmastime—at least the first couple of weeks of December—seems to be a time when everything comes to a head at the same time (thus today’s later-than-usual post).  This past week was particularly grueling, with a number of events requiring my attention, sometimes nearly at the same time.

For those interested in the opportunities of perils of juggling different side gigs and responsibilities, today’s post will detail how I managed to teach almost all of my lessons for the week and setup lighting and sound for a pageant; reset that lighting and sound for a play; attended play tech and dress rehearsals; played a dinner at church and will play a longer Christmas set today; rode in a parade; and successfully made it through two stagings of the aforementioned play.

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TBT: Singing Christmas Carols with Kids

December is here, and that means it’s time for Christmas music!  My students and I are prepping for our annual Christmas concert—back after The Age of The Virus—and have been playing and singing quite a bit of Christmas music.

Indeed, my Music Club—a club designed to get students involved in playing and performing music who, for whatever reason, could not get a music class fit into their schedules—met Tuesday to sing some carols, with the idea being that we will spend lunch and break periods next week caroling for the student body.

As their voices came together in sparkling purity, it reminded me of this post from last year.  We started our short rehearsal with “Silent Night,” one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, and the sweetness and fullness of it with eight or so singers really swelled my heart.  We also sang “Joy to the World,” “Away in a Manger,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” and one or two others that escape me.

I once heard that singing is good for you, both physically and mentally.  Christmas carols—songs about the Birth of Our Savior, Jesus Christ—surely are good for you spiritually, too.  Sing some today.

With that, here is 4 December 2020’s “Singing Christmas Carols with Kids“:

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Retro Tuesday: Thanksgiving Week!

It’s Thanksgiving Week, which means I am really going to be phoning in some posts this week.  I love writing, but even I need a break from the constant output that my insatiable readers demand.

In the original post from this thread, I spelled out my argument in favor of an entire week off for Thanksgiving, in exchange for some lesser holidays.  With districts caving to reality and giving students the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off, families have just moved the start of their break back to Tuesday, with mass absenteeism the norm the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  Indeed, many families take the entire week off.

Well, my school—and many public schools in my area—took my sage advice:  we are off for the entire week.  It’s a Thanksgiving Miracle!

However, I also predicted that, with an entire week off, the siren song of leaving for an extended vacation even earlier would be hard to resist.  I was right:  last week, we had a few students leaving town as early as Wednesday—a full eight days before the bird faces the executioner.  Whoa!  The trend only intensified Thursday and Friday.

Of course, it strains credulity to argue for any more time off.  At this point, I think it makes far more sense to increase Christmas Break than to lengthen Thanksgiving any further.

One downside to this newer, longer break:  with losing some other days earlier in the semester, everyone is completely burned out.  We teachers are not a hardy breed:  we’ve grown soft with cushy vacations.  In all seriousness, though, we get pretty worn down, as anyone would corralling and attempting to mold young minds all day.

Well, enough of that.  Now I’m enjoying the sweet life.

With that, here is 23 November 2020’s “Memorable Monday: Thanksgiving Week!“:

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Quiz Bowlin’

When I was in high school, I played (poorly) on our school’s Academic Team.  Academic Team basically consisted of answering questions about topics that one might learn about during the course of a college preparatory high school education, covering everything from literature and mathematics to history and sports.  It was basically Jeopardy! for high schoolers.

I was—in all humility—a bit of a phenom in middle school, and was the high scorer for Aiken County, South Carolina my eighth grade year.  Then I went to high school, and the difficulty of the questions and the intensity of the practices increased dramatically.  Turns out there is a huge gap between what a kid is expected to know at the end of middle school versus the end of high school.

Still, my love for Academic Team never waned.  When I started teaching, I immediately volunteered to coach my school’s High School Quiz Bowl team (South Carolina Independent School Association [SCISA] schools call it “Quiz Bowl,” rather than “Academic Team”).  I’ve been doing so for ten years.

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Virtual Learning Day Review

After a glorious Labor Day weekend and a scenic drive, my school opted to hold a virtual learning rehearsal day, intoning the usual incantation of “out of an abundance of caution” due to the possibility of holiday-related viral spread.  The decision to do a day of virtual learning also came with the insistent emphasis that we are not planning on going to virtual or distance learning on a long-term basis, but merely wanted to practice in order to prepare for the worst.

Thank goodness!  While I very much appreciated the more relaxed pace of the day—and by extension the cancellation of Back-to-School Night—I was also reminded of the shortcomings of distance learning.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Educational Tyranny

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Apologies to readers for the delayed post.  After a long but productive week and a drive to Athens—not to mention a late-night dose of NyQuil—I’m getting a late start on this post.

Education is a field that tends towards authoritarianism and centralization, especially when faced with a major problem outside of its usual scope.  The field’s emphasis on safety—understandable given that teachers and administrators work with children—can become, in certain circumstances, pathological.

Schools, especially public schools, sit at the uncomfortable nexus of politics, liability, and conformity.  Various political schemes to improve education often backfire, instead creating onerous additional tasks that rank-and-file faculty shoulder.  Centralization of control at the State and federal levels, rather than aid classroom teaching, often merely force conformity on the profession, while creating unrealistic “benchmarks” that don’t align with local conditions or needs.

The ever-present fear of lawsuits reduces administrators to whimpering toadies, themselves often filled with silly pedagogical theories from bogus education programs.  Educational dogma is fully onboard with social justice foolishness, and education programs are excellent at producing dedicated Cultural Marxists and “activists,” all eager to indoctrinate students into the prevailing cult of groupthink.

Within this milieu is the tendency for professional educators to possess a bit of an authoritarian streak.  There are plenty of good teachers with an authoritative approach to both their subject matter and classroom management (the buzzword for “discipline” or control of the classroom), but some teachers and administrators relish control over their tiny little domains.  Small people ruling small fiefdoms tend to possess rather inflated senses of their own rightness and righteousness.

The Age of The Virus, then, provided the perfect conditions for justifying all manner of policies and procedures that do little to help children learn, but do a great deal to empower administrators, district offices, and the like with the pretexts for depriving students, employees, and parents of any modicum of personal and academic freedom.  The very same forces that would hawk abortions with the rallying cry of “my body, my choice” also gleefully mandate experimental mRNA vaccination regimens and literal muzzles—even for vaccinated employees!

Locally, the Darlington County School District has tied vaccination to COVID leave, an invention of the federal government that allows teachers quarantined or sick due to The Virus to receive paid COVID leave in lieu of their regular sick leave.  Per the article at the News & Press (emphasis added), “‘Some people may think this is controversial,’ Education Superintendent Tim Newman said. ‘Sometimes, you just have to take a stand for what you think is right.'”

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