SubscribeStar Saturday: The State of Education Update II

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Spring Break is drawing to a close, with a four-week-ish slog to the relative freedom of summer vacation, when I go from being a stressed-out ball of blubber persisting on processed foods and frozen pizza to living like a chubby retiree.  As such, it seemed like an opportune time to look at the state of education in the United States.

As I wrote this morning, lately I’ve been listening to quite a bit of the ideas of “unschooling” advocate John Taylor Gatto.  Some of his views on adolescence (he says there really isn’t one, and that childhood essentially ends around the age seven) are pretty radical, though they aren’t without historical precedent, but for the most part, I find myself in agreement with assessment of the modern educational-industrial complex.

The first JTG video I watched/listened to

In essence, Gatto (should I call him “JTG”?) argues—and supports, with ample primary source research—that the modern system of “warehouse” schooling is not a proper education at all, but rather a massive system for indoctrinating students into compliance and mass conformity.  He argues that little real “education” takes place inside of schools, and that a genuine education comes from within the student himself.  In other words, all of the world is a “classroom” and everyone in it a “teacher” to the open learner.  An elite, private or boarding school education is available to anyone, Gatto contends, for free.

Gatto famously quit after a long, celebrated career in New York City public schools in a letter to The Wall Street Journal entitled “I Quit, I Think” (note that the title has two possible meanings:  the first, obvious one is the note of uncertainty the added “I Think” carries; the second one is the subtle implication that because “I Think,” I (Gatto) must quit).  In short, Gatto came to believe that what he had been doing for years was actually harming students, rather than improving their lives.

Talk about a heavy epiphany.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Spring Concert 2022 Postmortem

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This past Wednesday night was the Spring Concert for my students.  As is my custom, I like to do a concert “postmortem” with my students to talk about what went well, and what we could improve (myself included) for the next concert.

This year’s concert really went over well.  Anecdotally, I was told that a number of parents said something along the lines of “I thought last year’s concert was good, but this one was even better.”  I do think we hit the runtime just right:  the concert kicked off a few minutes after 6 PM, and we wrapped up right around 7:15 PM.  That’s with our dance classes performing in the middle of the program.

We split the concert into three parts:  an opening section with Middle School Music and a couple of solos; the dance classes performing six pieces; and a closing section with my High School Music Ensemble (and a few more solos).

With that, here is a breakdown of the two musical portions.

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Concert Time!

Tonight my students have their big Spring Concert.  It’s one of the two busiest days of my year (the other being the Christmas Concert), as there is much to be done to prepare.

The students are well-rehearsed and ready to play.  Today will be spend putting instruments on stage, and making sure everything is mic’d up properly.  That’s not difficult to do, per se, but it is quite time-consuming.

There are also a million little details to get sorted:  making sure extra copies of music are run off; ensuring that cables are taped down or covered to prevent tripping; checking the sound levels; making sure students know how to get on and off the stage efficiently; etc.  It’s a lot to do, but the payoff is worth it.

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TBT: Memorable Monday II: Monday Steakhouse Blues

As I wrote yesterday, today I’m taking my students to a music festival, where they will play and sing solo selections for judges.  They get a score based on their performance, as well as useful feedback from the judges about tone, pitch, articulation, musicality, and the rest.  It’s a very fun day, but also a very busy one.

As I noted in yesterday’s post, it always seems to coincide with one of the busiest seasons of the year, when time constrains are at their most stringent and intense.  Almost everyone reading this blog understands there is an ebbing and flowing to life:  you might enjoy one (even two!) weeks of routine, maybe even a bit of a lighter schedule than usual.

Then—BAM!—everything comes due, breaks, and goes haywire at once.  As my friend and regular reader Barnard Fife once told me, “trouble is like grapes:  it comes in bunches.”  Amen, BF.

The original post behind this threat, “Monday Steakhouse Blues,” was written at a particularly tough time for yours portly.  I found myself without Internet and putting in very long hours (and this was well before I had twenty-ish students for private lessons).  I spent a weary Monday evening eating steak at Western Sizzlin’ and writing a blog post on my phone.  The steak was good, but everything else at the time was pretty miserable.

Thank God for better organization, a greater sense of perspective (this is just life, and it will pass), and for 10 milligrams of citalopram every morning.  Gotta be thankful for the little things.

The “Memorable Monday” version of this post, which I have also reblogged below, went live the week before everything in South Carolina shut down due to the dawning of The Age of The Virus.  In other words, it was the last week of The Before Times, in The Long, Long Ago.  There are many things I miss about The Before Times, but a silver-lining of The Age of The Virus was that it saved me from the intense burnout I was experiencing at the time.

With that, here is 9 March 2020’s “Memorable Monday II: Monday Steakhouse Blues” (on a Thursday!):

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Midweek March Update

Yep, Portly readers:  it’s one of those blog posts:  a general update on the latest with yours portly because I’m out of both ideas and energy.  Sure, I should be writing about the war in the Ukraine or something important like that (instead of silly paintings and piano pieces), but, again—I’m more low-energy than JEB! at the moment.  Or, at the very least, my pantheric intensity has to be focused towards more pressing matters than this humble blog.

Early March is always a time when everything comes to a head at once.  Last week was the final week of third quarter, and was chock-a-block with various school events.  That saw me scrambling around all over campus during my precious planning periods performing various feats of technical wizardry (but all of the standard hedge-mage variety; the really powerful audio/visual spells won’t be cast for another month).  Incredibly, I managed to record all of Péchés d’âge moyen last week (give it a listen if you haven’t already—it’s less then seven minutes to listen to the entire album!).

Naturally, that meant a backlog of grading and comment-writing for report cards, which had to be completed over the weekend.  I’m grateful to Pontiac Dream 39/Always a Kid for Today for his movie review Monday, because that saved me some valuable time Sunday (it’s also an excellent review—you should go read it!).

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Retro Tuesday: Christmas Break Begins!

Yesterday marked the true “beginning of my glorious, two-week Christmas break.”  It’s been a busy break so far, with a very productive Town Council work session last night, and a meeting with our new Mayor-Elect this morning.  I’m also meeting with a parent later in the day to sign some paperwork for a program for her daughter.

That’s a breakneck pace compared to past Christmas breaks, but it’s nothing too daunting.  I’m looking forward to some time with my parents, brothers, sister-in-laws, niece, and nephews soon, not to mention other family members.

It’s a lazy time of year for the blog, too:  not much is happening in the news, and everyone is settling in for a long winter’s nap.  I will have a guest contribution from 39 Pontiac Dreamer tomorrow—a review of a video game series—and some other goodies after Christmas.  Otherwise, look for a lot of re-runs from yours portly this week.

That said, the topic of this post from last Christmas Break—the need for some time off at Christmas for everyone, not just those of us in the cushy education racket—is still relevant.  Granted, some workers have decided to take the entire year off, it seems, enjoying generous federal unemployment and other kickbacks from The Age of The Virus, rather than return to their honest, albeit grueling, jobs.  Maybe let’s shoot for something a bit more balanced, yeah?

Still, work, while ennobling and healthy, can easily become overtaxing and detrimental.  There are diminishing returns, too:  after too many hours and too much effort, both mental and physical, we all start to get sloppy.  Some folks are built with the drive and energy to go nonstop, but I suspect most of us appreciate having a little downtime here and there.

With that, here is 21 December 2021’s “Christmas Break Begins!“:

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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

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

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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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