Homecoming Week Grind

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The end of The Age of The Virus has brought about a return of “normalcy,” as then-candidate Warren G. Harding famously said during the 1920 presidential election.  Normalcy is good, and I welcome it.

Granted, the world of today is not the same as the world of The Before Times, in the Long, Long Ago.  Widespread lunacy seems to constitute “normalcy,” and the sane among us must do our best to endure it.

But if the The Virus fundamentally transformed the assumptions of our civilization—fear trumps freedom; coercion trumps liberty—the outward trappings of “the good old days” still stretch a thin facade of fun over the face of a conquered people.

So it was that my school celebrated its annual Homecoming this past week.  It was fun, but fun can be a grind!

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Phone it in Friday XXVII: Virtual Learning Hurricane Holiday

Hurricane Ian has been battering Florida, and South Carolina should be experiencing the effects of said battering today, albeit to a vastly diminished degree.  The weather is calling for high winds and lots of rain, but nothing that seems (to me, anyway) particularly dangerous.  I just wouldn’t recommend hanging out underneath any old trees.

Naturally, the slightest degree of inclemency prompts the shuttering of all operations for those of us in the cushier fields like education.  Fear of the “L Word”—Liability—means my administration has opted to close the school today, lest some witless teen driver find himself, wheels spinning, in a watery ditch.

Of course, in this post-The Virus era—here in The Days After The Age of The Virus—there are no longer inclement weather “holidays,” as there were in The Before Times, in the Long, Long Ago.  Now we can hop seamlessly online, teaching and learning from the comfort of our couches.

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Phone it in Friday XXVI: Unschooling with John Taylor Gatto

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything about John Taylor Gatto, the teacher who rejected compulsory schooling and argued forcefully in favor of a true education, one unbounded from mass school schemes.  I was on a kick back in the spring of listening to his talks, but hadn’t listened to him much lately.

That is, until the YouTube Algorithm—may it be praised—tossed this video into my feed:

I know, I know—it’s nearly an hour long.  I don’t expect you to listen to it all now (please finish reading this blog post first), but if you’re in the car or warshing (as my girl would say) the dishes, put it on in the background.  It’s a must-listen.

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Chapel Lesson: Listening

Now that The Age of The Virus is pretty much over, my school has resumed its normal schedule of weekly events, most of which were shuttered during those two, long, pointlessly fearful years.  Part of that schedule is Chapel on Thursday mornings.

Years ago, we had a regular chaplain, a crusty ex-Marine and Episcopal reverend whom I loved dearly (his widow gave me several of his shirts and a leather bag, which I still carry to this day).  After his passing, we went through a parade of youth pastors of various stripes and backgrounds, and briefly brought in a charismatic black man who shouted inspirationally at the students (and frequently showed up late, or not at all).

We now have a young Spanish teacher—a very sweet, unassuming fellow, who is probably six-and-a-half-feet tall—who will serve as our chaplain.  However, he’s a shy man—a gentle giant—and wasn’t quite ready to dive into Chapel this year.  As such, the administration asked me to deliver the first little lesson of the year.

It’s a responsibility I took seriously, but also willingly.  I prayed about what I should cover, and while flipping through a devotional from The Daily Encouraging Word, I found a good lesson from James 1:19 about listening.

It was a good, broad message that is applicable even for non-believers, and I thought it’d make a good, quick lesson for students, who often need to be reminded to listen closely and not to jump to conclusions (many adults—myself included!—need to be reminded of this lesson, too!).  The five tips are directly from the DEW devotional, but I added in some verses I’d been mulling over from Proverbs.

It was remarkable to me how the Holy Spirit placed these related verses in front of me as I was putting this little talk together.  I’ve been reading and rereading Proverbs, reading one chapter a day for each day of the month, and it’s really deepened my understanding of the wisdom contained therein.  It just so happened that there was a great passage from Proverbs 25 the morning I was to give the chapel lesson, so it fit in nicely.

To God Be the Glory!

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Phone it in Friday XXIII: School’s Back!

School’s back, baby!  We resumed classes Wednesday, 17 August 2022, a full sixteen days after the poor unfortunates in my county’s public schools resumed (they started back on Monday, 1 August 2022; while the school district has transitioned to a “semi-year-round schedule,” as they call it, it still seems borderline criminal to start school that early).

Just like last Friday’s post, I’m actually filing this one early; indeed, I’m writing it the day before school resumes.  As such, I can’t comment on how this first, abbreviated week has gone, but I can give some insights into what we’re planning on doing, and how I’ve prepared for the start of this year.

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Lazy Sunday CLVIII: School, Part II

Well, the first day of school is coming up on Wednesday, which is appropriate:  all of this weekend’s posts are about that halcyon first day (or week!) of school:

  • First Day of School in The Age of The Virus” – I was really dreading this school year, and this post might reflect that somewhat.  We had to implement a lot of crazy new measures to accommodate The Age of The Virus, most of which have (hopefully) fallen away now.  Still, we made it through, for the most part.
  • First Week of School in The Age of The Virus” (and “TBT: First Week of School in The Age of The Virus“) – Even after a week, I was already feeling a bit better about things.  It was still a bit crazy getting students to wipe desks down every time they entered a classroom, and the technology issues were in full effect (I’d completely forgotten about Loom—thank goodness!).
  • Back to School 2021” – I hate to be negative, but this school year sucked.  But there were some bright moments, too, and I had nearly twenty students for private lessons at one point.  Wooooot!

That’s all for this second edition of school-related posts.  Excelsior!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Lazy Sunday CLVII: School, Part I

Aside from a fairly early issue of Lazy Sunday about education, I haven’t really done one about school.  Now that I’m back to work, it seemed like a good time to revisit some timeless classics about education, school, etc.:

  • Back to School with Richard Weaver” (and “TBT: Back to School with Richard Weaver” and “TBT^2: Back to School with Richard Weaver“) – I used to reread at least the introduction to Richard Weaver’s seminal Ideas Have Consequences, probably the most powerful book I’ve ever read (besides the Bible).  I haven’t read it in some time, but I think it’s time to pick up this old chestnut again.
  • First Day of School 2019” – Ah, yes, the 2019-2020 school year—easily the most unusual school year any teacher has experienced, with the possible exception of 2020-2021.  I was absolutely burned out by the time The Age of The Virus hit in mid-March 2022, and it ended up being a bit of a silver lining (with all due respect to those who suffered and even died because of it).
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Returning to School in The Age of The Virus” – I grew so accustomed to the freedom of working from home, I was actually really dreading returning to school for the 2020-2021 school year.  It wasn’t that bad overall; 2021-2022 was much more difficult.  But it was certainly an unusual—an unprecedented!—time to be a teacher.  I still feel sorry for those who entered the profession this year.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT^2: Back to the Grind 2020

Well, tomorrow I head back to work.  Classes don’t start for nearly another two weeks—I guess in thirteen days—but I’ll be back in endless meetings, OSHA training, and AFLAC presentations, followed by a lot of registration stuff.

The last couple of school years were really a slog, especially last year, when we were kind of getting back to normal, but still dealing with the inconvenience of Virus-related mitigation measures.  I’m praying this year for some sanity—no masks, no vaccination passports.

Well, teaching always includes some insanity.  It keeps the job fresh, and keeps us young (while simultaneously aging us rapidly, it seems).

I’m not sure how I’m spending this last day of summery freedom—probably writing blog posts and teaching lessons!—but Summer 2022 has been a pretty good one all around.

With that, here is 12 August 2021’s “TBT: Back to the Grind 2020“:

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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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