End-of-the-School-Year Reflections: Returning to Normal

About fourteen months ago The Before Times ended, ushering in The Age of The Virus.  On 16 March 2021, my little school transitioned to distance learning, and like other schools in South Carolina, we finished the year online.

We began this school year with a mix of online and in-person students, with most students attending in-person.  We had a plethora of new policies to enforce, such as one-way traffic in hallways (that quickly collapsed), mask-wearing, and social distancing.  Of those three, mask-wearing was pretty much the only one that really stuck the entire year, until Governor McMaster blessedly issued his executive order last week allowing students to opt-out of wearing masks.

With Awards Day today and graduation just eight days away (next week is Exam Week, so it will be a much lighter week than most for yours portly), it seemed appropriate to review this highly unusual school year, and to reflect upon how it went, and what the long-term implications of it will be.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Concert Postmortem

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.

My poor health recovered, I tested negative for The Virus, and the Spring Concert was a smashing success.  I managed to get back to work Wednesday, giving me time to build—for the first time since the 2019 Christmas Concert—my Frankenstein’s Monster sound system, rehearse my students, and wire up a ton of microphones, amps, keyboards, and the like.

After every big concert, I spend part of a class period conducting a “concert postmortem,” my pet term for reviewing the highs and lows of the previous night.  It’s a good opportunity to discuss elements that could be improved for the next concert, but also to allow the students to bask in the glory of their performance a little longer.

Not surprisingly, this process tends to work better with high school students, who have developed politeness filters and know how to phrase suggestions diplomatically.  They’re also veterans, so they understand better the realities of live performance, and don’t have unrealistic expectations.  Middle school students tend to either be over-awed by the experience (one student Thursday evening exclaimed, “That was awesome!”) or very critical of small errors.  That’s why we frame these discussions as “constructive criticism,” which helps the students understand the purpose is to build each other up and point out areas where we can all improve.

Regardless, I’m letting readers in on that process a bit with a general “concert postmortem,” including our finalized set list.

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TBT^2: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective

The Kindle version of The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard: The Ultimate Flatfoot goes live today!  If you pre-ordered the book, it should pop up in your Kindle app today.  At $5, it’s a very easy lift, as is the paperback at $15.

It’s April Fool’s Day, a holiday for mirth and merriment, but one I dedicate to remembering the day twelve years ago when I faced unemployment during the worst job market since the Great Depression.

In rereading last year’s TBT and the original “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective,” I’m reminded how good God has been to me.  Last year I’d lost most of my private lesson students due to The Virus; now, I’m back up to seven students (six weekly, one twice a month), and I’ve just released a book (the Kindle version goes live today!).  Gigging still hasn’t really picked back up, but Bandcamp sales have been decent (and another Bandcamp Friday is tomorrow!), and my front porch Spooktacular was a blast.

I’m still hustlin’, but I’m also taking more time to appreciate life.  Perhaps the hard slog of my twenties has finally paid off here in my mid-thirties.

With that, here are “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective” and “TBT: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective“:

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Brief Monday Morning Update

Last week was an exceptionally busy one for yours portly, with a number of duties and responsibilities intersecting at once.  I’m sure many readers have noticed this phenomenon, but there is a decidedly cyclical nature to workflow; indeed, it’s almost tidal in the manner it ebbs and flows:  I can go for two or three weeks enjoying a fairly placid schedule, only to have a couple of weeks of intense activity.  Everything seems to come to a head at the same time.

That’s particularly true in education, a field that is structurally cyclical, with regular intervals of heightened activity baked into the calendar.  The third quarter ended Friday, marking the beginning of the end of the school year (fourth quarter—that last, mad dash to summer vacation—starts today).  That means last week was a flurry of finalizing grades and writing report card comments.

My school requires unique, individualized comments for every student, and though we teach (on average) fewer students than the typical public school teacher, we’re expected to go above and beyond.  Because my colleagues and I were scolded as a group for comments deemed inadequate (for the record, I always write exceptional comments), I decided to double-down and write even more ridiculously detailed comments.  Our registrar read through them Friday morning (after I worked furiously and late into the night Thursday to finish them before the weekend) and said, “I felt like I was reading a novella.”  Mission accomplished.

That’s all to say that I’m very tired, so I thought this Monday would be a good opportunity to offer some brief updates.

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Singing Christmas Carols with Kids

Today is Bandcamp Friday, which means if you purchase my music on Bandcamp, Bandcamp doesn’t take their usual 15% commission.  You can pick up my entire discography for $15.75—seven total releases, including the popular Contest Winner – EP.  If you want to enjoy some good tunes and support an independent musician, today is a great day to do so.  You can also support me directly with a tip.

It’s that time of year when Christmas music dominates the airwaves and our collective consciousness.  It’s always a tad irksome to me how folks will complain about Christmas music during the Christmas season.  Of course you’re going to hear Mariah Carey every fifteen minutes—it comes with the territory.  Naturally, let’s at least get through Halloween (and, preferably, Thanksgiving Day), but at least make an attempt at getting into the Christmas spirit.

Last year I wrote extensively about Christmas carols.  Indeed, one of my many unfinished projects is to compile a small book containing the stories of some of our most cherished carols (I want to write a similar book about hymns, too).  I play and sing a lot of carols this time of year:  I’m a music teacher.  Perennial favorites—and the selections my classes are currently playing—are “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” and “O Holy Night.”

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Live Remote Learning Rehearsal Day 2

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.

Yesterday my school ran its second Live Remote Learning Rehearsal Day.  We have actually done really well with keeping cases low—almost non-existent.  Nevertheless, our administration is taking a proactive approach by testing out remote learning in various scenarios in the event we need to go fully online.

Overall, the day seemed to go smoothly, at least on my end.  The difference this time was that instead of faculty teaching from school with students at home, faculty were also allowed to stay home.  That made the experience much more like our transition to distance learning back in March.

I’m enjoying some time with my niece and nephews this morning, so the rest of this post will be completed a bit later today.  Thank you, subscribers, once again for your patience.

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Friday Morning Reading: The Story of One Hundred Great Composers

Today my school is doing its second Live Remote Learning Rehearsal days.  These are days for us to test out remote learning in the event The Virus necessitates returning to distance learning full-timeLast time teachers tuned in from home while teachers were on-campus.  This time, both teachers and students are able to work from home, so I’ve been enjoying a more leisurely morning.

Indeed, I just wrapped up my first morning class of the day, a section of Middle School Music.  The students in that section wrote brief, rough draft biographies of renowned composers, and after giving them feedback in-class yesterday, they presented on their composers this morning.  It was a good lesson for digital learning, as it required their active participation for the bulk of the class, and they all did quite well.

I’ve assigned composer biographies in music courses for years, but what inspired the assignment this time around was the rediscovery of a charming little book I keep on a small end table in my den:  Helen L. Kaufmann’s The Story of One Hundred Great Composers.  Published in 1943, the book is a tiny, pocket-sized digest of two-to-three-page entries—arranged chronologically—of composers from the sixteenth century forward.

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Memorable Monday: Happy Columbus Day!

I’m back from my third trip to Universal Studios this year, and I’m worn out.  Having nonstop fun in the central Florida sun for three days straight really takes it out of me—that, and driving nearly fourteen hours round trip.  I’ll be posting a delayed SubscribeStar post about the trip for subscribers later this evening, after taking a much-needed nap.

Today is Columbus Day, and outside of banks and the postal service, I’m one of the few people who doesn’t have to work today.  I’m thankful for that, and to Columbus for making his historic voyages to the New World.

The attempts of cancel culture to rewrite history have only intensified since I wrote this post one year ago.  The trend is heading into extreme territory, in which we absurdly demand people living four hundred years ago to have had the foresight to think and believe the way we do in 2020.  We pillory them and destroy their statues if they failed to genuflect properly.

The world in 1492 was a brutal place, especially in the New World.  The myth of the “noble savage” was just that—a myth.  The Native Americans were a vastly diverse array of tribes and confederations, often intensely at war with one another.  That doesn’t excuse some of the abuse they did receive at the hands of Europeans and, later, Americans, but it should dispel this notion that white people cruelly destroyed peaceful Earth worshippers.

That it doesn’t is a testament to the strength of progressive indoctrination in our schools.  We don’t name football teams, towns, and military weaponry after Native Americans because they were pagan hippies; we do so because we fought them for hundreds of years and admire their tenacity and warrior-spirit.  It’s the hard-won respect one has for a worthy opponent, even a defeated one.

So, I’ll repeat my call to preserve Columbus Day.  Here is 2019’s “Happy Columbus Day!“:

Today is Columbus Day in the United States, the day that commemorates Columbus’s voyage to the Americas in 1492.  It’s one of the most significant events in human history—as I tell my American History students, “we wouldn’t be here if Columbus hadn’t made his voyages”—yet the social justice, Cultural Marxist revisionist scolds want to do away with the holiday entirely, replacing it instead with “Indigenous People’s Day.”

The thrust of the proposed (or, as is the way with SJWs, demanded) name change is that Columbus was a genocidal, white male meanie who defrauded and murdered peace-loving Native Americans (who had the gall to mislabel Indians!), so instead we should celebrate the contributions of Stone Age cannibals.

Two States—Vermont and Maine (of course they’re in New England, the epicenter of neo-puritanical scolds)—have passed laws renaming the federal holiday to the SJW-approved Indigenous People’s Day.  One Maine mayor, however, refuses to bend, and has declared that in Waterville, Maine, Columbus will be honored.

Mayor Nick Isgro has garnered national attention for his stand to protect Columbus Day from the faddish winds of outrage culture:  “‘The history of mankind is not necessarily a nice one,’ he said. ‘With every great accomplishment, we could probably line up negative consequences as well as positive consequences and that goes across all peoples, all continents, all countries.’”

That’s probably one of the best, brief summaries of a proper historical perspective I’ve read recently:  we can find all sorts of nasty bits about every culture, country, and personality.  But that doesn’t detract from the greatness of their accomplishments.

The revisionists are not incorrect about Columbus:  he did, in his own misguided way, commit what we would now consider atrocities against the Arawaks of the Caribbean.  But it’s foolish to believe that the Native Americans were peaceful, “noble” savages, living in a harmonious state of nature until the evil, exploitative Europeans showed up.  That version of history is a Leftist passion play, which casts history into shades of (literal and metaphorical) black and white—and any white person must possess a black soul.

The peoples of the late fifteenth-century Caribbean were no saints.  To quote from Samuel Eliot Morrison’s Admiral of the Ocean Sea (quotation c/o VDare.com):

The searching party found plentiful evidence of these unpleasant Carib habits which were responsible for a new word—cannibal—in the European languages. In the huts deserted by the warriors, who ungallantly fled, they found large cuts and joints of human flesh, shin bones set aside to make arrows of, caponized Arawak boy captives who were being fattened for the griddle, and girl captives who were mainly used to produce babies, which the Caribs regarded as a particularly toothsome morsel.

Clearly, the Arawaks weren’t polite simpletons (which is how they come across in progressive retellings) snookered by a wicked Italian.  They were fattening up little boys t be eaten, and impregnating young girls to eat their offspring!

I recently wrote about similar Native American atrocities regarding the Aztecs.  The Aztecs’ atrocities are far better understood—the massive, organized human sacrifices, for example—but there’s still this push among modern historians to cast the Spanish conquistadors as the villains.

Naturally, we have to understand these cultures and civilizations in their time and place—but we can do so without condoning their barbarism and cannibalism.  Similarly, if we’re willing to accord some historical wiggle room to baby-eaters, can’t we extend the same generosity to Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors?

Further, as I read the accounts of various Native American practices, I can see why Spanish and subsequent Europeans believed they were doing the Lord’s work to wipe out these practices:  some of them are downright demonic.  It’s fitting that the bloody temples of Tenochtitlan were dismantled and replaced with a Christian cathedral.  The Old Testament is rife with examples of pagan places of worship being destroyed and replaced with altars to Jehovah.

(Of course, if the Spanish were indeed part of God’s Divine judgment on the Aztecs, et. al., Americans should be very worried today, as we continue to participate in mass infanticide.  God is patient, but His patience does not endure forever.)

So, yes, let’s celebrate Columbus on Columbus Day.  I’m glad to be in the New World, and that we don’t line people up to be sacrificed to a sun god every day.

Columbus

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Lazy Sunday LXXXI: Education, Part II

The school year is roaring on, and we’re already coming up on the end of our first quarter (an unusually truncated first quarter, as we’ll only have been in school seven weeks by this Friday, plus two days).  I’ve been writing a bit more about education lately, as is common during the school year.  In The Age of The Virus, it makes for slightly more interesting writing than the usual complaints about overstuffed classrooms and understuffed paychecks.

I also haven’t featured education since “Lazy Sunday XXIV: Education,” so it seemed like a good time to revisit the topic that consumes most of my daily life.  Here are some recent posts on that all-consuming topic:

  • Progress Report: Teaching in The Age of The Virus” – I wrote this post just a few weeks ago, when interim/progress reports were coming out at my school.  It was a good opportunity, after nearly a month of teaching, to reflect on the additional challenges and burdens of teaching live to students face-to-face and online simultaneously, and of recording (often with buggy apps) for international students to watch later.  The workload has since taken on a more familiar pattern and rhythm, but those first few weeks consumed huge amounts of time and energy.
  • Teaching in The Age of The Virus: Live Remote Learning Rehearsal Day” – I wrote this post just two days ago, and it was a bit of an update on my “Progress Report.”  This post reviewed our “Live Remote Learning Rehearsal Day,” in which all students stayed home and livestreamed classes via Google Meet, while teachers taught from their respective classrooms.  I was surprised by how challenging it was to maintain the rapport of a classroom setting while having students sitting at home.  Very odd.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: Making Music, Part II” – When I wrote this post yesterday, I had forgotten I’d written another SubscribeStar Saturday post of the same name in May!  That was bound to happen eventually, so I hastily added the “Part II” to this one.  Yesterday’s post was a bit of a counterpoint to the frustration and pessimism of Friday’s review of the live remote rehearsal day:  it was a celebration of music education, and the joy of watching student-musicians forming bands, writing lyrics, singing songs, and all that.  Indeed, it’s a reminder why teachers teach—and why music teachers have it the best, even if they work hard.

That’s it for another Lazy Sunday.  Here’s hoping you enjoyed a restful weekend.  It’s finally October, and the weather in South Carolina has been sublime:  warm enough to enjoy a walk in the afternoon, but cold enough to kill most of the bugs.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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