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!
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.
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.
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.:
“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.
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!).
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.
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.
In lieu of Supporting Friends Friday, I’ve decided to dedicate this Friday’s post to the memories of three great men that left us in the past week. One was a beloved funnyman; the second an influential public intellectual; the third a former colleague’s husband.
That order is not indicative of a ranking by significance or importance, to be clear. As I noted, I consider all three of these gentleman to be great men. Each contributed something to the world in their own way.
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.