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 anotherSubscribeStar 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.
Progress reports go out to students today at my little school, so I thought it would be a good time to provide an update of my own now that we’re nearly a month into the school year. I posted about teaching in The Age of The Virus after the first day and the first week, and now I have a much better perspective on how the year is unfolding.
As a refresher, my school is doing mostly face-to-face instruction, but with some students doing distance learning. Students have the option to go to distance learning pretty much at will (for example, I had one student who stayed home today with a cold, but who tuned into my music appreciation course), and can return to school at any time. Students engaged in distance learning are required to attend during the scheduled class period.
The caveat to that general rule pertains to international students. We have a number of students overseas who, because of new restrictions due to The Virus, are stuck in their home countries. Many of those students’ classes are late at night, or even in the very early morning, after accounting for the time difference. It’s a long way from South Carolina to Vietnam.
What that means is that we have to teach our regular classes; livestream them; and record those livestreams, making the recordings available after the class. It sounds easy enough—so long as everything works perfectly.
That’s turning out to be the fly in the pancake batter. As one of our dedicated science teachers said—the lady who troubleshoots our woeful technological glitches—“I can livestream, or I can record. The trouble is trying to do both.” Amen to that.
We’ve gotten about one week of school in the books. So far—as far as I know—there have been no major outbreaks of The Virus among our students or staff. I noted last Friday that our plethora of new policies were, fortunately, not quite as difficult to implement as I feared.
I wrote at the time that the “real test will be next week—our first full week of school.” So with one (very long) week in the books, how are we holding up?
A couple of days before the start of the school year, my school underwent a round of indoctrination professional development: the dreaded diversity, equity, and inclusion training ($5 subs got a sneak peek of my handwritten notes earlier this week, which I uploaded as a digitized PDF). As these things go, it wasn’t terrible, but there was plenty of social justice buzz words, and a subtle, implied anti-white bias to it. Really, it was an anti-Truth and objectivity bias.
This Saturday, permit me to be your guide through the harrowing world of corporate-style diversity training in the Year of Our Wokeness Two-Thousand and Twenty C.E. (because “A.D.” is discriminatory against non-Christians, even though the B.C.E./C.E. dating system is still based on the Birth of Jesus Christ!).
Yesterday was the first day of the 2020-2021 school year, an academic year that, for good or for ill, will certainly go down in the annals of educational history. The build-up to the first day was a somewhat baffling scramble to implement new policies while also preparing to teach, but the day itself mostly ran smoothly.
Teachers possess an endless capacity for complaining, as I’ve noted before (indeed, a good chunk of this blog is me doing just that!), but also for adaptation. We’re already amateur therapists, social workers, law enforcement officers, medics, and traffic cops on top of our actual mastery of our subject area. Now we’re trying to accomplish all of those things while fending off The Virus with masks and one-way hallway traffic.
So, naturally, everyone was feeling a bit overwhelmed entering this school year. Our administration has worked very hard to craft policies that we can implement successfully. After the first day—which is always a little hectic and chaotic—I am personally feeling much better about the new protocols.
Today marks the first day of school for the 2020-2021 school year: The Year of The Virus, if we were to affix a Chinese Zodiac-style name to it. It’s going to be the most unusual school year any of us have ever experienced, I imagine. Please keep teachers, students, administrators, and staff in your prayers.
As I’ve noted often, I reread at least the introduction to Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences every school year. The introduction offers a strong diagnosis of modernity’s ills, and it reminds me why teaching is so important—not just the accumulation of random facts into worldly knowledge, but to inculcate deeper knowledge and virtue—what we might call “wisdom.”
Every year, I try to sit down and re-read at least the introduction to Richard Weaver’s seminal Ideas Have Consequences, probably the most powerful book I’ve ever read. I tend to undertake this re-reading around the time school resumes, as it helps remind me why I teach.
In addition to Ideas Have Consequences, Weaver wrote some of the most eloquent essays on the South—and what it means to be Southern—in the twentieth century. In 2014, I posted the following quotation on Facebook; I will allow it to speak for itself[:]
I’m undertaking my annual baptism in the works of Richard Weaver to focus my philosophical thinking for a rapidly approaching school year, and, as always, I’m presented with an embarrassment of riches. Few thinkers cram so many nuggets of truth into so little space. Every paragraph of Weaver’s writings yields insights that speak to the very heart of humanity.
This past Monday teachers returned to work at my small private private school. We start classes this Thursday, 24 August 2020. We’ll be holding classes in-person and on-campus, with a number of new safety and sanitation protocols to attempt to limit the spread of The Virus.
It is in times like these that I’m glad I have been teaching for a decade. My heart goes out to the new and first-year teachers, who are entering the classroom for the first time in highly atypical—indeed, unprecedented—conditions. Building and planning out courses is a heavy enough load for a first-year teacher; doing so while enforcing various mask and social-distancing policies on rowdy youngsters is a Herculean task.
Needless to say, school is going to look a bit different this year. Most of the changes are fairly doable, but it’s going to take consistent enforcement to implement them, and it’s really going to require a culture change at our school. Our formerly informal but professional culture among teachers, administrators, and students is likely to become far more regimented.
The school year starts back in one week, and it’s a flurry of activity to prepare for students returning to school, especially in The Age of The Virus. I’m slowly readjusting to returning to work on a daily basis, after enjoying the short-lived fantasy life of summer.
It’s going to be a difficult transition with all the new Virus-related restrictions, which I will write about more this weekend. “Culture shock” is probably the best term for it. Enforcing mask-wearing, constant cleaning between classes, and other new protocols are going to be an additional, wearying task atop the many others teachers and students are already required to navigate.
I’ve written quite a bit about education over the past year, especially as the last academic year was particularly trying. The posts featured below were all written before that difficult year, which really affected some of my attitudes and personal theories about teaching. The profession is not getting any easier, and with the latest revival of woke social justice, it’s also getting less tolerable ideologically.
This week’s TBT is, as far as I can recall, a first: I’m throwing back to an old Lazy Sunday. This one is pretty meaty, as it links to quite a bit of my writing about education.
The school year is back in full swing, and I am already beat. It looks like it’s going to be a good year, and I have some very bright students, but my teaching load is substantially busier than last year, and my private lesson empire continues to grow. Those are all blessings, but it means a lot more work for yours portly.
That’s all to say that I thought this Sunday’s edition of Lazy Sunday would be perfect for looking back at my education-related posts:
“Lincoln on Education” – a little post consisting of remarks I made to the Florence County (SC) Republican Party back in September 2018 (actually, it may have been October—one of my “Historical Moments” was skipped in the program accidentally, so I reused it the following month). I looked at the education—and the views thereon—of President Abraham Lincoln. He was an avid learner, and saw education as the means by which he could improve himself. Apparently, it worked!
“Teachers Quitting in Record Numbers – Reflections on Education” – this lengthy post outlines my own observations about why teachers quit the profession—and some of its major problems. My main idea was “flexibility”: in pay, in lesson plans, and in certification. Public education is a great deal for bad teachers—they coast along, cashing a paycheck no matter how well they do—but a poor one for good teachers. Private education is great, but it can’t compete, at least in the rural South, with public education in terms of teacher pay and benefits.But the biggest concern is what I elegantly dubbed “administrative bullcrap.” Teachers get loaded down with all of these duties that are only distantly related to their alleged jobs: molding young minds.
“The State of Education” – this post details the travails of a New York City French teacher, a good teacher whose experiences in multiple schools illustrate how public education is a bad gig for good teachers. The stories are jaw-dropping, but hardly surprising now: zero administrative support for discipline, a “talent show” that nearly devolves into a sweaty orgy, violent outbursts from animalistic students, etc. Terrifying stuff.
Today marks the first day that teachers at my little private school returned to work (classes don’t begin until 20 August 2020). We’ve been going through protocol for returning to school and, boy, let me tell you: it’s going to be a doozy.
I’m already grating at the mask wearing, which we are to keep on unless we’re able to socially distance appropriately (such as being in our classrooms alone). I’m not arguing that they’re some kind of symbol of oppression (which, let’s face it, they kind of are); they’re just uncomfortable. It is hot in South Carolina, and will remain that way well into October. Masks stifle, literally and figuratively.
But I’m willing to wear one for the safety of my students and colleagues. The real challenge will be enforcing, a la the ubiquitous “Karens” of the world, social distancing and mask rules. That will be a Sisyphean task, especially with the younger students.
We’re also livestreaming our classes if we have a student who has elected to learn from home. Students will be required to sign in at the scheduled class time, and marked “present,” “absent,” and “tardy” as normal. That won’t be too difficult, but it will certainly add to the growing list of daily classroom administration tasks. We’ll also be disinfecting desks at every classroom change, which will add another small but onerous burden to the already-hectic change-of-classtime.
Needless to say, it will be an interesting school year. I’m praying that these new measures can be implemented relatively smoothly, but teachers and students are in for an adjustment—a borderline culture shock.
More to come. Say a prayer for teachers, students, administrators, and support personnel. We need your support!