Progress Report: Teaching in The Age of The Virus

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.

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First Week of School in The Age of The Virus

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?

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Diversity is Our Strength!

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.

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!).

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First Day of School in The Age of The Virus

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.

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TBT^2: Back to School with Richard Weaver

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.”

Here is “TBT: Back to School with Richard Weaver“:

Every year I try to reread the introduction to Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver’s masterful work of analysis and prophecy.

With school starting back in just FOUR DAYS—may God have mercy on us all—it seemed germane to bring back this post from 2018, itself a contextualization of a Facebook post from 2014.

Here is “Back to School with Richard Weaver“:

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.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Returning to School in The Age of The Virus

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.

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.

A note to subscribers:  I finally caught up on tardy posts.  “Universal Studios Trip No. 2” and “Family Fun Time” are complete and available for $1 and higher subs.  Thank you for your patience!

For $5 subs, earlier in the week I posted “BONUS Doodles I“—one of several random perks for $5 and up subs.

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TBT: Lazy Sunday XXIV: Education

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.

With that, here is August 2019’s “Lazy Sunday XXIV: 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.
  • Sailer and Spotted Toad on Education” – this post was a bit “meta”—it’s an overview of a review of a book.  That makes my post tertiary commentary at best.  The post looks at demographer Steve Sailer’s review of blogger Spotted Toad’s book 13 Ways of Going on a Field Trip: Stories about Teaching and Learning a narrative memoir detailing Toad’s decade teaching in public schools in the Bronx.  I’ve picked up the book but still haven’t read it (I’m working through Milo’s Middle Rages: Why the Battle for Medieval Studies Matters to America; review coming soon), but it looks to be an interesting read.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday:  The State of Education Update” – this post is an update of “The State of Education,” written nearly on the eve of my return to this present school year.  As SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive, you’ll have to subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more to read it.  Tantalizing, no?

So, there you have it.  Now to fulfill my obligation to my wonderful SubscribeStar subscribers and get their delayed post done.

Happy School Year!

–TPP

Back to the Grind 2020

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!

—TPP

 

TBT: Ideas Have Consequences – Introduction

Yesterday was the last session of the Summer 2020 History of Conservative Thought course.  This summer marks the second run of the course, and it was a fantastic class.  I had three young men enrolled, all quite eager to dive into the material.

I try to avoid lengthy lectures in HoCT, giving the basic background information and scaffolding necessary to put the readings into context.  I want the works to speak for themselves, and for the students to the do the heavy lifting of sussing out meaning and the author’s ideas.  Each week students wrote a short essay or answered a few different guided questions, then we would come in and discuss the material.

With this summer’s group, that model worked very well, as two of the young men in particular loved to plunge into discussions and ask questions.  One of the students was concurrently taking a colleague’s popular Terror and Terrorism course, which leads off each summer with the French Revolution.  That always dovetails nicely with our discussion of Edmund Burke, as we read several excerpts from his Reflections on the Revolution in France.  Burke comes on the heels of our discussion of Russell Kirk’s conservative principles, and helps frame the early portion of the course in the Burkean tradition.

In July, we left the nineteenth century and began looking at the modern conservative movement, with a heavy emphasis on William F. Buckley, Jr., and the notion of fusionism.  Buckley’s National Review catches a good bit of flack on the Right these days, including from this blog, but it truly shaped conservatism in the second half of the twentieth century.  Before National Review, conservatism was a disorganized, disunited hodgepodge of various ideologies, movements, and issues—it was, as Lionel Trilling put it, a “reactionary impulse,” a grumpy attitude about the way things were, but without a cohesive understanding of how to combat the dominance of New Deal liberalism.

For all its noodle-wristed hand-wringing and desperate virtue-signalling today, National Review created the modern conservative movement by giving conservatives their voice, their publication.  It also gave conservatism a politically viable platform of issues that could win in national politics.  That focus on nationalism certainly cuts against the Kirkean/Burkean mold of organic, ordered liberty, but it was the reality of post-war American political life.

We ended with another mid-century conservative, but one fitting far more into the spiritual and moral mold of Burke and Kirk, and far less in the neoliberal and materialist mold of Buckley-style fusionism:  Richard Weaver’s seminal Ideas Have Consequences, which I consider one of the greatest books ever written.  Indeed, I’m a bit of a Weaver fanboy, as he’s been featured twice on my Summer Reading Lists, first in 2016 for Ideas Have Consequences, and again in 2020 for his collection of Southern Essays.

For the course, we just read the “Introduction” to the book, which I try to read every August before school resumes.  It reminds me why I teach, and what is at stake.  Reading Ideas Have Consequences—first published in 1948—today reads like prophecy fulfilled.  Weaver’s core focus on William of Occam as the source of modernity and its related ills might seem a bit far-fetched, but that’s merely the germ from which the analysis of modernity’s fallen view of the world grows.

The real heart of Ideas Have Consequences is the abandonment of the transcendental—of God—in favor for navel-gazing particularism, a constant focus on lower, material concerns.  Unbound from any obligation to or belief in a transcendental moral order, men are left adrift in a world full of isolation, alienation, confusion, and meaninglessness.

I’ll let the rest speak for itself.  Here is 29 July 2019’s “Ideas Have Consequences – Introduction“:

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