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Act 1, Scene 1: Developing a Love of Music

Susan Collins Education, Life in the Classroom

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5:00 am BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
I roll over groggy wondering what that crazy sound is coming from my bedside table.

Oh, yes. I remember now; it’s my alarm clock. Today is the first day of school with students, and I must be on campus at 6:40 am to greet the excited young scholars that will join me for the adventure of learning.

I’ve been at school formally for a few days, but we didn’t have to be on campus until 8 am for the “workdays.” Now that the young people we have been entrusted with educating are coming, it’s early. The sun is just starting to peek over the mountains as I pull myself out of bed and go about my morning routine. Coffee first, then a light breakfast (I am unable to cook this early in the morning). My personal children are still sleeping soundly. One is a high school junior and is privileged to report 3 hours late so that the freshmen can get oriented to the campus before the remainder of the students arrive. The other is a college sophomore and reminds us frequently that his summer is still in full force for another month. The cats are looking at me with perplexed expressions; I’m not supposed to be up during their prime bird-watching hours.

So off I go to the first day of school. No photos. Just me, my coffee, and the expectation of seeing my sweet students again and finding out what adventures they have had since school ended in late May.

As I approach the parking lot of the school, I can see that the parents are very anxious to make sure their children are on time for the first day of school. I find a spot to park in the unusually crowded parking lot, make my way to my classroom and prepare for the gates to be opened and the flood of children to wash over the playground.

6:50 am the bell rings, and the gates are opened.

As the young scholars rush onto the playground, there are faces filled with every emotion imaginable — excitement, confusion, fear, overconfidence. If you can imagine it, I see it! I spend the next 15 minutes reminding students of school playground procedures, answering questions, greeting students, directing parents, and taking in the excitement of a new school year.

7:05 am the next bell rings, and students start moving toward their classrooms.

7:15 am morning announcements for Day 1.

After all of the preparation, nervousness, excitement, and anticipation, the school year has begun. We have survived setting up classrooms in amazingly hot conditions because the AC for the main building was out of order for two weeks (an old system is hard to repair, and replacement parts are challenging to find). We have been prepped on new procedures, reminded of existing methods, and renewed friendships.

I always chuckle when people ask if I’m ready for the first day of school. In many ways, the first day is a lot like Christmas. There’s a tremendous amount of anticipation and preparation. But in the end, it comes at the scheduled moment, and there will be surprises no matter how prepared I am. I try to focus on what is most important and let the rest be what it will be. The first day of school is about a fresh start to a new year and the people that will occupy my life during that year. It’s about relationships: with students, teachers, parents, community. It’s about embracing the moment and making the most of every opportunity that comes my way.

7:30 am classes start — 35 minutes of introductions, procedures, and always a singing game. I want my students leaving my classroom on the first day reminded of the joy of making music. We will dive into the work of literacy soon. They must remember how music makes them FEEL on the first day! Five classes, 5-grade levels.

10:35 am Lunch room duty. Helping kindergarteners get through the cafeteria procedures on the first day is like herding cats. They will get the routine down quickly, but the first day EVERYTHING is new.

11:15 am time for MY lunch. AH, a few minutes of adult interaction and a quick lunch I threw together last night.

Noon: recess duty for 30 minutes in the hot AZ summer sun with another teacher and 150 excited 2nd graders.

12:40 pm planning time. To catch my breath, glance at my lesson plans, and do this two more times before we start lining students up to go home.

2:20 pm I’m at the 3rd-5th-grade secure pick-up gate. The teacher who usually covers this position is out on medical leave through the end of this week, so I’m covering for a couple of days.

3:00 pm everyone is gone. I lock the gate and make my way back to my classroom to organize today’s materials and prepare tomorrow’s materials. I’ll go through this same routine for the next three school days. For every one of those days, it will be the first day of music class for all of those students.

5:00 pm I finally make my way home. I’m exhausted and hot, but my day is not over. I’m Mom now. It’s time to share dinner with my kids, and tend to all of the items that are waiting for me at home.

There is no tired like teacher tired, especially on “out of routine” days like the first day of school. I will sleep well, wake groggily again tomorrow because I am not accustomed to the early alarm yet, and step into my day again. I’ll do it with excitement and enthusiasm. I have the unique privilege of touching the leaders of tomorrow. I pray that the marks I leave on their hearts will be of joy and caring. It is my sincerest hope that each of them will know that I see them as a unique and valuable person full of talent and ability.

 

I began my teaching career in 1991 in rural Mississippi. I served in 4 different communities in central and north Mississippi as a music educator, mostly elementary general music with one year as a middle school band director. I stepped out of working full time in the classroom for 9 years when my children were very young but never left teaching. I set up an early childhood music studio and taught music for children ages birth to age 5 (with an adult caregiver). I moved to in northwest rural Arizona in 2016 where I teach k-5 general music. I achieved National Board Certification in the fall of 2016 and began my relationship with the Arizona K12 Center for Professional Development. I have served as a 2017-18 Arizona Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow and a Candidate Support Provider for National Board Candidates. I am passionate about advocating for the needs of rural schools and ensuring that every student receives an excellent education provided by passionate and qualified educators. When I am not teaching, advocating, or writing about education issues, I am outdoors with my teenage children. I love hiking, reading, and going to musical performances. I can usually be found off the grid pondering my next writing piece!

Comments 3

  1. Donnie Dicus

    I remember that last night of sleep before the first day of school. I barely got any sleep as I woke up constantly thinking, “Oh my god! I forgot….!” I can totally relate with this minute by minute replay of your first day.

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  2. Nicole Wolff

    Susan, I love this play by play of your first day! I can feel your excitement and passion for your students come through in this piece.

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