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The Number for this year is 8

Susan Collins Uncategorized

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8 learning models
8 first days of school
8 changes of lesson format
8 adjustments to the schedule
8 changes to the pacing guide

That is what my school year has looked like. I was scheduled to report to school on July 15, 2020. We knew that the beginning of school would look very different. COVID was spreading rapidly, safety guidelines were slow being released. There were more questions than answers in just about every conversation I was having.

After a few delays, I reported to school on August 10, 2020. This was when the 8’s started to come into my life. I felt like I was hardly getting my head wrapped around one learning model before we were embarking on another one. There were confusion, defensiveness, apathy, isolationism, anger, frustration, temper tantrums, sulking, and tears….and that was just the adults working in the building!

The road I have been on this year has felt like this:



I know most people who are reading this can relate. We all feel like this at times, the 20-21 school year has just had more instances, and everyone has them.

How do we recover from a school year that feels so overwhelming?

Kyle Bragg wrote a post about making connections that really resonated with me. I have seen an intense amount of collaboration during this school year. Groups have popped up on social media. People are sharing resources, asking questions, giving feedback and support. It’s amazing what happens when we step out of our comfort zones and admit to needing other people.

As an elementary music teacher, I’m isolated. There is no one else on my campus that teaches music. I’m part of the island of misfit toys at faculty meetings—they group all of the “specials” teachers together when we are doing grade-level activities. It’s just the way things are, so I am intentional about breaking that isolation.

I am active In social media groups for music teachers.
I instigate the music teachers in my district to meet together (we aren’t doing it regularly yet, but I’m making progress in baby steps).
I stay active as a candidate support provider for teachers pursuing National Board Certification.
I have started a music teacher cohort for National Board Candidates (and successfully recruited new coaches in the music field).
I put Twitter chats on my calendar and participate regularly.

I have to be intentional about breaking out of the isolation. It’s far too easy to stay in that familiar space because the outside looks scary.

Yes, sometimes the road looks like this:



I chose to look at the positives:
It’s paved
It’s wide enough
It’s challenging but not impossible.

So it’s been a year of 8’s.

I’ve felt like I was drowning.
I’ve felt like I was building the plane while flying a group of kids to an unknown destination.

But as my friend Nicole Wolff said: The Kids Will Be Okay.

I would add to that: The adults will be okay too.


photo Credits




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!

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