At the end of July, I found myself driving across New Mexico, following a U-Haul which my husband was driving . When driving or riding in a vehicle, we always stay buckled in. It is second nature to us.
We were moving our daughter from Phoenix to Laredo, Texas for her first REAL job as a university assistant professor. Being from the midwest, I was in definitely in unfamiliar territory when we came upon a series of signs that said the following.
- IN A DUST STORM
- PULL OFF ROADWAY
- LIGHTS OFF
- ENGINE OFF
- FEET OFF BRAKE
- STAY BUCKLED IN
I read each of those yellow caution signs with due diligence while I was driving 70 mph, but, I began to question myself. Pull off roadway, sure! Lights off? Hmmmmm? Engine off. OK. Feet off break??? Are you kidding me?
Earlier in the day, I had remarked that New Mexico was the only state west of the Mississippi that I had never been in. A little midwestern girl like me, had also never been in a dust storm.
Pull off the roadway. Yeah, that’s a no brainer! Even though I have never been in a dust storm, I have been in blizzards. I imagine they are are similar. Reduced visibility would be a given.
Engine off. OK. May be a spark from the engine could spark an explosion similar to what can happen in a grain bin if you are not careful. I did grow up on a farm and I do know that grain bin dust can explode – spontaneous combustion.
Lights off? Really? Don’t you want the other people on the roadway to see you so they don’t run into you while they are pulling off the roadway?
FEET OFF BRAKE! WHAAAAT??? With all that wind and all that dust blowing you around, I want to keep my feet firmly planted on the brake and ground myself as much as possible.
Stay buckled in. Yeah, I get that one. There is no way I would take off my seat belt in a dust storm.
After the first sighting of this series of signs, I immediately began to question myself. Did they say lights off or on? Did they say feet on the brake or off? Apparently, the New Mexico Department of Transportation knew that I would be questioning myself just then because approximately one mile down the road, the entire series of signs appeared again. That answered my questions. Yes, it really did say lights off. Yes, it really did say feet off the break. And yes, one mile further down the road, the entire series of signs appeared one more time, this time cementing the steps in my mind.
Every day in an elementary classroom, and any grade level for that matter, has the potential to turn into a dust storm. There are always things that can blow us off course. Sometimes those things turn out to be happy accidents that we can work into our lesson and learn from. More often these things are real challenges that can get everyone off track and eat up valuable learning time and even make teachers question their career choices.
We can learn something from the New Mexico Department of Transportation. Dust storms happen. Even when you’re not expecting them. Be prepared. Pull off the roadway. You will have to deviate slightly from your plan of the day. But don’t let the dust storm dictate what happens in your class.
Turn the bright lights off, dim the room. Bring the tension down. Find a way to defuse any situation. Take your feet OFF the brake, be flexible. Don’t be the spark that causes an explosion. Teach appropriate behaviors & teach classroom procedures over & over & over with a smile on your face. We humans need repetition. It will pay off in the end.
Stay buckled in! Education is a wild ride no matter what subject area or grade levels you teach, don’t jump ship. Stay buckled in, reach out for help, find the resources you need to make it work. We need YOU.
Just like the unpredictable New Mexico weather, periodic gusts of wind just seem to come out of nowhere. Be prepared and be flexible when they hit!
I know the last you think you want to do now is read a book. But if you have not read Harry Wong’s book, The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher, (affiliate link) you MUST! It does not have to be your first day of teaching. (I read it into my 8th year.) And you don’t have to be a general classroom teacher. Specialists can benefit from this book too. I am a music teacher and I got soooooo much from this book. It really is a VERY quick read. You can literally read the book in one evening. Check it out from your library, ask a friend (they may have it), ask your school to buy it, or order it. But read it. You will be glad you did.
What tips do you have to help teachers navigate the stormy weather that sometimes happens in the classroom?