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Education is a Wild Ride Stay Buckled In

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Recently I found myself driving across New Mexico, following a moving van that my husband was driving. We were moving our daughter from Phoenix to Laredo, Texas for her first REAL job.

Being from the midwest, the scenery was NOT what I was used to seeing. I was in definitely in unfamiliar territory when we came upon a series of road signs that said the following.

Woman sitting in car buckling her seat belt
A sequence of road signs reading In a Dust Storm; Pull of Roadway; Lights Off; Engine Off; Feet off Brake; Stay Buckled In

When driving or riding in a vehicle, we ALWAYS stay buckled in. It’s second nature to us.

I read and re-read each of those yellow caution signs with due diligence while I was driving 70 mph, but, I began to question myself. Pull off the roadway, sure! Lights off? Hmmmmm? Engine off. OK. Feet off break??? Are you kidding me?

Earlier in the day, I remarked that New Mexico was the only state west of the Mississippi that I’d never been in. As a lifelong midwesterner, I’ve 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 similar. Reduced visibility would be given. If you can’t see where you are going, pull off the road!

Engine Off

Okay, maybe a spark from the engine could cause an explosion similar to what can happen in a grain bin??? 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?


WHAAAAT??? With all that wind and all that dust blowing you around, I would 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. But 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 or off the brake?

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.” It really did say “Feet off the Brake.”

And one mile further down the road, the entire series of signs reappeared for a third time, this time cementing the steps in my mind.

Every Day in the Classroom is a Potential “Dust Storm”

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 lessons and learn from. More often these things are real challenges that can get everyone off track and eat up valuable learning time. These incidents can 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 for the day. But don’t let the dust storm dictate what happens in your classroom.

Turn the bright lights off and dim the room if you can. Bring the tension down. Find a way to defuse the situation. Take your feet OFF the brake and be flexible. Don’t be the spark that causes an explosion.

Teach appropriate behaviors and teach classroom procedures over and over and over with a smile on your face. We humans need repetition. Teaching and modeling positive behavior and procedures will pay off in the end.

Be Prepared and Flexible Classroom Dust Storms Come Out of Nowhere

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 The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, you MUST! And, it doesn’t have to be your first day of teaching. (I read it into my 8th year.)

This book was written for general home classroom teachers but specialists can benefit from it too. As a music teacher, I got soooooo much from this book. It’s a VERY quick read. You can literally read the book in one evening. Check it out from your library, ask a teacher friend to borrow their book, ask your school to buy it, or order it. But read it. You’ll be glad you did.

Another must-read is Responsive Classroom for Music, Art & P.E.

This approach helps teachers create a calm positive classroom environment to help avoid potential “dust storms.” The book also has tips to handle situations when you do have a flare-up. Reading these two books will help equip you for the challenges of music teaching and make your time in the classroom more productive and enjoyable.

Note: These are NOT affiliate links. They ARE highly-recommended resources.

Stay Buckled In!

Education is a wild ride no matter what subject area or grade levels you teach. But don’t jump ship. Stay buckled in. Reach out for help and find the resources you need to make it work. Find a network of mentors and supporters.

We need YOU in the education world.

Elementary music teachers check out these tips, activities, and teaching techniques to keep your students actively engaged and establish a positive classroom environment.

Meet the Author

Terri Lloyd is a former elementary music teacher with over 25 years of experience. She holds a Bachelor of Music, a Master of Science in Education, and a Technology Certificate in Instructional Design.

She is currently active in music education through blogging, workshops, and curriculum development. She serves on the music staff at her church and volunteers for an after-school children’s program. Terri is an active musician in the community, performing in a local Big Band, pit orchestras, and various events.

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