Last week, I started on my usual 5 AM run. I laced up my shoes, donned all of my safety gear, and started on the route I had planned. I had my Spotify playlist on blast, trying to wake myself up as I took my initial steps. 

It had rained the night before, leaving a heavy layer of mist and fog. Even my industrial-strength headlamp wasn’t cutting it. I began to feel disoriented. It was still pitch black outside. The familiar homes and signs that would surround me by daylight seemed to be invisible and non-existent. I couldn’t see more than what was right in front of me. I had no idea what was lying ahead, causing me to slow my pace and proceed with caution. My music was drowning out any familiar early morning sounds. My breath quickened, and I began to panic…panic about the lack of familiarity, the unknown, the challenge ahead.

I stopped. I looked around, regaining awareness of my full surroundings and seeing the homes, mailboxes, and trees that I know and pass every day. I looked ahead, focusing not merely on what was right in front of me, but just a few steps beyond. I had run this route thousands of times before and, if obstacles appeared, I would deal with them as they came. I adjusted my music, so I could hear it, but also hear the sound of my surroundings. My breath evened. I began to run again, finding my pace. I relaxed and set out to enjoy the adventure ahead. 


I proceeded with my day, not thinking anything about that run. It was part of the daily routine, another thing to check off the list. But, as I walked the same route later to get my son off the bus, it occurred to me that what I experienced earlier that morning perhaps felt much like the upcoming school year.

We feel anxious, not knowing what lies ahead. We feel like we can’t see more than a few days ahead of us, making it difficult to plan for the long-term. We feel like our year won’t sound like years past, temporarily throwing us off our game. It all feels unknown and perhaps overwhelming. But if we take a moment to pause and locate the mainstays on our course, they are all still there. Our students. Our team. Our purpose. They do not change. They are always there. They remain the same. 

…if we take a moment to pause and locate the mainstays on our course, they are all still there. Our students. Our team. Our purpose. They do not change. They are always there. They remain the same. 


I started back with my students full-time face to face last week. For months I stared at empty seats, wondering how our new normal would look and sound. I felt anxious and nervous. The minute my first class entered and eager faces began to fill those empty seats, I felt a sense of comfort wash over me. I began to feel excitement for the year ahead. Indeed, there will be unknowns and challenges, but I am working to see these instead as opportunities. Through these challenges, we are teaching our musicians new skills. I firmly believe these will not only include musical skills but life skills that they can employ in the future. 

I also know that, through these challenges, I am growing as an educator. I have learned countless new tools. I have been tasked with new and innovative ways to teach concepts. I have had to think outside the box, figuring out how to reach my musicians in different ways. None of these are easy. They require time, energy,person looking at stars and persistence. However, I realize these are skills and lessons I will carry with me as I continue to teach.  


While I have only been back for a short time, I’d like to offer a few takeaways. These are nothing new and things I am sure you’ve heard before, but let them serve as a reminder.

  1. Stay flexible – It’s easier said than done. I know. This is coming from a self-admitted over-planner who does not like change, but I genuinely mean it. Our current climate is changing daily, and we have to be able to change with it.
  2. Stay honest – I teach middle school students, but I think this applies to any age. When something didn’t go as planned this past week, or I was trying something new, I told my students. I was upfront and honest, reminding them that we are all figuring this out together.
  3. Breathe – Just like running, you have to remember to breathe. Our days are more packed than ever, but try to find a few moments to take a deep breath. Stretch. Step away from the screen. Make it a priority to take a few moments to recharge in whatever way you need.
  4. Remember “Our Why” – I played a game during my first class called “Mrs. Larrick’s Rhythm Facts.” Students read statements about me and had to determine the numerical answer based on rhythms and rhythmic equations. One question was, “How many kids do I have?” When going over the answers, I called on a student who had enthusiastically raised his hand. He proceeded to count the students in the room and then proudly responded, “Nineteen.” I knew exactly where he was going with the answer, and it made me smile. I told him he had the best answer of the day. While they are not my own children, they are the ones I show up for. 

We show up for them to teach, to inspire, and to spread our love of music. Even in the fog, the uncertainty, the newly challenging yet familiar path, we show up.