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A Playlist for the Seasons of ACE

By Jehdah Burton (ACE 28, Mobile)

ACE Playlist

Ever wonder what the ACE experience would look like in playlist form? Thanks to Jehdah Burton, now you can find out! Listen to all the cycles of teaching in Catholic schools and living in community here.

First Summer: New Beginnings: New People, New Memories

The first ACE Summer is the strangest mosaic of novelties, between the challenges of the schedule of new graduate school classes and practicum, the new peers found in the members of the cohort, the knowledge of the new place you’ll soon be calling home, and the multitude of bizarre experiences that come with ACE Summer. There are many pieces that don’t necessarily seem to fit together, but their combination is something undoubtedly fun, and filled with memory and nostalgia. Included here are songs that do the same: those associated with memories of talent shows, community playlists, and summer shenanigans.


  • All Summer Long by Kid Rock
  • I’m Ready by AJR
  • Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus
  • Famous by Mason Ramsey 
  • Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn

First Fall: Change and Community

Everyone tells you that the first year of teaching is hard, but it’s a different thing when you actually experience it. There’s no way to predict and prepare for all the possible scenarios you will face, and a lot of the job is learning while doing. There’s a strange tension between the enthusiasm with which you started this whole venture and the reality of the day-to-day: the times when things don’t go as planned, when you realize the work input does not guarantee proportional results, when it seems in some ways you’re not the same as you were a few months ago, when you realize things aren’t always as clear cut as they seemed over the summer, when you feel clueless as to what you should do next. However, I found that these times of struggle were also the times in which my community shone the most, and quickly became my most dependable support. 


  • Keep Driving by Harry Styles
  • Anti-Hero by Taylor Swift
  • Put It All on Me by Ed Sheeran, feat. Ella Mai
  • Walk Me Home by P!nk
  • Rise Up by Andra Day
  • Change by J. Cole

First December: Regrouping and Processing Disorientation

December is long-awaited by ACErs for many reasons. The beginning of December brings ACE's December Retreat and the reunion of all the new friends from the summer. In school, December is filled with fun holiday events and the eventual end to the semester. December also brings the Christmas season and a much-needed break, which for many, also means a return to familiar locations and loved ones. For me, the first December was a time to process the burdens of the past few months…along with the joys that may have been difficult to see before. 


  • Sunday Candy by Nico Segal
  • Rose Colored Boy by Paramore
  • Step Into Christmas by Elton John
  • Look Up Child by Lauren Daigle

First Spring: Settling in and Finding Joy in Imperfection

With the reassurance that you can indeed survive a semester of this, some of the chaos of the novelty gives way to certain small joys that may not have been as obvious before. The classroom and the community still may not be perfect, but they’re becoming something familiar and something within which you have more power and more encouragement than you did when you first arrived. In my case, that effect of settling into the imperfect reality also reflected in the behavior of the students, seeing them begin to dance to the music at the beginning of class and ask the most random and off-task but still worthwhile questions. The end of the year brings out the ways in which these children – who can drive you crazy – have grown, and how you have grown as well.


  • Light on by Maggie Rogers
  • O-o-h Child by The Five Stairsteps
  • Joy by Sleeping At Last
  • Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton
  • Crooked Smile by J. Cole, feat. TLC
  • Blessings by Chance the Rapper, feat. Ty Dolla $ign, Anderson .Paak, BJ The Chicago Kid, Raury

Second Summer: New Beginnings, part 2: Reunion, Rejuvenate

I thought the second ACE summer was like the second season of a TV show that was released a few years after the first: although each person seems to have lived an impossible number of experiences to debrief in a simple passing conversation, in many ways our relationships pick up right where they left off. The second summer is a time where we found a renewed strength in being with one another, an opportunity to de-stress and take off the teacher hat for a moment, and the ability to plan for the coming year with a new point of view.


  • Right Back Where We Started From by Maxine Nightingale
  • All We Got by Chance the Rapper, feat. Kanye West, Chicago Children’s Choir
  • Bruises by Train, feat. Ashley Monroe
  • I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas

Second Fall: New Strategies in Classroom and Community

Following the first year and the reflection during second summer, I entered the second school year with increased motivation, knowledge, and capability. While it didn’t make the new year perfect, it did equip me to better handle the chaos and to move past the new difficulties that come with being a second-year teacher. As a second year ACEr, this also meant stepping into a new community role, and seeking to be a support to the new first years.


  • It’s Time by Imagine Dragons
  • Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder
  • Sunset on Summerville by Madds Buckley
  • Bibia Bi Ye Ye by Ed Sheeran
  • The Sound of Sunshine by Michael Franti & Spearhead

Second December: Discernment and Nostalgia

The second December starts to feel like the beginning of the end, especially at December Retreat. The decisions of the next moves after ACE begin to creep closer, and the feeling of “lasts” starts to creep in as well. The holiday season is a valued time of rest once again, but this time with a lingering feeling of impending transition.


  • Dancing In the Moonlight by King Harvest
  • I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2
  • Silent Night by 116

Second Spring: Where We Are, and Where We Have Yet To Go

This is the season I’m in now, but already it has a distinctly bittersweet tone to it. As pieces of that discernment process fall into place, some excitement begins to displace the confusion (though, to be fair, a lot of that confusion still remains). The work itself remains, but those little lights I’ve learned to find are imbued with a deeper sense of joy as the year progresses. There’s excitement that comes with knowing classes will be over soon, but also there’s the making of bucket lists and wondering how next year will look, with the growing knowledge of what will be kept and what will be left behind. Those things might be the school you’ve grown to be part of, the places in your site that you no longer need GPS to find, the teaching profession you’ve grown at least half-way decent at, the kids who ask if you’ll be their teacher next year, and the housemates you’ve been calling home for the past two years. But, as one of my cohort members said at December Retreat, it’s okay to leave your heart scattered, and to embrace these things fully while you’re in this season. So we’ll keep working through that bucket list here in Mobile, and taking plenty of pictures while we do!


  • Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root

  • Jump Right In by Zac Brown Band

  • Every Teardrop is a Waterfall by Coldplay

  • Something Beautiful by Tori Kelly

  • Finish Line / Drown by Chance the Rapper feat. T-Pain, Kirk Franklin, Erin Allen Kane, and Noname