Change: Ready or Not, Here it Comes

Nicole Wolff Education, Life in the Classroom, Teacher Leadership

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I parked in the same lot, walked onto the same campus, and opened the same door I’ve opened for 5 years. But, instead of a strong feeling of familiarity, I experienced a feeling of the unknown.

I have a confession to make. I act like I’m a risk taker. I convince myself I’m someone who yearns to try new things and thrives on innovation because that’s who I strive to be. But, deep down I really love consistency and predictability. Even if my current circumstances aren’t perfect, the known makes me feel safe. As an instructional coach for a K-8 school, you would think embracing change would be my gig. After all, part of my job description is to action change. But, I find a comforting kind of security in sameness when it comes to my own circumstances.

Despite my familiar building and my affection for continuity, this school year is loaded with new faces and contexts. Get comfortable, the list is long.

First, I am incredibly fortunate to be in a district that so truly believes in the power of instructional coaching, that each campus has two instructional coaches. My previous co-coach moved on to a new district, so this year I have a new partner.

Next, our assistant principal was promoted and is now the principal at another school. Our school has a new assistant principal, which changes the dynamic of our administrative team. In addition to a new assistant principal, we added two new members to our school leadership team.

The changes don’t end with administration. My primary responsibility is teachers, and their coaching and development as professional educators. This year, only one of our nine grade level teams remains the same. My building is full of teachers new to our school or new to their grade level.

Change has also crept into our student population. Due to growth within my school’s boundaries, we have added approximately 200 new students to our campus. It will be a big responsibility to make them feel welcome and part of our school community and culture.

And don’t even get me started on all the changes at our district office.

This amount of professional change would normally cause me to lose sleep at night, worrying endlessly about how to handle it all successfully. How will I adequately meet the needs of so many new teachers? How will I form relationships with so many new students? How will I effectively collaborate with my new partner and new leadership colleagues?

This is where the story takes an unexpected turn. As I walked through my door, surrounded by endless change, I wasn’t anxious at all. Surprisingly, I felt authentic excitement for the opportunities these changes might bring.

The first few weeks of school increased and deepened my enthusiasm. My new partner coach is an amazing asset and has revitalized my spirit and motivation. Our strengths and weaknesses compliment each other well and our co-facilitated professional development the first week of school went exactly as planned. The new additions to our leadership team have added fresh perspectives that are allowing us to make better decisions for our students. Our new assistant principal has brought a calm, approachable demeanor to our campus that I hadn’t even realized I needed.

The most thrilling part of the first few weeks was walking classrooms. The new teachers are rejuvenating me. Instead of being anxious to provide coaching and support to so many new people, I’m inspired by their optimism and genuine passion for their students. And speaking of students, I can already envision how our newcomers will add to the beautiful complexity and diversity of our school culture.

Several years ago I read a quote from Peter Drucker, “The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.” This statement persisted in my self-talk as the school year approached and the first day arrived. Maybe that’s why I opened my door on the first day with feelings of anticipation and hope rather than fear. Or maybe it’s because the changes that have come have been in the form of remarkable and talented people being woven into my professional life. Maybe it’s a little bit of both.

Whatever it is, I’m grateful for this perspective and for seeing all the changes in my professional space as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles to overcome or hardships to endure.

It’s going to be an amazing year.










I'm a California native. However, I've spent my entire career teaching in Arizona public schools, as well as instructing at the university level. My passion for teacher advocacy and support led me to become an Instructional Coach in 2013. I am currently a coach at a K-8 school in Goodyear and love the students and teachers I get to work with every day. I have spent my career actively involved in instructional improvement, chairing many committees including Response to Intervention, Academic Accountability, and Professional Development Committees. I was named Dysart Hero (teacher of the year) in 2012. I was honored to serve as a 2017-18 Arizona Hope Street Teacher Fellow. I earned a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and a Master’s in Education/ESL from Ottawa University. I am a National Board Certified Teacher. I’m also endorsed as an Early Childhood Specialist, Reading Specialist, and Gifted Specialist. In my free time, I enjoy reading, camping, and spending time with my family.

Comments 5

  1. Randi Fielding

    This post resonated with me. Our circumstances seem to be similar this year. I’m also at a K-8 school with a lot of new staff members. I enjoyed reading your perspective about embracing the changes and seeing them as opportunities for rejuvenation and growth.

  2. Donnie Dicus

    I can relate to your blog in so many ways. I, too, love change but always want some things to remain the same. I love the challenge of getting to know new kids every year and getting to work with different teachers. Both of these require some deep work and collaboration. So I can spend my focus on this, I always tried to use as many structures, routines, or even lessons as I could. I used reflection to improve them and apply them to each distinct class. It was nice to have something familiar to support me as I gladly tackled the new unknowns of each year.


    Thank you for sharing this. As a Montessori teacher, I have my students for 3 years. While that naturally provides a sense of consistency, it also provides natural change. In addition to changing themselves, I lose a group and gain a group. So the dynamics are always changing. Student interests change. I change. I rarely give the same lesson the same way, even though they use the same materials. I also change. My oldest daughter is a wife, mother, and has a career. This makes me a grandmother to two, and my youngest child is a Junior in HS. These things definitely affect the way I experience teaching. My great-grandma use to tell me “Enjoy the season you are in” and I understand what she means. Keep embracing and enjoying the changes.

  4. Jess Ledbetter

    I loved this post! So uplifting. Our campus faced many changes this year as well: New assistant principal (called “Dean of Students”) and many new staff members. I’ve been happy to find the changes similarly inspiring. It’s great to talk about how change can rejuvenate us and kindle the passion for teaching each day. Sounds like it will be a great year!

  5. James King

    I’m coming back to this post months later… I noticed while reading it that I was not necessarily in the same mind frame as you were on my first day. I had fear. I did not want to have new kids. I loved my students last year, and if I had it my way, I’d have kept them all and taught them 10th grade this year, 11th next, and followed them to 12th.

    But here, months later, I instead realize that was incredibly silly of me: my new students are just as challenging, interesting, and lovable as the last bunch, and I am very grateful for the fresh batch! I’ll try to remember this post come next August.

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