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New Year, New Hope

Nicole Wolff Education, Life in the Classroom

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I’m really ready for 2020 to end. I know I’m not alone.  This has been the most challenging year of my lifetime.  The stress and frustration brought on by COVID has extended into all corners of our lives. And while the changes in our personal lives are difficult, the toll this pandemic has taken on us professionally cannot be overstated.

The stress and worry are constant. Will we be safe? Will our students and their families be safe? Will we contract COVID and take it home to our loved ones? When this is over, will our students transition back into regular life and school with minimal damage? Does anyone with decision-making power care about any of this? The persistent worry during this time is palpable.

At the start of the school year, I wrote a blog about the fear I’m experiencing this school year. One of my biggest fears is that the circumstances of this school year will cause me to lose my passion for the work I do. Something that I never imagined could happen.

As I happily say goodbye to 2020, I’m still thinking about the toll this year is taking on my joy for my work.  I self-reflect often, wondering if it will come back once we are through this time of crisis. Right now I still don’t know.  I don’t think I will know until I can put 2020 in the rearview mirror and analyze it with some distance between the reality and the emotions.

I’ve written a lot since March about the frustrations with pandemic teaching and the choices those with power are making. I still have more to write. Honestly, right now I feel like my frustrations and disappointments are endless.

But, as we head into the holiday season I decided to set frustrations aside and focus on the pieces of my professional life that inspire deep gratitude within my heart.  Because despite the chaos and uncertainty that has encompassed us since March, there are people in my work life who give me hope when I am feeling hopeless.

These are the bright spots of my 2020 professional world that make me optimistic for 2021. I am closing the door on 2020 with a deep sense of gratitude for them:

My building administrators have been amazing.  They have recognized this is not a normal school year and don’t try to pretend it is.  They acknowledge and affirm the fears and frustrations of teachers and staff and they never minimize anyone’s feelings.  Their job requires them to balance the demands of state and district expectations while protecting the physical and mental well being of their students and staff. They have worked diligently to honor both commitments and we staff members know they advocate for us. There is no other school I would have wanted to work in during this time.  Their leadership has been exceptional.

The staff I work with, particularly my co-coach, have been my saving grace this school year.  Despite fears for their own health and safety, they have approached the school year with dedication, flexibility, and ingenuity.  They have found ways to advocate for themselves and their students, while still staying positive.  When I find myself going  down a rabbit hole of negativity and despair, I see the accomplishments of my coworkers and I trust things will be okay.

The students have surpassed my expectations.  I’m watching young people adapt and respond to a pandemic better than most adults.  They are modeling adaptability, compassion, and perseverance.  I rarely hear the students at my school complain about their new reality.  They have navigated this school year with self-assuredness and an understanding beyond their years. I am simply in awe of them and their ability to maneuver a scary circumstance with maturity and understanding. When I see them, I feel hopeful for 2021 and beyond.

This year has been hard. It’s been difficult for me to find gratitude and joy in the work I do. That has been the worst part of 2020, searching for the joy in my work. I took for granted it would always be there.

But, when I forced myself to stop and reflect about the parts of my job that fill me with gratitude, it was the people I work with who entered my thoughts. I am grateful for these treasured relationships. The joy of my work is in the people. So, I’m feeling more confident I will get my pre-COVID passion back. Because when this is over, my people will still be there.

Photo by Malte Luk from Pexels

 

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 1

  1. Kyle Bragg

    Thanks for the post, Nicole!

    I totally agree with you about how amazing the students have handled all of this. Their ability to adapt and overcome challenges thrown their way daily is commendable. For the most part, they wear their masks and they follow the protocols. I’m very proud of them!

    Happy new year! :)

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