It’s All About Perspective

Nicole Wolff Education, Life in the Classroom

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Two years ago I wrote my very first blog for Stories From School AZ. It was a blog about change titled Change: Ready or Not Here it Comes.  Up to that point, August of 2019 held more professional changes than I had ever experienced.

As that school year approached I invested a lot of time and energy thinking about the changes and how I would respond to them. As an instructional coach, I need to adjust to change quickly so I can support others in doing the same. But at the time, the differences in my work environment from the previous school year compared to the current one seemed extreme.

The first months of the 2019-20 school year progressed and the changes proved to be manageable. Some were even positive. I patted myself on the back for successfully adapting to what I believed to be the most changes I would ever experience.

Then 2020 entered and said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” As I re-read my blog from August 2019, the anxiety I felt about the changes I experienced seems almost quaint.

While 2019-20 brought new colleagues, students, and structures to my work environment, 2020 brought a pandemic.

Fast forward to August 2020. That school year began in a way I could have never fathomed. We started the school year in remote learning. An entire career’s worth of knowledge and experience seemed almost worthless. As soon as we felt like we solved one problem, a new one surfaced. The only consistency was the absolute absence of consistency. We weren’t even able to adhere to a dependable learning model. We shifted between in-person and online learning all year.

May 2021 arrived. The end of the school year was quickly approaching. There were a few triumphs we could point to for the year, but they were accompanied by a sense of loss.  I patted myself on the back for surviving (I seriously downgraded my expectations).

Through early summer I eagerly anticipated the 2021-22 school.  I was optimistic that our school setting would return to somewhat normal. Yes, we would still need to take precautions. However, the school year would be close to typical with students on campus and the return of in-person collaboration with our staff. The promise of normalcy didn’t seem out of reach.

Then Delta entered the picture.

Now it’s another new year. I’m still an instructional coach. My school has 100% staff retention and my administrative team is unchanged.  Despite all the stability, it feels like we are once again sailing into uncharted waters. We are trying to navigate a continually changing public health crisis without the benefit of strategies that worked last year.  And we are trying to balance the normal responsibilities of a school while doing it.

As I think back to my worries in August 2019, I realize it’s all about perspective. Two years ago I thought I was experiencing the most simultaneous changes I ever would. Now those changes seem minimal and borderline insignificant.

What have I learned from this?  I’ve learned to never underestimate change. It can, and will, surpass itself.  And when I become complacent, it will slap me in the face. But you know what else I’ve learned? I can handle it. Even better, I can grow from it because retrospection will gift me with perspective.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t relish the 2020-21 school year and I never want to live it again.  I’m also downright frustrated that 2021-22 is beginning the way it is. But, I’ve learned I can roll with the punches and adapt.

This year will be difficult. I’ll get through it. So will my colleagues and our students. We’ll do it together and we’ll learn some lessons along the way.

In my August 2019 blog I referenced an optimistic quote about the opportunities presented by change. I don’t feel that level of optimism about this year’s changes. Nevertheless, I can find the value in change and be receptive to the lessons it will inevitably provide.

This year’s quote will be: “Become a student of change. It is the only thing that will remain constant.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo


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 3

  1. Caitlin Gawlowski

    Isn’t it interesting how perspective changes things? The 2019-2020 school year also brought along major changes in my professional context as I changed districts and grade levels. Oh, I was also navigating life as a working mom to a then six-month-old. At the time, I thought that was a lot to take in. I was right there with you patting myself on the back thinking about how well I adapted to the changes the 2019-2020 school year brought about prior to March 2020!

    Now I look back at that and laugh, thinking about how easy I had it then. I hope that as educators we can learn to adapt to change quickly; I imagine that this year will bring many unanticipated changes like we’ve seen since schools shut down for the first time in 2020. I have to hope that in the long run, it will result in positive changes for the education system as a whole.

  2. Paul Forehand

    Thank you so much for this! I have so much anxiety about this school year — it’s nice to know I’m not the only one — and your perspective is definitely one I will repeat often this year. We will do it, and we’ll do it together!

  3. Sarah Kirchoff

    I feel “seen”! This is all so accurate. “Never underestimate change.” That hit me! I have been teaching for a long time and “change” is what is always the same. Every year, something is changed; curriculum, administration, students, mitigation plans, and staff. We can all learn to roll with the punches and buckle up and get ready for more change throughout this school year and years to come.

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