Leigh Walters is Assistant Principal of the Year for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
By Leigh Walters
Assistant Principal Meadowlark Middle
AUGUST 24, 2020 - Alfred Lord Tennyson’s words, “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘it will be happier,’" resonated with parents, students, and educators in March as we faced the stark reality of COVID-19 and embarked on an unfamiliar journey - remote learning.
Looking ahead to August 2020 – 2021 seemed to be the calm amid the storm. Until that time, WS/FCS educators, staff, and district personnel worked together to equip students with Chromebooks and hotspots and provide teachers with online resources and training on Microsoft Teams and Zoom applications for daily instruction and virtual meetings.
We pulled up our bootstraps and adjusted our “perspectacles” so that we could effectively address the unknown challenges that would accompany this “new normal.” With each new day, hope began to rise in the hearts of educators and soon became the bedrock of our strength.
Indeed, educators longed for a sense of normalcy as we prepared for End-of-Year (EOY) school celebrations. Eighth-grade students participated in EOY drive-by celebrations to pick up yearbooks, awards, and Middle School Certificates of Completion. Teachers, staff, and administrators shouted congratulations as students rolled down car windows to wave and speak to teachers, if only briefly. Teachers offered words of encouragement, “air-hugged” students, and cried as they waved goodbye.
Hope radiated in the hearts of teachers on that hot day in June.
Fast forward to August 2020…educators brushed away their tears and locked arms with district colleagues to complete online modules for Canvas, the new learning management platform. Teachers took to social media sites to share knowledge and information, refusing to be submerged by the weight of change caused by this pandemic.
Hope created a fertile ground for forward progress.
We began this school year with resolve and commitment. Many teachers have embraced the opportunity to teach from the building. Some are accompanied by their school-aged children and their presence and energy brings a renewed sense of hope that our current status can and will change.
Sarah Gordon, sixth-grade social studies teacher, said, “The biggest difference between March and now is that there is more structure and I have more opportunity to interact with my students. I want my students to feel supported, so flexibility and positivity is key.”
Theresa Kennedy, Chorus teacher, stated, “I love being back with the students, interacting with them, and building stronger relationships with them. Now more than ever, I listen more purposefully to get to know them. Teachers need students as much as students need teachers.”
While this pandemic has created angst for everyone, it has also provided space to reflect on what we value most. For me, it’s the people in my life. And, I have certainly missed those who make up the Meadowlark Middle community. As I look in the mirror, I see the reflection of each of you staring back at me. You have been resilient in the midst of uncertainty, and you reflected hope through your words, attitudes, actions, and skills (Canvas 😊).
In his book The Light in the Heart, Roy T. Bennett says, “Never lose hope. Storms make people stronger and never last forever.”
Yes, we welcomed a new school year, but not through the same lens as we hoped in March. Our lens was much more focused because we embraced the power of hope!