January 18th, 2021

Closing the year with hope

By CHERYL GILMORE Lethbridge School Division on December 16, 2020.

I am sure that many of us have been reflecting on the current circumstance that COVID-19 has defined. This is a time characterized by many emotions. The need to keep everyone safe is pushed to the forefront of our minds and is countered by the desire to be with those we care about and have fun with.
It breaks all of our hearts to know that families have experienced loss of loved ones and there is a compelling desire to protect those who we hold close that stirs deep within us. This can be countered with the frustration and anger that comes from limited choices and some loss of autonomy. There is really no right answer to how we are supposed to feel, but perhaps if we harness a kind of thinking, we can continue to move forward and deal with our circumstance in a way that keeps us healthy and well.
The other week I wrote a message to staff in our monthly memo about the power of hope and the way in which hope and circumstance have an inverse relationship. The more difficult the circumstance, the more powerful hope is for providing the strength and energy to navigate the challenge. Hope is a state of mind – it is about the belief that good things can and will happen, and the confidence in oneself to make a contribution to moving good things forward. When we are forced out of our comfort zone hope can give us an optimistic heart and we can proceed with the knowledge that one small thing at a time will contribute to the goodness that surrounds us. We are surrounded by good things and I am affirmed in this belief every day when I see the kind of work that is being done in our schools, both with in-school and at-home delivery of learning. Staff have been vigilant in keeping schools safe and have managed to create a sense of community, connection and care in spite of protocols and virtual learning. Many innovative practices have been put in place to deliver learning and the path has been very steep on the part of staff, parents and students to effectively engage with new ways of doing things. There will be many best-practice strategies that schools and teachers will maintain long after COVID-19 no longer compels us to think differently. There is great goodness in what organizations and community members are doing for families in need of support and individuals who are vulnerable. Hope combined with ingenuity and creativity is very powerful. I know that individuals and families will find a way to celebrate the holiday season even though it will look different because we are naturally creative. Some families will harness the digital to connect, some will have phone conversations, and others will visit and bring cheer by standing outside and talking through a window. We always find a way to make things work, and we can embrace this challenge by keeping in mind that it won’t be forever. We can also keep in mind that being forced to do things differently forces us to dig deep, be creative and recognize which of the new things we have learned are worth keeping because they make circumstance better.
The holiday season with children can be enchanting. They have wonder, joy and boundless energy. I hope that all individuals and families find opportunity to close the 2020 year with hope and look into 2021 with optimism.
Cheryl Gilmore is the Superintendent of Lethbridge School Division

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