Submitted by Westwind School Division
Once a week, the Lethbridge Herald publishes a column written by a superintendent of one of five school jurisdictions in the Lethbridge area. This week’s column is authored by Westwind Superintendent Darren Mazutinec. When my wife and I rang in 2021 on Dec. 31, I can honestly say I have never been more eager to welcome in a New Year, and I was delighted to say goodbye to 2020! There is no question this past year set all of us on an unexpected journey, the likes of which we never had before experienced and were by and large, unprepared to navigate. Undoubtedly, the past nine months have stressed us, taxed us, and often shaken us to our very core.
We’ve watched businesses close, restrictions imposed on freedoms and students unable to be in their classrooms. It has been completely abnormal. Over the past few months, three different instances have allowed me to shift my perspective to a glass-half-full mentality I’m grateful for and would like to share.
Often a shift in perspective comes from an outside source, and in the first instance, it was my wife. One evening she commented she would take a pandemic and the current restrictions over sending our sons to some foreign war, which completely rearranged my perspective. At that moment, I realized it’s easy to see the glass as half-empty when, in reality, there are lots of things that should help us realize the glass is half-full.
The second instance occurred when I reflected on my time as a classroom teacher, a coach. Back then, I had a sign posted in my classroom that read “Excuses Are for Second Place People.” I have found this phrase creeping back into my thoughts over the past several months, as I reflect on the state of our province and country. I realized if I genuinely believe this mantra I preached to my students and players for all those decades, I ought to start acting like it and quit complaining about the hardships we are now going through.
Finally, I have also been inspired by a Helen Keller quote, which states, “Your success and happiness lie in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” Born blind and deaf, Helen Keller taught herself a language, received love and help from a friend to learn how to communicate more deeply, graduated from college and made a positive impact on countless people. This quote helped me realize I can choose to grumble or choose to be happy. The choice is up to the individual. In my experience, being around happy is way more fun than being around a complainer.
As we welcome in 2021, I’m optimistic we are heading to the other side of the pandemic reality we have all endured. It was very encouraging to read a recent announcement from the Alberta education minister reconfirming the original plan to have all students back in school Jan. 11 was still in place. I’ve had many positive visits with students who have shared they were anxiously waiting to be back in their classrooms and learning with their teachers. I’ve enjoyed visiting with parents looking forward to having their children reunite with their friends and teachers. I also want to acknowledge the many principals and teachers who have also let me know they missed their students and looked forward to seeing them again in-person. These stakeholder conversations have reinforced the importance of the teacher-student relationship. They have helped me view the glass as half-full and make a bad situation a whole lot better.
A key component of seeing the world through a “glass half-full” lens depends on recognizing all the things we have to be grateful for right now that bring us joy. Personally, I’m thankful for an education system that is among the best in the entire world, colleagues who love and create school systems focused entirely on students, and students in our region who represent their schools, teachers, families and communities in such a positive light. I appreciate all the programs and opportunities a student can access in our public education system and teachers who chose this career path and share their skills and knowledge with all students. I’m also grateful for parents who continue to trust our schools to lend us their children each day under our promise to keep them safe and help them learn. I’m thankful for hardworking frontline workers and the science that has made a COVID-19 vaccine possible. I am glad to be a part of a democratic process that allows for questions and offers explanations and rationale for governing decisions. Finally, I’m very thankful for my wife, family and the opportunity I have to work in education every day.
Today, I’m choosing to consider my glass half-full and believe our provincial leaders will soon decide to end the restrictions. I’m excited and anxiously awaiting a day in the very near future when I can see our choir rooms full of children singing, school bands marching, athletes competing and our school classrooms filled with learning and laughter.
Westwind School Division Superintendent