2018, like every year before it, was a learning year. As usual, I read a lot and learned a lot from books. I deepened my understanding of the experience of people of color from Julie Lythcott-Haims’ Real American and Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Wanna Talk About Race? and I dove more deeply into my own identity through reading Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility and Debby Irving’s Waking Up White. I read the NAIS Trendbook and Min-Jin Lee’s Pachinko cover to cover, and I thought about the power of feedback and the pressure on high school students. Inspired by ideas about the importance of play and creativity, and interested as always in promoting book culture, I launched a book review site with colleagues, students, and writers called bookclique, which published a unique review of one great, new book each week in 2018. I even learned something new about parenting from, of all people, my favorite poet, Emily Dickinson.

I was fortunate to learn not only from books but from brilliant colleagues and students as well – notably, the team at Global Online Academy, who put on a fantastic multi-day professional development retreat over the summer, and the staff and students at Beacon Academy, who put on a fantastic Symposium on Race and Education. I also had the opportunity to work with seniors applying to art and technical colleges, and from them remembered and appreciated just how unique and individual each person’s writing process is, and needs to be.

Not everything I learned or thought about in 2018 was fun to learn or think about. I didn’t expect to find myself called to write about two significant topics impacting both society and schools: gun violence and sexual assault. I didn’t expect the country’s political climate to continue to worsen, civil discourse to continue to diminish, or facts to continue to be so forcefully pushed to the periphery by fictions. But despite all of that, I know that there is no learning without discomfort, nor growth without a healthy serving of resilience seasoned with a dash of optimism. In that spirit, below are some of the many things that in my experience made 2018, overall, an outstanding year:

The beautiful new work from two generous and talented women who taught my writing seminars this past summer, Dani Shapiro and Ann Hood; the outstanding writing about education and leadership from Ann V. Klotz; the important and impeccable research on the diverse experiences of Americans from Ari Pinkus; the inspiring essay collection about being in one’s 40’s by my dear friend, Lindsey; the game changing work of my husband’s non-profit focused on criminal justice reform, The Justice Collaborative; and much, much more.

Wishing you a creative, engaging, and fruitful 2019 full of books, people, ideas, and learning – because no matter where it happens, school is always in session. 

@msflaxman

@msflaxman

Jessica is a doctoral candidate, education consultant, writer and editor. She is the founder of bookclique, a collaborative of English teachers and students working to promote book culture, and a co-founder of Well-Schooled, the site for educator storytelling, dedicated to sharing first-person educator stories. All Rights Reserved - What I Learned Today in School (2014).

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