2019 was another year of learning – some in school, some out of school. It’s hard to say which lessons were more important – the ones that a teacher, a writer, or a student created for me; the ones I created for others; or the ones that life handed me, like the reminder that haste makes waste after I tripped on the curb while rushing around, fell forward into some cement steps, and gave myself my first concussion.

It had long been my dream to get my doctorate, and 2019 brought that dream to life when I started a three year program in education leadership. In just a few months I have learned so many new things about the role that schools – and the educators in them – have played in shaping the society we live in today. Schools were not built fair or equal. From the start, they were built to serve specific, local populations with specific, local concerns and beliefs. When American schools were standardized and arguably improved in the 20th century along democratic principles of homogeneous socialization, patriotism, and productivity, they served children in mainly uniform ways, giving rise to the diligent, purposeful generation my parents were part of.

But children are not uniform and pedagogy is not uniform. Learners are not blank slates or sponges. Very early in life they are people with complex identities and capacities impacting their feelings, thoughts, and interests. Teachers are also not automatons. Throughout their lives they are people with complex identities and capacities impacting their feelings, thoughts, and interests. And of course technology is not static. Inkwells, pencils, chalk, and textbooks have given way to tablets, laptops, and digital downloads, and after anxious years, educators now know that, like knowledge in general, technology’s power depends on its use. Thus, schools today are reinventing themselves in an effort to give differences among us their due while at the same time offering us the skills and tools we all need.

But as I have said before in this blog, school is not confined to the hours of 8 to 3. It is always in session. One of the most impactful things I learned this year was a lesson from my younger daughter’s mindfulness app, which she uses at night to calm her thoughts before bed. She is getting older and I read to her less and less at night because she wants to read her books on her own. But we still lie together for a while and sometimes she invites me to do a mindfulness activity with her, which I find myself very happy to do. The emotionless voice of an unknown speaker tells us to bring our bodies first, and then our minds, to rest by thinking about different interactions with the same feelings regardless of what the interactions entailed. To the person we love and admire, we should send our sincerest wishes of success and happiness. Easy. To the person we feel anger or jealousy toward, we should send our sincerest wishes of success and happiness. Hard. Hard, but not too hard.

Hard but not too hard is where I know we learn the most. Change, but not too radical or fast a change, is how we grow the most. Remembering these fundamental lessons, and pursuing and prizing them, is what 2019 was about for me. The year’s posts were as usual about the synergy between school and life lessons, and how they shape us all, all of the time.



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.


  • Tom Collins says:

    Happy New Year, Jess!

    Congrats on starting the Doctorate. I hope it is fun, rewarding, enlightening and challenging. Hope to see you when you’re in town.

    All the best, Tom, Nic and the kids.

  • Dad says:

    I’ve always been impressed by how smart and accomplished you are, but this blog just blows me away by the clarity and depth of your thinking. Keep it up. The world needs people like you.