What I Learned in School This Year (2017)

Entering year four of this blog, I want to take a few minutes to say goodbye to 2017, a year of leaning in.

Leaning in to hear and believe women’s stories.

Leaning in to absorb and make sense of the news — some real, some fake.

Leaning in to the responsibilities of midlife.

To new jobs and new routines and new schools.

To reduced clutter and the surprising feeling of simplicity (who needs twenty scarves, really?) and panic (where are my scarves?).

In the process of readying to move north, my husband and I gave away a lot of things and said a lot of goodbyes. In our new life, we found some eerie pockets of quiet and uncertainty. We also found some new favorite things — the dog park at Fresh Pond, the Harvard bookstore, the Abbey Pub.

For as long as I have been in education, I have been talking to young people about the importance of embracing the unknown, of stepping into the more challenging spaces and opportunities, of seeking to know more than what they knew before. It is only now, though, at the close of 2017 that I understand the difficulty of the assignment that I have given.

Amid a lot of uncertainty, the wise words of others is more cherished than ever. I think I learned the most this year on December 30th, when I got to talk with my father in law in New York in the early morning, and my father, in North Carolina, later that afternoon.

I continued this year to learn from books — notably John Palfrey’s recent Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces, about the necessity of protecting first amendment rights while securing spaces that are safe for minority voices, and Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, in which she describes life as “a road down which one travel[s], an easy enough road through a broad country,” and also as a “plain house where everything one had ever lost or put aside [i]s gathered together, waiting.”

I love the idea of life as “a easy enough road” and a simple home where everything we know and care about is collected and safe. And at the same time, I know it is important to move from safety to bravery in 2018 – in school, in the public sphere, and at home.

No, life hasn’t felt too easy or simple of late. But of one thing I am certain: there’s a lot more learning to do in the coming year!

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