What I Learned in 2016

Everyone seems to be counting down the final minutes of 2016, desperate to escape the clutches of this year before it’s too late.

I agree, I guess. I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to embrace the fresh hope and possibilities of a new year.

But even in a year when so many seemingly lost so much, there are lessons. And despite the disappointments of 2016, for me, these lessons made this a special year.

This year on Election Day,  I learned that reason and facts sometimes aren’t always enough to overcome ignorance, and that in a democracy, fear can be used by artful politicians to manipulate voters to abandon American values like truth, empathy, charity, and hope that we cherish the most.

I learned too, though, that sometimes the most patriotic stance we can take if we truly love our nation is one of peaceful, persistent resistance.

I learned that despite the best efforts of educators and teachers, many Hoosier voters either do not understand education policy, or simply do not value teachers or believe in our community schools. If they did, they never would have voted so overwhelmingly for state and national leaders whose policies for our schools and our children are so misguided and so consistently wrong.

I learned, too, that in 2017, teachers, educators, and our advocates must find new ways to reach out to and talk with these voters about our schools, our jobs, and our children.

We must engage with these voters because we truly are at a turning point; if we fail to convince voters to stop the corporate education “reform” train destroying our schools, removing local control from our communities, overtesting our children, and driving our best teachers out of the classrooms, then one of the bedrocks of democracy, our public schools, will disappear.

I learned that technology in the classroom changes the learning dynamic but does not improve student learning or engagement. Technology is just a tool — nothing more, nothing less.

I learned, despite the disappointments and frustrations of 2016, that when our family, friends, and faith are at the center of our lives, life’s challenges don’t seem so overwhelming, and life’s special moments become that much more special.

I learned to work less and goof off and laugh more.

I learned to shoot more selfies and photos, to preserve the special moments and memories.

I learned I want to write more.

I learned that former students can be my greatest teachers. I learned to let them inspire me. I learned to be a better person because of their example.

I learned pets are family, too.

I learned I like people more than I thought I did.

I learned patience.

I learned that the people in our lives can make us better people, but that we have an obligation to be the best versions of ourselves for them, too.

These lessons made me better. They made 2016 worth it in more ways that I can ever count. They’re the lessons that taught me that 2017 will be special, too.

So, bring it on. And, Happy New Year!

Ten reasons I’m so thankful 

God has blessed me more than I deserve. Sometimes in life it’s important to just stop to say, “Thanks.”

In a time when it’s far too easy to dwell on the negative and all that divides us, it’s important, too, that we count our blessings. 

Here are mine in no particular order. My challenge to you? Take a few minutes today to count yours, too. Share them and post them. Make someone’s day better.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

I am thankful because I have…

1. …an enduring faith in God that sustains me through dark times and reminds me to be a light to others instead of dwelling on myself.

2. …a father who guides me, a mother who inspires me, and a sister and brother-in-law who support and listen to me.

3. …former students who make me proud because they make the world better. Some are like family, and they know who they are.

4. …current students who make me laugh and who teach me every day. It’s the greatest honor of my life.

5. …teaching colleagues at Floyd Central and in other local schools who amaze me daily with their talent, compassion, empathy, and integrity.

6. …my journalism “family,” a band of hilariously funny and incredible teaching colleagues from all corners of the state who remind me I’m a part of something special in Indiana scholastic journalism.

7. …my health and sanity (although sometimes that second part is debatable)

8. …books. Lots and lots of books.

9. …comic books and superhero TV shows and movies…because we all need an escape, and because Batman can solve any problem.

10. …the freedom and the passion to speak out and write about what I believe in, because with all of its flaws, the United States is still an exceptional country.