“The future begins with what you do today.”

Mahatma Gandhi

It’s the last day of 2023 and it also happens to be 12/31/23 (123123). I’ve been contemplating what my impressions and takeaways of 2023 have been and what 2024 will hold, and it’s been an exhausting task. Moving into 2024 feels like Alice stepping through the looking glass–re-examining myself, my work, my values, and my dreams.

2023 has been a transformative year for my perspective on some big questions.

Question 1: “Why School?”

This is a question asked by Mike Rose in his thought-provoking and important book, Why School? As so many others have pointed out, we had a real opportunity to dig into the question in the face of a global pandemic that provided an opportunity to reimagine how we do school and to evaluate why we have been doing the school the way we have and whether it still makes sense to continue as usual. This question was also at the forefront of my mind as I completed my K-12 Principal Certification and ended 2023 as a certified principal in Pennsylvania. As a school leader, I should be able to answer that question and center the vision of the school I lead around that answer. This is also my big question as I work on building Walkabout Philadelphia and supporting the work of Walkabout Education. As I head into my 21st year of teaching, I am struck by the missed opportunity to reimagine how we do school to meet this transitional moment for our society and how we prepare young people to meet the challenges they will face as adults.

Question 2: “What brings me joy and happiness?”

In the bustle and busyness of day-to-day life, it can be easy to fall into patterns and habits and to forget to pay attention to the details of the day and to pause and reflect. In the many roles I play each day– mom, wife, teacher, colleague, daughter, sister, friend…–it’s easy to forget about the things that specifically bring me joy and happiness. Joy is contagious. Being my best self for everyone I love in my life and for myself is something I hope that 2024 will bring. This year, I hope to carve out time for making art, listening to music, spending time in the woods and reading for pleasure.

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Question 3: “What does it mean to be human?”

This question has been swirling around in my head this year in various forms. Not surprisingly, much of this ruminating has been based on the hype surrounding generative AI and its impact on our day-to-day lives, creativity, productivity and authorship. However, those impacts have mostly felt like a distraction from the larger questions around what these tools teach us about what it means to be human. While these new tools are shiny and have captured the imagination of many educators, the real need is for a doubling down on humanity and on focusing on what it means to be human and what it means to be a good human. As a parent, this is something that I find so important to instill in my children – being helpful and being kind to others. I have been contemplating how this ties into the “Cone of Possibilities” or the “Futures Cone” and how we help young people build a preferred future. Our future and their future depend on it.

Question 4: “What does it mean to be in community?

In my role coordinating our experiential learning programming at SLA Beeber, I have found this question at the core of my work helping students challenge themselves to explore local social issues through service learning projects, volunteer in local classrooms, and explore their interests and potential careers in preparation for their Spring internships. How do we build opportunities for young people to explore their place in their community, to feel agency in their community and to envision what role they will play in their community and any community they are a part of? How can I guide my own children through these kinds of experiences to help them find these answers for themselves? This year I will be exploring the Japanese word ikigai in my own life and thinking how this concept can help young people find their purpose through real world experiences. Being a member of a community is central to ikigai.

“If you are on the right path you find that invisible hands are helping.”

Joseph Campbell

2023 has been a huge year of growth for me–which is surprising for someone at this phase of my life and career. I’m optimistic that 2024 will be an opportunity to continue to explore and answer these questions and work toward being my best self while focusing on the present and appreciating the little details of the day. I’m also hopeful that those of us who work in schools and with young people help them grapple with their own questions around purpose and community and provide them with experiences to find agency and identity and independence.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy new year and thank all of the people who have supported me and helped me grow this year.

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