Another year has passed us by. Well, no, not really. That suggests we were standing at a metaphorical bus stop, passively watching time flow from future to present to past. Of course we do more than that, don’t we? We climb aboard and never get off. Whether we like it or not, we are always connected to events as they are to us.

But how do we ensure that we don’t live the life of a medieval blacksmith, for whom the years did indeed pass by with little change? For whom events in a far off country have little impact? For whom central authority has little to do with how he chooses to be a blacksmith?  For whom village life proceeds more closely aligned to changes in weather than changes in bums on royal seats?

The answer, in part, is to learn and to act on that learning. Whether we are offered opportunities to expand or change or enhance our current experience, or whether we make opportunities ourselves, learning has, does and will always form a core element of our ability to engage meaningfully with each other and with the world.

This year I have learned much.

With my day job I have dived deeply into the world of education policy, support of my fellow teachers (particularly in the area of accreditation in NSW), professional development and much more. I have met teachers from (almost literally) all corners of NSW and the ACT and deepened my understanding of the truly kaleidoscopic nature of teaching and learning, even within a “standardised” educational jurisdiction like NSW.

With my attempt to build an edtech startup I have learned the value of going beyond “building empathy for customers” to developing true and meaningful connections with people who you are trying to help (and if you aren’t actually trying to help someone, don’t pretend that you are). That people are motivated by significantly different aims at different times and you need to be clear about that within yourself. And much more.

In my personal life I have learned that there is nothing more important than those close to you. I knew this already, but there is little shame in relearning the most important lessons in life. I learned that there really is no limit to what one can learn about family and friends, there is always more and always worth learning. That time can be the most precious thing one can give and that is usually enough, unlike so many other contexts.

Learning only really happens if we change as a result of it. Some are incremental and almost imperceptible. Some are massive and physically, emotionally or mentally devastating or inspiring. Many times I have relied on others to remind me of what I have learned, or indeed to learn something from a moment. This is the final key to learning for me this year: it has not happened in a bubble. I cannot learn without others. I cannot grow without others. No one truly achieves anything on their own, for I don’t pave the roads or keep parks clean or heal people or write laws.

We are each part of a vast, thriving ecosystem of learning.

So what have you learned this year?