2019 was a great year. If you have spent any time on social media lately, memes and gifs suggest that people barely survived 2019. I also remember people sharing the same memes and gifs at the end of 2018, 2017, etc. Something is wrong with that picture. I will admit some years have been more difficult than others, but I refuse to be defeated. Instead, I choose to reflect upon my accomplishments and take pride in what went well; I celebrate it. It is also important to note what I should change moving forward to maintain what I have done and even to exceed it. This is why my review is set up the way it is. Let’s dive in!
By now, you should know I’m an educator. One familiar phrase in the education world is to be “data driven.” Let’s take a look at the numbers! Below are the number of blogs, articles, and academic papers I wrote this year. Whether I am writing about education, growing your own food, being a parent of multiples, the importance of diverse books, or the research around literacy, I am proud of the amount of content I was able to produce and the fact the people read and responded to what I wrote.
I don’t only write. December 2018, I started a podcast, and I also vlog.
Most of my vlogging is about growing my own food. When I first started publishing my writing online, it was all about growing food and my harvest to table journey. I’ve had solid small group of followers who enjoy my family’s successes and struggles…those damn aphids and cabbage butterflies always have to come around and ruin stuff. Don’t get me started about the fox that was creeping around my garden this year. Now, we have moved, so 2020 will be an opportunity for people to see us start a garden from the ground up. I started my website www.gardenershicole.com after we started our first garden, so my followers did not get to witness how we planned that garden.
Moving is key to my family’s plans for 2020. My husband and I had been looking for a house for almost two years. We had specific requirements with one being not moving out of our elementary boundary. As an education writer and educator, I know too much about some of these schools in Indy to allow my children to attend any school. It was a tough decision to make. After living in our home for 12 years, we had paid off a lot of our mortgage. Our house was beautiful, but it lacked storage. For example, I didn’t have pantry. I was canning food and sticking it on top of the refrigerator. I also had to put a cabinet in my garage to house all my supplies such as my food processor, blender, ice cream maker, juicer, food mill, etc. My tools would get dusty, so I would have to wash them each time before I used them. It was a hassle.
Also, my husband can work from home a couple times a week. He works during the day, during the night, and even early in the morning. This caused a problem for us. We were sharing one desk that was in our bedroom. One of us always had to work somewhere else if we both needed to work. I write early in the morning or at night. When I tell you I wrote everywhere in our house, I mean it. I wrote on the steps, on the sofa, in the kitchen, and even in my children’s room. I also use different writing books, or I needed to reference a text in my writing. That meant lugging all my stuff around, or my husband lugging his stuff around if I got the desk. We decided to move out of our two story house that was about 1700 square feet to a ranch with a basement that is over double that size. It has been a true blessing. We have space for everything, especially work space! That was needed especially since we started a publishing company this year.
Barnes Brothers Books, LLC
Barnes Brothers Books, LLC is a company with a focus on bringing diverse books to all readers. Not only do children of color need to see representation, but white children need to see people of color living everyday life and not only books about people of color being oppressed. Now, we have a place to house inventory and work on future books. We have more books coming in 2020. Since our company is named after our twin sons, the first two published books were written by them. They are both currently writing a book. Jeremiah is writing a fiction chapter book, and James is writing a graphic novel where he is drawing the illustrations. In 2020, we are publishing a book by an author, not related to us, about loving black hair. We also plan to publish other authors not related to us, too. I might even publish my book. It will probably be 2021 which is also when I have tentatively scheduled my sons’ second books to be published. In other news, we are now a Lexile certified company. Teachers who purchased our books wanted to be able to know the reading level. We now have permission to use the logo below on our books, and all future copies of our books will have the logo. Our books will be on the Lexile website soon.
We also have a blog. The writers have been my sons. During winter break, I decided to write my first blog post on the site, and it got liked and retweeted by LeVar Burton. Yes, LeVar Burton, who is on my list of people I would like to meet.
The Educator’s Room
Moving into a new house and starting a business was not the only changes. I also decided to let some opportunities go. I began writing for The Educator’s Room (TER) in December 2017. It was an opportunity to write some slightly different pieces about education. In March 2019, I agreed to come on as an editor, and I should not have agreed to do it. I had said no previously and should have stuck to my no. I helped hire new writers, and identified writers who weren’t a good fit for TER. I created contracts so writers would have clear expectations and to make compensation clear across the board. I’m proud of my work, but the problem was the reason I said no originally; I didn’t have the time. I was already writing for TER and had started a podcast for TER a year after I began writing for the publication, and I did not have the time to do more at the level that I like to do my work.
In September, I wrote my last articles for TER. In October, I turned in my resignation as editor and finished editing in November. Currently, the only work I do for TER is my podcast. Some people did not understand why I chose the podcast over the articles. Podcasting is a new medium for me and I wanted to hone that craft. Secondly, Indy K12 is where I really want to write the bulk of my education content. Although, it was great picking up followers from across the US through TER, some of those followers do not truly understand me as a writer. I’m a straight no chaser writer. I don’t have time to deal with sensitive folks who are more concerned about whether or not I’m calling them out instead of improving outcomes for students. I enjoy writing for Indy K12 more because I live in Indianapolis. I interact with readers in person. That’s not to say people don’t disagree with me locally but at least locals have a better understanding of me. I started feeling like I had to play it safe with my writing for TER. When I began to feel my authenticity leaving and the joy slipping away, I knew I needed to narrow my focus. My podcast, Brazen Education is what I was the most excited about with my TER work, so that is the only work I have decided to continue in 2020.
Back to Indy K12, our team is awesome. Not only am I a writer, but I’m the editor in chief. Although we don’t always agree on education issues, we are all fearless when it comes to shining a light on inequities in Indianapolis, Indiana, or even across the United States. To Andrew, Cheryl, David, Barato (our special assignment writer), I’m proud to write along side you all for Indy K12. Let’s keep pushing those boundaries in 2020.
Speaking of pushing boundaries, I also like to push myself to write for other publications. One of my favorite articles I wrote this year was for The 74 about Indigenous students. This article was shared on a couple reservations and added to a college syllabus as required reading. I also got the opportunity to speak to an educator who teaches Indigenous students.
Next, I got back to writing about being a parent of multiples. I do include my twin sons in some of my writing, but I wanted to write about twin parent life specifically. I had an article published back in 2016, and then I started writing for Indy K12 and abandoned that type of writing. I had a goal to at least write one multiples focused piece for the multiples parent audience in 2019, and I did. I plan to continue in 2020. I am also proud of my Phoenix Soul’s artist profile and what I wrote for One Voice Blog Magazine.
The other time I write is for my EdD program at IU Bloomington. Unfortunately, I had to redo two papers. For the first paper I rewrote, the professor wrote an essay to tell me how bad my paper was. Throw it in the fire would have been easier to hear. This is why I have to narrow my focus in 2020 because I do not want to have to redo academic papers moving forward. Luckily, I earned an A in the course. I don’t know how. I was convinced I was going to earn a B. The Lord must have heard my 11:59 PM prayers. That’s exactly when I turned in several assignments. I can’t live on the dangerous side moving forward by submitting assignments so close to the deadline.
If you want to write, just do it. If it is not writing, whatever it is, commit to making in happen. I have received several questions about writing, so I’m going to start addressing those via video. Maybe, I’ll get one out today.
In 2020, I plan to continue writing articles, podcasting about education, videotaping my garden life, and publishing books written by diverse authors. I also will continue to not tolerate foolishness and move on from opportunities that I can’t do at a high level. Don’t feel guilty about walking away, and also don’t commit to something you know you can sustain. Last, speak your truth and speak the truth. Everything I do is rooted in that and transparency. I’m not here for watered down, lukewarm, beating around the bush foolishness. Yes, people will get their feelings hurt. Yes, people may cut you off (Bye!), but don’t give in or be afraid to lose a relationship over the truth. In the end, what you do is your legacy. What kind of legacy are you building? I have children watching me. When I die, I want my children to be proud that their mom did not back down, and she told the truth.
Thanks for your support. Let’s keeping this train moving full force ahead into 2020!