Live Your Why

Hello, my name is Raven Szalkowski and I am the new Professional Learning Coordinator here at the Kane ROE.  I am looking forward to our future work together.

For as long as I can remember, I hated school.  I was never able to make those connections with teachers that my friends did, and I always felt sort of lost.  I did everything that I could to graduate early and leave that place behind me.  Little did I know that my life would bring me back to the classroom, as a teacher and an administrator.

I had achieved success as a computer programmer, but I never felt any joy or passion with that job.  That was the problem, it was just a job. When we had classes that would visit my employer, I always volunteered to show them around.  Eventually, I realized that my calling was working with kids.  I went back to school to be a high school math teacher.  I really wanted to try to connect with students who were like me when I was in school, the lost ones, the ones who fall through the cracks, and the ones who seem to need the most support.

My “why” was a personal journey that took years for me to see.  I was teaching the kids that needed me the most, but I never really felt like I was making a difference.  Compassion fatigue was a reality for me on a daily basis.  It wasn’t until I had a student in her senior year that I also had as a freshman.  To see the personal growth that happened as she grew into a young woman, was amazing.  She came up to me near the end of her senior year and gave me a present.  I was surprised, as a high school teacher you don’t get that many presents.  It was a watch that she bought with her own money and the most beautiful card.  She told me that it was because of me that she was able to have the confidence to make it through school.  I never gave up on her in her freshman year, and she wanted me to know how I helped her. That watch sits on my desk as we speak and it is one of my most cherished possessions.  Anytime I feel like I am not making a difference, I think of her.

During times of crisis or trauma, it is hard to hold onto your “why” and live those values with truth and integrity.  Simon Sinek is a leadership expert that has authored multiple, best-selling books.  One in particular that I want to point out is Start with Why.  Sinek explains that most companies and leaders live in the two outer rings of the circle.  They can explain what they do and how they get it accomplished, but they are missing the most crucial piece of the puzzle, the “why”.  In his book, Simon reminds us that “people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you are doing it.”  Check out his TED talk to hear more explanations of his ideas and some inspirational stories.

Applying this concept to education is easy, but how do you find out what your personal “why” is?  Try this storytelling exercise to help you find out.  

  • Think about the moments in your teaching or administrative career that gave you the most joy.  
  • What are the themes that can be drawn out of those stories?  
  • What was the reason that you were drawn to a career in education?  
  • What patterns do you see in the work that makes you happy?  
  • It might be great to ask a trusted friend or family member what patterns they see for you. 

Everyone has a different “why”, but identifying yours is crucial.  It will help you move from staying in the two outer rings to beginning in the middle to refocus your efforts with the “why” in mind.

The great thing about education is we have the summer months for reflection and growth.  This is the perfect opportunity to remember and refocus on the reasons you wanted to go into education.  Happy summer and enjoy your well deserved break!  Do you want to share your “why”?  Join the conversation via Twitter using #KaneROE.

Raven Szalkowski – Professional Learning Coordinator
(t): 630-762-2056
(c): 630-762-2056
(e): rzalkowski@kaneroe.org

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