Every year, since 2016, I have selected a One Little Word (#OLW) to guide my year. My past OLWs have been:
This past year, I've felt a kind of restlessness. A feeling that, as I turned 40 years old, I should be further along in my career. I applied for an instructional coaching position, energized about the possibilities of a new position where my skills and experience could be utilized in a different way. I spent a large part of my summer preparing for the interview and dreaming of what the job would be like. For the first time in 18 years, I would be something other than a classroom teacher. When I was told I was not the successful candidate, I was heartbroken, ashamed, confused and frustrated. I've been going round and round in my mind, wondering what my next step should be as an educator looking to grow and evolve.
My One Little Word came to me as I listened to a podcast by Trent Shelton. It was Episode 2- How to Find Your Purpose. Trent spoke about purpose being "who you are" and not necessarily tied to any particular job, relationship, position. Your purpose stays with you no matter where you go or what you do. He specifically spoke about your position not determining your purpose and that "God will place you where your life will be used most effectively." Trent tied purpose to using your life "for the betterment of the world" and that your passions are directly connected to your purpose.
This was an "aha moment" for me. Instead of focusing on my job title or my role, I should think more about what I really want to contribute as an educator and a person. What am I passionate about? What are the parts of teaching and learning that make me the happiest?
For me, literacy is at the heart of all I love about teaching. I love reading aloud to students and helping them see how books can be friends, can change your perspective, can stay with you and shape your character. I love helping students find and develop their voices as writers, working on meaningful projects that matter to them. I love sharing words and poems and authors and ideas.
I've also been forever interested in character development and specifically kindness. I want to help students develop a positive mindset, learn flexibility, resilience, and most of all, empathy.
Another passion of mine is working with other teachers. Through my role as co-director of the Long Island Writing Project, I've had the opportunity to facilitate Summer Invitational Institutes and other workshops. I've loved collaborating with teachers, sharing what I know and learning from their expertise, too. I enjoy talking about teaching- the challenges, the solutions, the stories that only teachers in the classroom can share with each other. I love when a teacher tells me that something I shared has been helpful and will make a difference in her practice.
Focusing on what my purpose is and how I can fulfill that energizes me and makes me feel less stressed and anxious about my position or title. Here is what I have decided my purpose is:
My purpose can be lived through my work as a 3rd grade teacher, as a Daisy troop co-leader, as a parent. My purpose can be lived through my committee work with PARP (Pick a Reading Partner), my contributions as co-director of the Long Island Writing Project, my blogging at Two Writing Teachers. Through my friendships and relationships, I can always look to lift others up. Through my love of literacy and sharing with children and teachers, I can live my purpose and feel good about my contributions. Focusing on the work that fills my soul and aligns with my deep, long-standing beliefs about literacy feels right to me.
This year, I will let PURPOSE guide my words and actions. What word have you chosen to inspire your new year?
Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski