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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Have You Sharpened Your Saw?

By Peter DeWitt — October 09, 2012 3 min read
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Perhaps it’s my own need to write about happy moments after posting a blog about helping children who lost a parent but this is an attempt to focus on the positive. We read so many negative things throughout our day that I thought you might enjoy focusing on the positive. I heard a statistic that we only hear one positive statement for every ten negative statements. That is a staggering statistic if it is true, and considering we are knee deep in the middle of political campaigns, I’m sure the negative number is much higher these days.

It feels as though we are under constant scrutiny from when we wake up. We are hit with ad after ad and story after story about something negative happening in the world. Whether it’s an actor spiralling down or devastation in another part of the world, it seems as though we only hear bad news. Surely, there must be happy things going on around us.

So what brought me to this moment? What made me want to highlight the happy moments? The other day I was walking into classrooms to say hello to students and see what they’re learning. It’s a daily routine for me, and I’m thankful to get out of the office. It also provides me with a constant reminder of why I entered the education profession. I’d love to tell you that I’m in a great mood every day that I walk in the door but sometimes the stress of life or the job make me forget the good things that surround me. I’m sure you have those days as well.

On this particular day that I walked into a classroom I noticed a little girl wearing a t-shirt that said “40 Things to Be Happy About” and as soon as I saw the first one which was “Your Favorite New Song” my mood was transformed into a much better one. I walked away from the class thinking about my list of 40 things that make me smile. After all, I am an elementary school principal and kids give me a lot to smile about.

As much as we have to care about the social and emotional health of our students, we have to care about our own as well. The stakes are too high, and I’m not referring to testing. I’m referring to the students. They come from all walks of life, have diverse experiences at home that may not always be positive, and they need our best thinking. They need our best teaching and they are the reason we love education. So in an effort, to break away from the monotony of high stakes testing, school reform, educational technology and other issues, try to take the time to think of 20 things (40 may be too big to start) that make you happy.

Sharpen the Saw
Dr. Stephen Covey has the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (I understand he added one) and the most elusive for me is number seven which is Sharpen the Saw. After a great deal of use a saw gets dull and it needs to be sharpened. Our minds and bodies go through the same ordeal. We have a habit of abusing ourselves through work and we do not always take the time we need to sharpen our own saws. If we fail to do that we are not helping anyone around us and we certainly aren’t helping ourselves.

We need to make sure we are taking the time to smell the roses or at least a good scented candle. Get out of the house, go for a run or a walk. Meet up with old friends or go to dinner with a loved one. Just because the school year is in full bloom doesn’t mean we have to put our own lives on hold until the summer.

In upstate New York I always feel that September is one of the most beautiful months but also one of the most difficult because we are getting to know a new crop of students and parents, as well as scrambling to meet mandates coming at us at a fast and furious pace. Now that we have made it to October, take some time to think about 20 things that make you happy, work on your own social-emotional health and definitely take time to sharpen the saw.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.