Choose to "Sharpen Your Saw" (final rendition) : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Choose to "Sharpen Your Saw" By Karen S. Rigdon November 1998

Welcome to a new monthly column that is intended to serve as an educational sharing link with our community. The authors are a group of 22 local educators enrolled in the University of Minnesota-Duluth's Masters of Education program. Many thanks to the Daily Journal for allowing us a voice as we "sharpen our saws" to benefit the learners in our area.

The phrase, "sharpen your saw", refers to a principal of continuous improvement. Renowned author Stephen R. Covey says that highly effective people have seven habits. Habit number seven is the practice of sharpening one's saw. This is accomplished by learning, growing, and developing new capacities and expanding the old. Covey states bluntly, "Grow or die. Stretch or stagnate". Without continual improvement, there is no increased effectiveness. The bottom line is that you cannot expect schools and businesses to improve if teachers and employees do not improve.

A friend of mine recently E-mailed me a humorous list of actual quotes from Federal employee performance evaluations. Included in the list was, "Donated his brain to science before he was finished using it". It is doubtful that this employee took night classes at the local college, volunteered his time to serve on the hospital board, or read inspiring classics. Perhaps, instead of drinking deeply from the fountain of knowledge, he merely gargled! His saw blade was dull and someone noticed.

Fortunately, the whole world is a classroom, if you are alert and pay attention to what is happening around you. Experience educates, nature educates, and relationships educate. The possibilities are endless. There are times when someone may grow weary of doing something for you. This is a perfect opportunity to stretch yourself to learn the task, if you desire it to be done.

When I first moved here ten years ago from California, I had never touched a worm, not to mention a minnow or a leech. I did, however, hunger for the taste of walleye. My husband patiently baited my hook for two full years. Then, one fateful day, his patience wore out. I had to stretch or starve! I had to learn how to touch a minnow (barehanded), without freaking, and impale his slimy little body with my hook. Impossible, I thought.

A sympathetic, local woman came to my rescue and developed a step by step program for my education in the School of the North. The hook-baiting lessons began with sticking my hand, ever so slowly, into the minnow bucket and letting the minnows swim around my hand. In retrospect, I feel most fortunate to have had the experience of "enjoying" my own personal aquatic petting zoo!

Next came the hunting lessons. They began with holding an unloaded .410 correctly in her backyard. The snowmobiling lessons began with a 20-mile per hour ride to the Junction. Slowly but surely, I expanded my new skills and found myself loving the Falls more and more. Perhaps even one day, I will be demonstrating to a newcomer that cleaning a grouse is as easy as peeling a banana!

Learners of all ages need mentors and teachers to inspire them with passion for the things they love. Too often, learners are motivated through fear of failure rather than the love of knowledge. Johann Goethe, the German literary giant, said, "People cannot learn what they do not love". We always manage to find time, one way or another, for what we undeniably love.

As you "sharpen your saw" and stretch yourself in new and exciting ways, encourage curiosity and questions from all those around you. Your positive modeling can be powerfully influential. It is an honored privilege to witness the enthusiasm, joy, and excitement of a student or your child as they develop new skills. Your inspiration could forever change their life.

-- Anonymous, November 04, 1998

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