Stephen Covey would have celebrated his 81st birthday on Thursday. His passing in 2012 left a void that few can fill. I often return to his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It provides comfort and wisdom that stands the test of time. With the stress that comes with being a modern educator, Covey’s thoughts on “sharpening the saw” are worth re-reading.
According to Covey, sharpening the saw means, “preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.”
Covey cites the following as examples of activities in each area:
Physical: Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting
Social/Emotional: Making social and meaningful connections with others
Mental: Learning, reading, writing, and teaching
Spiritual: Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, or service
School leaders need to spend as much time in supporting their teachers with sharpening their saws as they do in developing their pedagogical skills. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but not all staff development needs to be focused on the act of teaching.
Our teachers work hard. They balance the demands of family life with a profession that seems to be more challenging every year. As they attempt to be the best teachers they can be, they often ignore their own needs for the benefit of their loved ones and their career.
Principals not only have an obligation to remind teachers about the importance of sharpening their saws, they must provide opportunities and activities that lead them in that direction. When principals promote the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health of their teachers they strengthen their learning community. Teachers are better at what they do when their lives are in balance.
What can you start doing tomorrow to help your teachers sharpen their saws? Here are a few simple ideas:
Monthly birthday celebrations
Fitness activities led by staff (yoga, Zumba, volleyball, kickball, etc.)
Book studies (voluntary)
Social hours outside of school
Dress down days
Dress up days
School spirit days
No meeting days
The possibilities are only limited by your creativity. If you run out of ideas, ask the teachers. I bet you’ll get some interesting suggestions.