Sharp or Shopworn - Sam Stecher

Most often when I write a blog I am trying communicate as an authority on the topic at hand. I like to draw upon my experiences, perspective, and reflection to present you with an opinion that I did not arrive upon lightly. I want you to know where I stand, what I think is a good idea, and the action I believe you should take because of it. A friend of mine has given me the compliment (or leveled the accusation) that confidence is not a problem for me. When I post here I’m pretty confident in what I am saying.

This time I’m writing from a different perspective. I’d like to hear from you. I’d like your advice and perspective. It would do me good to have your expertise.

What I would like to know is how you do you stay sharp? I am asking because it’s become apparent to me that they same things which keep us shap can also take that edge right off.

A couple of things I read over the weekend led me to this question. Our high school wrestling season just wrapped up in Nebraska and two teams, the Spartans of Lincoln East and the Bearcats of Kearney, had quite a year competing with each other. This weekend I saw this tweet-

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Iron sharpens Iron. I get that. The head coaches of both teams wrestled for my collegiate alma mater so I know they have lived the Iron sharpens Iron axiom. I know and appreciate the philosophy. It’s a good practice. A blog on the subject would be something I would present with the confidence I mentioned early. Writing that blog is something I will leave to Coach Swarm, Coach Rutledge, and Coach McCurdy.

Another thing I read this weekend was a poem by one of my favorite authors, Ted Kooser, in which Ted used the word shopworn. The poem didn’t have anything to do with the Iron sharpens Iron idea but that word, shopworn, caught my attention. As Ted used it, it meant something which has lost its edge of effectiveness as a consequence of being used for its intended purpose.

There’s my quandary. The difficult work we signed up to do, the very nature of those often stressful opportunities, can give us the edge or take the edge away. The things which challenge us, which call us to go above and beyond the expected effort, can make us better at what we do or they can wear us out.

We all find ourselves in these situations. This isn’t unique to the world of education. Everyone who deals with stress as part of their job rides that line of sharpening or losing their edge.

My empathy for this is boundless. I have had high stress circumstances where I felt absolutely invigorated, cutting edge sharp, and more prepared for the next challenge. I’m also privy to those situations which take it all out of me, leaving me dull, feeling sorry for myself and sorry for the next person I need to help because I know they won’t get the best I’ve had to offer, dulled by what I had to deal with.

So again, sharp and shopworn, are both consequences of the work we do. I’d like to stay sharp. It’s my belief that what I do with is essential to what keeps the dull edge away. Even with that I still struggle sometimes. It would mean a lot to me to hear what works for you. Comment and let me know how you make sure the iron of work that matters sharpens the iron of your skills and effectiveness.

You can read more of what Mark and Sam have to say in their book It Happens In The Hallway. Just click here.