The person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom

This just in from Cindy Prescott, KEA Vice President: 

“The person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom.” This is a quote I read recently from Howard Behar, President of Starbucks North America. I got to thinking about this quote and how it applies to the Kent School District and to us, as educators.

Brooms have parts and they can all be researched to find the best the industry can offer. The bristles can be made from various synthetic or natural materials. What binds the bristles together likewise can be made from different materials. Bristles might be bound in differing ways, such as in a slant. The research on these materials might show different results in performance and longevity.

The handle itself can be fashioned in many ways and thus the handle would show various results in performance and longevity. The overall design of the broom might also be a source of research results, as we like or dislike the very looks of things that we buy to use in our homes.

Like brooms, instructional programs and initiatives are made of various “materials”. Research on these programs and curricula provides various results on performance, which might include longevity and overall appeal.

Consider then, a sweeper who is given a “broom” (program) that has been highly researched by those at the top. The “broom” might have bristles that last quite a bit longer than other bristles. It might have a handle that purports to be the best in the industry. Perhaps the overall look of the “broom” is pleasing to those choosing it.  In fact, the “broom” is chosen with the intention and desire for the best fit for the sweeper.

However, the broom chosen may not be the best fit for the sweeper. Perhaps the sweeper understands that the floor being swept is uneven and needs a particular kind of slant or bristle. Perhaps the handle is too long for that particular sweeper.

This is the problem with being given a “broom” when we are the actual sweepers. Those of us sweeping have additional information that cannot be easily known by those choosing brooms because they are not involved in the actual sweeping. Without our input, the wrong “broom” might be chosen.

Complicating matters, when the wrong “broom” is chosen by others, those choosing sometimes have difficulty hearing that they have chosen the wrong broom. After our report on the broom, we sweepers are sometimes told to continue using the wrong broom anyway. In fact, we are sometimes told to use the wrong broom to sweep a bigger room. And to leave no particle behind!

Collaboration is not just a word. It is an action that includes hearing and taking into account the knowledge the sweeper has when choosing a broom. If the sweepers in our district were part of the process in choosing brooms, I can only believe we would see great results.


Cindy Prescott
KEA Vice President


10 Responses to “The person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Good point. I like that quote because it does say so much. Thanks for writing this article and bringing the topic of collaboration to our attention. I also think if teachers ARE asked to be a part of the discussion of curriculum adoption or any issue that affects teachers, it should be those who are IN the classroom (those w/ a roster).

    Sorry, but certs that are not classroom teachers should not be included. Why? Because I’ve seen too many of those certs do the bidding for our administrators.

    • Anonymous Says:

      As a cert who does not have a “roster” I would disagree. I am a teacher-librarian and I would love to be included in a curriculum adoption discussion. The insight that I could bring to those discussions and evaluations would let the teachers know going in what kind of support they could expect from the library. One of my primary jobs is to support those programs in the school to expand student learning.
      I may not have a “roster” but I still have a classroom and teach, I’m just doing so in a different setting than the one I’ve taught in for the 15 years prior to becoming a teacher-librarian..

  2. Spyhopperabc Says:

    On one hand KSD wants to move towards goal setting for all students at the elementary level, yet they want to dictate that those goals will essentially be the same. How bizarre. But then again this is a district that defies special education law. The law mandates an Individual Education Plan as determined by an IEP Team based upon the student’s present levels. Even though law and case law clearly defines this process, special education teachers in Kent are told what instructional materials to use (regardless of student needs) and how much time students will spend in Special Ed. People who have not been in the classroom in 15 or 20 years (or never) are “choosing the broom” for the educated professionals who know their students and their needs.

  3. Cara Haney Says:

    Wow Cindy! This really is a powerful metaphor! How was the rest of the book? Did the Starbucks CEO continue to give his support to his sweepers? Is this a book we should get for the higher eschelon for thier book study this year?

  4. Dana Standlee Says:

    Thank you, Cindy. Per usual, your words of wisdom are poignant and well crafted with much thought woven into your prose. What a clean sweep!

  5. Frank in Kent Says:

    KSD, Washington state, and federal No Child Left Behind want a NASA clean room result with an oligarchy in place and 1950’s understanding of professional learning communities. Where is the magic the quarter million dollar man was supposed to bring? Is it time to let the Seahawks trade him to Tennessee?

  6. Parent and Educator Says:

    Wow. That IS a powerful metaphor. Those who are closest to the kids know best regarding their education. That’s why parents should be given a choice where to send their kids to school, instead if being saddled with a one-size-fits-all nineteenth century style education model.

    • kenteducationassociation Says:

      Parents have choices now, but I assume you’re referring to charter schools. Check the data: Charter schools perform no better, and in many cases worse, than public schools. Privatization is not a universal panacea, no matter what you’ve been convinced of by people who stand to make money by destroying public education through lack of funding and replacing it with a private system that will never serve the needs of all children. How about we fund public education and give it a chance to compete?

  7. Cindy Prescott Says:

    The quote is from a book called It’s Not All About the Coffee (I think that’s correct – it’s loaned out right now so I can’t check!). There are many good points in it – it’s an easy read. It seems like Starbucks is a company that really values their employees. That’s what I’d like to feel here in Kent. Collaboration is the outward sign of respect for our knowledge as educators and our value as employees.

    In response to the last post, collaboration with parents has been very important to me as a teacher. I agree that parents know their child best and their opinion is an important part of the equaton. But in my opinion, charter schools are not the answer. Public schools are SO important in our country because here in the US, all students are entitled to a free education. Charter schools have the right, and exercise it, to decide which students are enrolled and stay enrolled in their school.

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