Friday, September 01, 2006

Pick up your broom

And now, a word from our sponsor...

"If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michaelanglo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well."

I remember hearing those words from an airline stewardess whose face remains etched along my mind but whose name is no where to be found. I was twenty-two years old, flying to Pittsburgh to see my family for the Christmas holiday, and so much had changed for me that season. In July of that year, I had moved to Houston, Texas with only one thousand two hundred dollars to my name. I had come to fulfill my dream: To become a teacher for students with hearing loss.

I remember how depressed I had been on that flight, and it had all been due to lofty and daring fancies that had been torn apart by institutions. No one ever instructed me in college that education was politics. No one had told me that there was only one philosophy to what was right or wrong in a classroom. No one had informed me that teaching would also mean parenting. I was faced with the most absolute truth that I heard throughout my entire college career that, up until that moment, I had always believed to be a joke: "They don't teach you how to be a teacher in college."

So imagine my curiosity when the airline stewardess sat down beside me and struck up a conversation. Imagine even more when we started talking about Martin Luther King, Jr., and how she remembered listening to his powerful speeches, captivated by his words. When she told me that quote, something inside of me lit on fire - literally. My stomach turned, and my heart pounded.

My conscience had a knock at the door.

"I don't feel like I'm being the best streetsweeper I can be," I remember telling her. I can recall her gentle smile even now as she said, "Then you better pick up your broom and get back to sweeping, child."

I'd love to tell you how it all just changed magically right then and there, but that would be a drama best left to movies. The truth is that change crept upon me in small steps with small events that left small, significant impressions upon my heart. It wasn't until I was asked to move into the itinerant department for children with hearing loss that I realized how different a teacher I truly was.

I'd love to tell you that I'm a fantastic teacher now. I'm sure there are plenty of people who think I am, but I'm also fairly certain that you'll find those who say I am not. I'm realistic in that regard. However, there's one thing I think both camps would say about me that sets me apart from my peers: I'm idealistic. For better or for worse, that's the rub of the whole thing.

I try to face my work as a task assigned to me and as a priviledge which I am thankful for having. I know every day that there is a child on my current caseload who needs someone, and sometimes, that need has nothing to do with our current objective of the day. I am aware now of a greater impact that I possess simply because I decided to show up for work. I am finally cognizant that the trite phrase "making a difference" need not be considered trite, but rather, precious because it is rare.

As I enjoy my hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and cold lemonade, I will be smiling. I will remember what a joy it is to do my job, and how it is my goal to fulfill the challenge set out by Dr. King forty years ago. I hope you join me in this as well during Labor Day weekend, but if by chance, you find yourself feeling like you are unfulfilled, useless, or stagnant in your field of work, let me be the first to say to you:

You better pick up your broom and get to sweeping, child.



The Meezers said...

Marina, God Bless you for persevering. I was a teacher of the handicapped for many, many years, but I finally got beat down by the Government who kept saying "NO" to every effort to improve even the smallest thing in someone's life. It broke my heart and my spirit and I left to pursue other, less noble work, mostly to preserve my sanity. Keep sweeping Marina, you sound like a fantastic teacher, and one that many would surely love to emulate. - Meezers Mom Mary

K T Cat said...

What a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing it. It's one that will stick with me for a long time.

Ayla said...

Marina, that was a great post. I'm going through a lot of changes myself, including going back to teaching after a five year break. It's been a very tough decision because I'm worried about what the future will bring. I guess I needn't worry about that, only that I'm the best I can be. Thanks so much.

Ayla's mom

DEBRA said...

OH Marina

What a calling you have and bless you for perserving. It was inspiring to read you words and to absorb the lesson of the street sweeper. It will stay with me forever. Thank you so much for sharing. Today I have to go to a funeral of a friend and this will comfort me in a totally different way.

Bless you and have a safe and happy Holiday Weekend.

Abby's Mom

MLK speeches STILL give me goosebumps.

Nathalie said...

wow very impressive post you have there.
I need to read it again [I'm tired, so my internal translator went to bed already :)] and find myself a broom.
Have a great weekend, and to me you sound like a great teacher!

Latte said...

What a wonderful post! Meowmy was feeling unfulfilled and I'm going to tell her to go start sweeping the kitchen!

Seriously, thanks for this lovely insight and for sharing such an important moment in your life. It is the much needed kick in the arse I needed.


Beau Beau & Angie said...

I'm going to start sweeping too. Although I work for a company who's goal is to "enhance human life" in my position I just don't feel I'm making a difference, and I want to. Great post and a wonderful thought for the weekend and more. I'm sure you are a wonderful teacher. The world needs more like you.

Sadie said...

Marina, that post is incredible. My DH is an educator, too and I think he has felt a lot of similar frustrations, though he is sweeping just as hard as he can. I, on the other hand, need to pick up my broom! Thanks for the inspiration.

Gemini said...

What a wonderful post. Momma said if you are really sweeping well, then OF COURSE there are people who don't think you do a good job. Sweeping as well as you can sometimes means making others unhappy. It's only that you know you've done well.

She gets to use this labor day to set up her new clinic and she is furry excited. I hope she leaves the computer on so I can blog a little bit..

Merlin said...

Um, yeah, hi.

I'm new around here, I was looking for Zeus? My mom (Sadie) said he was fun and I thought maybe we could be friends.

Merlin’s Meows

Rascal said...

Zeus, too bad about the Steelers. It's not too late to become a Panther's fan.

Renee said...

Still looking for my broom, but doing very well at the SAHM thing for now.

Just letting you know that Wendy is back and there's another audition!

Kailani said...

Very well said. I come across so many people who are not happy with their jobs. Life is too short not to enjoy what you're doing. I'm sure you are a wonderful teacher!

WendyWings said...

Zeusy I'm hommmmmmmmmme ;)

Dachsies Rule said...

Mom has a broom but the people at her work think she flies around on it. Perhaps it's because she thinks they should be doing the best they can do.

Have a wonderful Labor Day -- though it sounds like yours is a labor of love.

The Tower Hill Mob said...

Thanks for the mental shake up.
Pity the Steelers keep losing to the Pats,eh?
Black and Gold- aren't those the Bruins' colors?


Great Post! Wendy sent me.

Valerie said...

Great post! Here from Wendy's this morning.

Sdit. said...

Wow what a beautiful post!
I never underestimate idealism. Particularly because it's found in a rare breed nowadays.

Kukka-Maria said...

Great post, but you are still on my litter list for trying to steal Johnny Depp away from me.

You are still on notice, Marina.