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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

The End of the Yellow Brick Road

At the end of each school year I feel a little bit like the wizard from Frank Baum’s story, “The Wizard of Oz”. Not the “Great and Powerful” wizard, but the one who stepped from behind the curtain and helped each of the characters to realize that what he was seeking, he already possessed. Like the wizard, the only gift we give our students is to believe in them, and believing makes it real.

“The Wizard of Oz” is the perfect American fairy tale. It is rife with morals, symbols and archetypes. It is a story about a journey we all take at some point in lives- the long road that leads us back to ourselves. Educators love the story because it reaffirms what good teaching is all about- helping our students discover the intelligence, talent, empathy and commitment that lies within each of them. We also find ourselves in each of the characters; Dorothy, who follows the rules and stays the course; The Scarecrow, who is the great logician and rational thinker; The Tin Man, who’s empathy is palpable and of course the Lion, who fears retaliation and punishment, but finds the courage to face his adversaries. The flying monkeys, the witches, Oz of the overblown floating head, are all components of the obstacles, adversity and bureaucracy we face in public education. Of course my favorite character, the one I identify with the most, is Toto- Dorothy’s faithful terrier who, at the end of the story, peals back the curtain to reveal the fraud of the Great Oz. 

There needs to be a Toto in every school- someone willing to uncover the truth, no matter how ugly or disappointing or hard to accept. As we come to the end of yet another school year, the end of our yellow brick road, think about the students who stood before you at the beginning of the school year. What did they come seeking? How did you help them find it? What flying monkeys did you encounter this year? How many wicked witches? And most importantly, just like Dorothy, what have you learned?

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