Thursday, May 26, 2016

What It Takes to Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Year 8 of teaching is in the books. 
I'm exhausted. 
But, it was a good year overall and for this I am grateful. 
{What a loaded, glorious sentence to type!!!}
Finding an engaging unit to teach 8th graders in May is not for the meek. But I resurrected a mini unit I put together years ago with the conviction that the tools we need to survive life can be found through the characters and themes found in The Wizard of Oz, and it was perfect.
We read a series of nonfiction texts that incorporated five themes/ideas. We had a fluid definition for each of these words and the kids wrote about and discussed the ideas that were revealed in the texts. 
When we dream, we ask these questions: What do we hope to accomplish in our lives? Where are we going? Do we "dare to dream"? What’s your “Emerald City”?
Image result for wizard of oz
When a person displays courage, they are willing to risk anything to achieve their goal. They face challenges with a spirit of hope and confidence.
 Image result for wizard of oz lion 
When a person has heart, they are passionate about what they do. They are committed to others. They are sympathetic, empathetic, and compassionate towards others.
Image result for wizard of oz tin man  
When a person values their potential to use what they know for the greater good, they are successful. They know that education is power and that power is used for good. 
Image result for wizard of oz scarecrow 
Where we belong, where we are loved, and where we can be ourselves is home. When we can truly say that “There is no place like home", we know we will be okay.
Image result for wizard of oz ruby slippers 

I love this unit because there is a vulnerability created that is authentic. The kids discuss difficult issues and learn about themselves and each other because people's stories create an open and honest place for this. They met people like Christopher Reeve, Florence Nightingale, Meip Geis, Hurricane Katrina survivors, Malala Yousafzai, Tony Hawk, Bill Gates and a handful of "not so famous" people who choose to daily live with purpose because of their conviction around these ideas.
We were inspired to overcome all that life shoves our way and we learned to look beyond ourselves and within ourselves to find hope. 
We learned that the "core" of who we are and what we believe is enough.
 It is enough to withstand all the "scary" out there. 
It is enough to move forward and make the world a better place. 
It is enough, because there is purpose in who we are; we are enough. 
Image result for yellow brick road
I read a reflection from one of my students who said that he learned  how to be more confident because of this unit. He wrote about how his mom is rarely around and his sense of "home" feels distant and unattainable. He went on to say that because of a story we read about a girl that found her "home" with her best friend's family, he had hope that he wasn't alone. He can still have a sense of home even if it isn't traditional. 

I had another student talk to me about their dream of being a chef and that his "Emerald City" smells like garlic. :) He told me he is going to do everything he can, even in high school, to strengthen his skills around his dream of being a chef. 

I heard students talking about standing up for what they believe even if it isn't popular to do so. They talked about actively fighting bullying and having courage to Stand Up.  

I heard them talk about not taking the American education system we are a part of for granted. One kid said he was going to stop breaking pencils {on purpose} because some kids in other parts of the world don't even have running water, much less pencils to write with! 

I nervously told the kids a snippet of my story and what it means to know, to really know, that Love Always Wins. I  almost didn't tell it, but I wanted them to hear how these themes are a part of my reality too. And while I was still wondering if I did the right thing in sharing, one of my students gave me this: 
{So grammar and spelling aren't her forte; she has other gifts. :)}

I think we can all take cues from these themes and figure out how to navigate our own yellow brick roads. 
We need to dare to dream and look for ways to make those dreams happen. 
We need to have courage when facing uncontrollable realities. 
We need to give of ourselves and see the good in others to help make the world a better place. 
We need to use our potential for the greater good and not waste our abilities. 
We need to remember where we belong and know we always have a safe place to be ourselves.

It's inevitable that there is going to be a "Wicked Witch of the West" and scary flying monkeys in our lives. We are always going to be searching for and needing companions who "get it" and then walk with us. We are always going to learn from each other. And, as we do this, learn to use our own stories to help others struggling to find meaning in difficult situations. 

We have so much to gain from each other and as we utilize the tools necessary to navigate our yellow brick roads, may we become inspired to change the world.

1 comment:

  1. :) Beautiful!!!! Makes me want to be a student in middle school!! (and that's a LOT lol!!) I couldn't agree more - beautiful heart, compassion, and passion for teaching!! I love ya!!!