This summer, I re-watched The Wizard of Oz.
Amazon Prime had it listed as one of its freebies, and, well, I’m from Kansas, so I am very accustomed to any references to Toto, Aunt Em, or the glittery ruby red slippers.. I guess you could say I even have a sense of pride that Dorothy gets swept to Oz by …you guessed it! A Kansas tornado! But for whatever reason, it was with great anticipation that I sat down to watch this 1939 classic one more time.
Ten minutes into the movie, I realized that it wasn’t quite what I had remembered as a kid. First of all, what was with the crazy brown-and-white opening scenes on Aunt Em’s farm? Weren’t old movies supposed to be filmed in black-and-white? Secondly, it wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I remembered. I could actually sit through the flying monkeys and the toxic poppy field scenes as an adult (although I still watched them with the lights on!). And it definitely lacked the CGI technology that we take for granted in movies today.
But it still was MAGIC.
And it got me thinking.
What we do in the classroom should be just as magical. And that’s just Step One. Someone also needs to tell teachers that they are talented, strong, courageous, and capable, just like Dorothy and the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man as they walked the yellow brick road on their way to the Emerald City.
It was about five years ago that I was desperate for someone to simply tell me that I was good at my job, let alone that my teaching was magical.
I was someone who had taught for 20 straight years in the exact same high school – doing much of the same curriculum – but suddenly I felt adrift in my own classroom. That should tell you about my fragile state of mind back then. I knew that I still had a love for teaching, but on Sunday nights I felt pure dread wash over me. I remember saying something about this in a department meeting.
“I used to see colors,” I said to my weary co-workers. “Now everything seems gray and black and blurred together.”
I am not the only veteran teacher to experience this kind of discouraging burnout. I teach in America, after all, where the “I’m outta here” rate is an estimated eight percent — twice that of high-performing countries like Finland or Singapore (Westervelt and Londsdorf, 2017). Nearly 50% percent of U.S. teachers will leave the profession within six years, due to factors such as poor working conditions, poor student behavior, and a lack of administrative support (Ingersoll & Smith, 2004).
The worst part about this is that nearly nine percent of new teachers don’t make it through the end of their first year, never mind those who hang on for an additional four years (Riggs 2017).
I get it, new teachers. I totally understand why you would leave, and I’m here to help.
After I left my high school, I found myself lost in a jumble of giant university buildings and a strange new culture. I did my best to function in a higher education environment where people spoke so ….very….academically. And I survived….sort of. And then I got stronger.
Thanks to some kind key figures – my family, my friends, and an encouraging department chair – I began to see color again. Specifically, I saw the color yellow, which to me has always tied into a spirit of creativity and a strong sense of optimism.
Hence, the title of this blog: Yellow Brick Teaching. It’s about finding the path that leads to creative, courageous teaching with plenty of heart.
Hence, the purpose of this blog: To help new teachers follow this same path to make their lives easier and their career a blast.
I am really looking forward to sharing this journey with you.
Ingersoll, R. M., & Smith, T. M. (2004). Do teacher induction and mentoring matter? NASSP Bulletin, 88(638), 28-40.
Riggs, Liz. “Why Do Teachers Quit?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 18 Oct. 2013. Web. 01 Aug. 2017.