Our First Week Back to School: A Journey Through OZ

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While I spent most of the summer guarding my heart from news updates and social media rants, the occasional back to school nightmare would still creep in. I worried about all the possible problems surrounding our return to school whether in person or online. Now with our first five days complete, about 70 percent of our population in person and the rest online, I am hear to say I am so tired but unbelievably happy and proud of what we have done so far.

Our in person and online learning still has challenges ahead. This situation could consume me if I let the anxiety tornados run away with my peace. Instead I am resisting the panic by leaning into the good – Good students – Good Community – Good Colleagues.

Dorothy in Munchkin Land

In the spring our dark empty hallways looked like a view from a dystopian novel where lego walls held forgotten creations, and bulletin boards posted work from seasons past. Yet beginning school again brought back our Munchkins along with their magic. Just like Dorothy dancing down the yellow brook road, our skipping students brought color and light and joy back into our halls.

The moment I saw those elementary babes jumping out of their cars my world started to fall back into place. I could recognize their sweet faces under the masks and they remembered me with joy and affection. Exaggerated waves, silly salutes, and bowing salutations have replaced physical touch and the kids are learning the new ways we do school. More than ever we are understanding how our eyes act as windows into our souls. Yes it is far easier to read expression without a mask, but I am finding the intentionality of reading eyes and listening for voice inflection can connect us in new ways. This is the start of good things, welcoming our students back into community and living the joy of learning together again.

The Citizens of Oz

Over the summer and throughout this first week, our community members have showed up for us in special ways. Sure some people are angry and say hurtful things on social media, but remember I’m protecting myself from those flying monkey feelings by finding the good.

A group of our families raised money and created plexiglass barriers so we could still do Small Groups and One on One instruction safely.

Parents are offering to scan in documents, and create online graphics to be sure we have what we need online.

Through emails and car pick up lines, families are pouring out their gratitude honoring all the effort it is taking to open schools again.

Like Dorothy and the Citizens of OZ, our community understands we need all the support we can get for the harrowing journey ahead. Some have green faces nasty words, but I’ve still got the Ruby Slippers. My focus belongs with the people who are handing out lollipops and pointing me towards the Yellow Brick Road.

The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and The Cowardly Lion

I work with some incredible educators who are all feeling a bit ill equipped for teaching during a pandemic. In the spring we were off to see The Wizard only to find out the Wizard was just on old guy behind the curtain who only sometimes knew what he was doing. This is when I realized we can only fight The Wicked Witch and restore peace in Oz if we rely on our amazing colleagues to help us.

Dorothy is just a kid with a little feisty dog, The Scarecrow worries he isn’t smart enough, The Tin Man feels hollow, and The Lion has regular panic attacks. Apart they are a mess, but together with Dorothy’s determination, The Scarecrow’s loyalty, The Tin Man’s bravery, and The Lion’s compassion this group has all they need to defeat The Wicked Witch.

I’m sticking close to the teachers who work for the good and choose positivity. None of us are perfect, but when we pull our strengths for the group, we accomplish great things for everyone.

Occasionally I walk into what I believe to be a delicious orchard, only to get hit by a tree throwing toxic apples. When that happens, I take action to protect myself and my tribe. The response sounds something like this, “I can tell you are upset but I don’t have the energy to hear it right now. I hope things get better for you, but I need to walk away.” Let me be clear, there is a big difference between a bruised apple and a toxic apple. One is feeling less than because they were dropped. This blemished apple can still offer nurishment. A toxic apple will poison whoever tries to eat it.

Stopping the poison from spreading and sticking with my team of good people has made all the difference in my mission to fight The Wicked Witch. The road ahead is long and I will only survive by consuming good apples.

There’s No Place Like Home

Traveling through this school year has so many unknowns ahead, but if this first week was any indication of what’s to come, I believe we just might find our way out of Oz. I’m determined to do my best as an educator and as a human being. When all is said and done, I want to be proud of the impression I left on the Munchkins and all citizens of Oz. School will not be the way it was before, but I still believe we can offer the world something good this year.

My Wish For You

May your world be surrounded by joyful children. May you find great helpers in your community. May you connect with great educators who walk the journey with you. May your school year be something to look back on with pride, knowing you created good in unbelievably difficult circumstances.

I will keep posting about teaching life and of course books and healthy food on social media. Follow me on Instagram @GreenGurneys or like our Green Gurneys Facebook page for more education thoughts and good book recommendations.

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4 Replies to “Our First Week Back to School: A Journey Through OZ”

  1. This post IS AMAZING!!!! A perfect analogy of what we are all experiencing in this “temporary world” we were thrown into. It definitely feels like a tornado transported us to another land! I believe in looking and dreaming of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” when my soul wishes to go back home, to my normal life. Wizard of Oz is my all time favorite story. As an adult, looking back, I see so many truths artistically revealed through the story. This was such a joy to read this morning! I am printing it out and putting it in my most treasured book of devotions that I have collected over the years. God bless you Mandy! PS I love your Ruby slippers! I have a pair too! 😉

    1. Aww Deb I could not have a better review than this, thank you.
      The Wizard of oz is a favorite of mine as well.
      I am also believing this is temporary. There’s no place like home. 💛

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