My daughter often speaks about the great life wisdom in MGM movie The Wizard of Oz. As I consider where we have come from and what lies ahead, it’s apparent the story has much to teach us about our current situation.
To start at the beginning, a tornado called COVID-19 has swept down on all of us. We landed in unfamiliar territory, and the one thing we know is, “we aren’t in Kansas anymore.” With Dorothy as our guide, we can safely navigate this bizarre world.
She begins, as we did, at the beginning, not knowing exactly where she is going, but trusting herself to get there because her goal is so important. Dorothy quickly picks up three companions, which is something most of you have wisely done, because on a journey like this, it’s important not to do it alone.
Despite being self-isolating, we have reached out to others. The various library-related social media groups are a lifeline. Someone knows a resource that will be invaluable. Someone can answer your question about using an app. And we all understand the special demands being made on school librarians. Whether you are seeking help or giving it, you are part of the library community. It will shore you up on good days and bad. It’s what we do for each other, and how we serve our students, teachers, and administrators. Some days you need the group – some days the group needs you.
Her three companions contribute to the journey, and what they represent is key. There is no doubt you will most need: Brains, Heart and Courage.
Brains: The Scarecrow, who claims not to have a brain, shows good thinking throughout. We may start out confused, but ultimately we are able to create important and worthwhile plans to provide the services your educational community – which more than ever includes parents – need.
Fortunately, as a librarian you are a lifelong learner – thinking is your strong suit. You have been going on webinars, checking new apps, and curating the ones that apply. You share them with the appropriate people. And you are there to provide technical and other help as needed.
Heart – The Tin Man longs for heart, but, of course, he has one. He loves completely. You, too, love your students and the job you do. You feel for your teachers and your administrator and are doing your best to be there for them and show them you care.
Empathy is an important leadership quality. It builds trust and draws others to you. Educators have been working on trauma-induced teaching and learning long before COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, almost all of us are dealing with trauma – ours and others. Using your natural inclination to be of service, you bring this quality to everyone. They count on you, even if they haven’t before. (And a reminder – be sure to document what you have been doing so it isn’t forgotten.)
Courage: The lion recognizes his fear, but doesn’t believe he has courage. However, when the time comes, when it is needed, he shows it completely. Being frightened doesn’t mean you aren’t courageous. Getting up each day and carrying on is an act of bravery.
You also show your courage in your dealings with others. You focus on the possible and look for solutions, trusting you will find something that works. Like the lion, you admit you are scared, but your actions show your community how you demonstrate courage in the face of it.
Finally, it is important to notice Dorothy. She starts out feeling confused and uncertain. (And who isn’t these days?). But she soon shows she is a leader. Dorothy builds her team, accepting help to reach her Vision and Mission. The Vision – To get back home and be there for her family. The Mission – Get to Oz and get all of them what they need. With the team she inspires with her passion, they each make their own contribution, and attain their desired results. She has empowered them to become better than they knew they were. She is a true leader.
So, put on your red shoes and start following the Yellow Brick Road. We know it’s not Kansas, but this is where we live now and no matter what, there’s no place like it.