Posts Tagged ‘college students’


Face Book always wants to know what’s on your mind. Most FB followers are less interested in what’s really on your mind, preferring to see selfies, cat videos, and quotes about how much they love third cousins (pease like and share).  A blog, on the other hand encourages you to speak your mind. So, what’s on my mind?  Roads. Those taken and those not taken.

When I think about roads, two thoughts immediately come to mind.  The classic Robert Frost poem and M. Scott Peck’s best seller “The Road Less Traveled.”

Apparently L. Frank Baum was not interested in the road conundrum. When Dorothy met the Scarecrow she was not at a crossroad.  She didn’t wonder which way to go. She and the Scarecrow engaged in the usual blah-blah-blah and in short order were off to see the Wizard.  (I believe the yellow brick road Dorothy was traveling on was her road less traveled.)

For whatever reason, the filmmakers wanted Dorothy to have to make a choice.  It’s funny, but after all the pondering, the movie lacks any dialogue on why Dorothy and the Scarecrow did take the road they eventually took.

Looking back on my highway I can say without fear of contradiction that choosing the road to take is not a once-in-a-lifetime event.  In fact we are constantly having to choose the road to take. Sometimes we take the well-traveled road and less frequently we take the less-traveled road.

Every semester when I begin teaching the one course I teach, I ponder the question of which road to take.  Every semester I am greeted with twenty new faces.

I am teaching the GPS generation.  They were born knowing where they wanted to go and they seem to know exactly what road/s they have to take to get there…wherever there is.

I am the scarecrow they meet on the road.  To be honest, most students do not want to engage in conversation let alone take me down and invite me to travel along with them.

The dilemma I face every semester is do I act like a brainless scarecrow? Do I just smile, go through the academic motions and keep my big mouth shut? Or. Or. Or do I rip myself off the wood frame and open my big mouth?

Why would I want to do that?  Because I believe that letting them go their merry way toward Corporate City without asking them to think about the journey would not only be a mistake, I would be missing an  opportunity to shake them up a little.

My greatest fear is that the current generation is actually lost. And that’s not a bad thing.  They should be lost, or at least they should think long and hard about the yellow brick road in their life. The current generation is so directed, so pampered and so content that rather than ask hard questions about their journey, all they want is for you, the teacher, to see they graduate with an EZPass.

I have no doubt that the students in my class will succeed.  They have been well-taught. They know what to do and how to do it to succeed. They are determined.

I am a speed bump.  I want my students to think. I want my students to question and to challenge beliefs they have taken for granted. I want them to believe they have a choice.  I want them to understand that consequences come both from taking action and from choosing to be inactive.  (You can neve escape from consequences.)

In the end I also want my students to realize that the most important thing is to make sure the road they travel is THEIR road because THEIR road is one that has never been traveled on.

It’s all about seizing opportunites. But we all need to remember that opportunity is not a lenghty visitor.

A bumper sticker from my college days gave me some food for thought: Remember, wherever you go there YOU are.


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For a moment forget about the wonderful Wizard of Oz movie. As good as it is, Hollywood failed to understand some of the finer nuisances that can only be found in the book.  There were no farm hands, no Elvira Gulch, and no Professor Marvel. What was left?  Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, Dorothy…and Toto, too.

Who can forget Dorothy running away from home to find happiness over the rainbow only to abandon her plan to return home where a cyclone propelled her on her fantastic  journey.

It’s different in the book. It took only 600 words to set the story to send Dorothy up, up and away. Author L. Frank Baum used the word “gray” ten times in those 600 words. He not only described Dorothy’s home and landscapes as gray, but he used the same word to paint a picture of Em and Henry.

In the book Dorothy had no reason to run away. She was not a misunderstood little girl. But she did have a longing for a place over the rainbow.

“It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her surroundings.”

And therein we learn why Dorothy was longing for something to happen. She was deathly afraid of turning gray like Em and Henry. Deep down inside she understood how easy it was to lose your color and turn grey.

overwhelmed by what her future was going to be like, a cyclone struck…and nothing was ever going to be the same.

We don’t have to wait for a cyclone to help us avoid or escape becoming gray. We have options. We have opportunities. But many of us prefer to stay grey because it’s so safe.

Having had the opportunity to teach college students for more than a dozen years I have observed, first hand, the future. The close to 1000+ students I have had in my classes were all solidly nice “kids.”  But they were in danger of becoming gray, and not because they wanted to become gray, but because many of them didn’t know they had a choice.

By and large they were all good students in high school. And by good I don’t only mean they had good grades, they were well-behaved, polite, and focused on the role they would play in the greater marketplace. From early on in their education they either knew or their parents knew, what they needed to do to “succeed.” They learned that it was far better to play it according to the rules than to take risks. When they colored, they stayed inside the lines.  And over time they only had one colored crayon.

gray crayons

What do these students need? A cyclone. They need something to send them on a journey. They need to step out of their comfort zone. They can do this by choosing to study abroad, by taking a lead role in a campus activity, by being selfless and going out into the community and volunteering, by shedding old prejudices and embracing people not like them, by being exposed to new ideas, and by standing up for what is right.

We don’t need to go to Oz, because in the book Dorothy was glad to be home, and home is where can not only bring color into our own lives, we can bring color into the lives of others.



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