Jim Peacock, Kennebec Valley Community College
Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven't got: a diploma. -Wizard of Oz to the Scarecrow
While watching The Wizard of Oz the other night for possibly the 100th time, I realized I had the same power as the Wizard. I often “give” something to a person they already possess, but don’t know it at the time.
Students come to us looking for advice because they often feel lost on their own yellow brick road to somewhere. They’ve chosen a direction to go, for some reason(s), and they meet all kinds of scarecrows, tin men, lions, and witches (both good and bad) along their yellow brick road. These could be staff or faculty at an institution, or friends, family, and strangers whose serendipitous paths have crossed theirs.
Scarecrows, lions, tin men, or witches can be found on many campuses. Someone who tries to help but doesn’t know how? (scarecrow). Someone who scares people but really doesn’t mean to? (lion). Maybe a person who tries too hard to care? (tin man). Or worse, a wicked witch?! Yikes!
As in so much of life, we cannot control what other people do, or how they act, or how they appear to others. We can control how we act. As academic advisors, just like the Wizard, we give people advice and direction. And like the ‘All Powerful Oz’ in the movie, remember the impact that words have and use that power wisely. The gift we can give people is indeed our advice, but we can also give them the confidence to move on with a simple “you can do this!”
Remember as advisors, we may be the first person to ever tell students these words.
“I know you have the ability to pass this class” (giving them a brain).
“You are obviously a good person trying to do good things on campus” (giving them a heart).
“I know this looks scary to you, living in the residence halls can be difficult, but remember, they are all people like you, trying to figure this out, just like you” (giving them courage).
Most of us have made statements like these to students and we often can “see” the student believe our words and gain confidence in their step. I remember the look on the Scarecrow’s face when he was told he had a brain. I know I have seen that same look with some of the students I have worked with!
As we think about the many students we have interacted with over the years, we can remember those that had organizational skills, time management skills, ability to create activities or projects, visionary ideas or whatever, but did NOT recognize these traits as unique work skills. We are the Wizard at this point in time in their lives. And it is often simply WORDS that we say.
'Why don't you get involved with the Campus Activities Board and explore using your creative skills?'
'What could you do to put your organizational skills to good use?'
'Have you ever thought about writing an article?'
We have the opportunity to recognize skills and gifts of students which in turn gives them confidence to develop a positive attitude about themselves. Many students already possess basic communication skills and organizational skills. We can “give” them the needed confidence by urging them to get more involved, take on more responsibilities, make mature decisions, and deal with a variety of people in a positive manner.
Our profession does not work by magic yet we can “give” students confidence in areas that will assist them. We have a “Wizard of Oz” role at times and the simplest of words and actions can help a student through a problem. Like the Wizard, we can show them a path or challenge them to develop skills. By giving them the confidence and directing them to the path we can help students realize a new potential.
At times our curtains will be drawn by a Toto (the dog who pulls the curtain back in the movie), revealing our weaknesses that we are only human too, like the Wizard. But when we act and speak from kindness, good things will happen. And it is often the simplest words of encouragement that can turn students from apathy and lethargy to productive bright motivated citizens on our campus and greater community.
When we have the chance to give a “Tin Man” a heart or a student praise for strengths they possess but undervalue, do not hesitate to be the Wizard of Oz and give them confidence as they move through this confusing world of Oz.
The movie ends with the Wizard giving the Tin Man a heart, the Scare Crow a brain, and the Lion courage. The moral being throughout the entire ordeal the individuals had always possessed these traits. It was only a matter of the Wizard recognizing them by awarding them a piece of paper or object and suddenly each was transformed into a person with a heart, brain, and courage. Can academic advisors be the “Wizard of Oz?”
How do we want our movie to end?
Former Director of Advising, Career, and Transfer Center
Currently Adjunct Faculty member teaching First Year Seminar and Career Decision Making classes
Kennebec Valley Community College
Part time Career Counselor, Bates College.
Owner, Peak-Careers Consulting
Cite this article using APA style as:
Peacock, J. (2012, December). Academic advisors and the wizard of oz. Academic Advising Today, 35(4). Retrieved from [insert url here]