Don’t be the wizard behind the curtain

This is the 8th post in Over a cuppa, a series which offers prompts to reflect on learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. I have set myself the challenge of keeping these posts to 300 or so words. Cross-posted from Teche, original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

For those who recently had a mid-semester break in teaching, I hope it offered a chance to refill your cup. Sit down and take a sip.

Today’s prompt to reflect on your learning and teaching is based on an anecdote. Anecdotes are one of my favourite pedagogical tools. Stories, musing out loud, thought bubbles, and flights of fancy can offer powerful ways of learning—but take note of who is allowed to do these things the classroom!

I am reminded of Maggie Nelson’s comments in her 2015 memoir The Argonauts:

Sometimes, when I’m teaching, when I interject a comment without anyone calling on me, without caring that I just spoke a moment before, or when I interrupt someone to redirect the conversation away from an eddy I personally find fruitless, I feel high on the knowledge that I can talk as much as I want to, as quickly as I want to, in any direction that I want to, without anyone overtly rolling her eyes at me or suggesting I go to speech therapy. I’m not saying this is good pedagogy. I am saying that its pleasures are deep.

I often use this quote as a prompt to stop talking and listen.

I’ve watched the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz countless times. I have taught it in a visual culture course, it was my daughter’s favourite film as a toddler (I was the wicked witch at her third birthday), and I celebrated my PhD with a plaque of Scarecrow’s qualification. The Wizard awards Scarecrow (who doesn’t have a brain) a “Doctor of Thinkology” sign enabling him to ‘think deep thoughts”:


There’s a wonderful scene in The Wizard of Oz in which Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal that the “great and powerful” Oz is just an old man pulling levers.

As a reflection on teaching: don’t be the wizard shouting behind the curtain! Make your learning visible to students, and demonstrate that it is ok not to have all the answers. Teachers and students can come to knowing together.

2 thoughts on “Don’t be the wizard behind the curtain

  1. Pingback: In a hurry | The Slow Academic

  2. Pingback: Tending to reflection | The Slow Academic

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