Are We All The Wizard Now?

Reflections on Living (& Tweeting) with Authenticity

Dorothy meets the Wizard.

‘Dorothy pulled back the curtain to reveal the Wizard…

Who are you?

Well, I… I…I am the great and powerful… Wizard of Oz.

You are?

Uhhh… yes…

I don’t believe you!’

I still remember this scene from the Wizard of Oz, probably because my shock at the ‘man behind the myth’ was as great as Dorothy’s. I didn’t believe him either and the impact that had on me as a child endures. I can’t say I am any more impressed by the Wizard after seeing him in Wicked some 30 years later. He’s a cad! A bounder! A fake!

So why write about him?

Something happened last week which reminded me of the Wizard. I got ‘unfollowed’ by someone on Twitter. Now I know this is not extraordinary in itself and the connection seems bizarre, but bear with me. Here’s the story.

It began when someone followed me on Twitter… someone claiming to be ‘passionate about failure’. A speaker, it seemed. Lots of photos of his book, pithy quotes & tweets extolling the benefits of allowing children to fail in order to learn. This is not an unusual thing to hear in education circles at the moment and I have to confess, my biggest life lessons have come from my own failures and mistakes. I subscribe to the much quoted ‘Fail: first attempt in learning.’ I watched for a while, deciding whether to follow back. Then he tweeted something that piqued my interest. I wanted to clarify whether I understood what he was saying. I wanted to explore what he had said. So, I asked a question. He answered it but I still felt I wanted to understand him more, so I asked another.

He immediately unfollowed me… and then BLOCKED me!

I know! Little old me, demoted to the ranks of Twitter Troll!

I was so shocked, I checked and double checked and wondered how to tweet that I thought there was something quite valuable in what he was saying. I guess my FAIL for the day was being curious. His fail, despite having 4,193 followers, was that he had absolutely nothing to say. I felt like Dorothy pulling back the green curtain to see the man behind the myth.

Now, I am hoping that said ‘speaker, passionate about failure’ is no Wizard and that he really does have things to say and really does enjoy intelligent debate with colleagues… and perhaps I should have included a smiley face or winky face (good heavens) to indicate my benign intent…. however, that is not the message his block sent to me and sadly (for him) because of that I won’t be buying his book. I have no reason to believe his message.

The whole incident has got me thinking again about our authenticity, both in our everyday relationships and in the world of social media. The call to authenticity, to being real, is so important, especially for those of us engaging everyday with the wonderful world of schooling. Children are particularly adept at smelling a rat. They know who amongst us is real and I think we owe it to them to model that.

Another Twitter friend commented this week that she ‘hates fakers’, that there’s nothing worse than finding out that someone is not what they have presented themselves to be. I felt sad that she had been let down by someone and while ‘hate’ is not a word I would choose, I can say I understand the passion behind it and that this kind of thing disappoints me also. My hope is that I will always be willing to walk my talk and to engage in the deeper conversations about learning, conversations that go beyond 140 characters, beyond the megaphone of opinion, beyond self-promotion.

Beyond that hope, there’s another; that I can meet those with whom I disagree, those who challenge or question me, in a place of mutual respect and a heart to hear. I love listening to such people because what they say drives me to a deep place of contemplation. It forces me to evaluate my values, my beliefs, my prejudices. Such people are a rich part of my learning, a rich part of my growth and I am as thankful for them as those who encourage, inspire and affirm me. I choose not to block them… and I sometimes buy their books 😉