But Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man
That he didn’t, didn’t already have
To my former students heading to college,
The first week of summer break I heard the song “Tin Man” by America. The lines “But Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man/That he didn’t, didn’t already have” kept running through my mind. While I understand little else from this 1970’s hit, I think I understand the sentiment behind this line.
In this metaphor I am the Great and Powerful Oz and you are a collective Tin Man. You see, the Tin Man followed the yellow brick road all the way to the Emerald City to receive something that he already possessed. The only thing that the Tin Man was missing was faith in himself.
All of you came to me with the skills you needed. I just had to help sharpen those skills and build confidence in your voice. And you did it. You did the work. You did the late hours. You did the timed writings. You did the reading (well, most of it).
You will always be my students.
Now, let’s be clear about this role as one of my alumni. I will not proof your first college essay. I will have literally hundreds of former students enrolled in college during the 2017-18 school year. It would be a full-time job to run an online writing lab for my alumni. So, when you send me a panicked email at 4 am with a six-page paper attached, I will tell you (kindly) that I know you can do it because I taught you how! Remember that Tin Man metaphor, you have the ability to do it yourself and have been lectured enough by me to go and get the help you need if you feel like you are falling short.
But before you ask, yes, I have your letter of recommendation saved. I’ll update it for local scholarships as needed throughout the years. During your breaks from school, I will meet you for coffee (I’ll have tea, of course), or lunch, to discuss your changing schools or majors. Whenever we cross paths, I will ask you if you feel like you are prepared for college. This is not a fluff question. Please answer it honestly because I use this to sharpen what we are currently doing in the classroom to get the next batch of my students ready for the world beyond high school.
You are ready to go. Whether you are going away to school or staying close to home, you are ready for the college classroom.
Now you are going into the fields of medicine, education, law, journalism, ministry, business. You will find your niche; you will make a difference. You just have to always remember that everything you need is already inside of you. You might just need a reminder of this to boost your confidence.
Even though the majority of you are not pursuing anything directly related to English Literature, I do hope that you will remember fondly those characters and a-ha moments that excited the inner reader in you. Keep reading novels just for yourself and even occasionally pick up a poem just to delight in it.
College is a time like no other, love your time there. Drop me a line or two to let me know how you are doing, especially when you are the only one in the room that gets your professor’s off-hand references to King Lear, Kafka, or Reverend Casy.
Remember my last lecture and the wise words of my father, “Have fun–but not too much.”
Finally, be proud of where you come from. I am proud of you.