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There’s A Land That I Dreamed Of. . . . .Creating A Room Called Home

June 5, 2010

The books one reads in childhood, and perhaps most of all the bad and the good bad books, create in one’s mind a sort of false map of the world, a series of fabulous countries into which one can retreat at odd moments throughout the rest of life . . . . . • George Orwell

I’ve been re-reading L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz on my iPhone. It’s comforting to know that this childhood world is waiting any time I long for its familiar words. Although I never believed in the existence of Baum’s fabulous countries, his oft-explored territory reminds me how important such worlds can be.

Many years ago, there was an in-the-theatre revival of the 1939 movie version of The Wizard of Oz. In those days before VCRs and their spawn, this was the only way that youngsters like my cousin Sugar and I could see movies made before we were born. I remember skipping down the street in Los Angeles after the show, arms linked, singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” The sidewalks were sparkly, mica, perhaps, and the world was magical.

I don’t remember what we were wearing, although I’m sure we were dressed alike in those days when we pretended twinship. I do remember our shoes: black suede flats with clear acrylic heels and clear square acrylic bows on the front, a pair that ranks among my top five favorites, right behind our purple leather flats with braided aqua, hot pink, and purple straps. I wore both pair long after I outgrew them.

I also remember this, the words Dorothy said before she begins to sing “Over the Rainbow.” I didn’t remember them exactly then, but I knew what they meant. Auntie Em had just told Dorothy to find herself “a place where you won’t get into any trouble.” Such a place can seem nonexistent when you’re a child, even a good child. Despite the rosy glow that surrounds the idealization of childhood, those days aren’t always happy and carefree.

Dorothy was articulating my longing for home and acceptance when she said to Auntie Em: “A place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or a train. It’s far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain…”

In writing about his imaginary worlds, Baum said, “Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams – daydreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain machinery whizzing-are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to invent, and therefore to foster, civilization.”

I know that the imaginary worlds of my childhood are part of what inspires me to ask my students who will soon be teachers to begin creating “A Room Called Home” as they think about what it will be like to be a student in their classrooms. I hope those classrooms will be places that focus on what is right with students, what is good about and for them. I hope those classrooms will nurture creative spirits and build imaginations and encourage civility, kindness, and caring.

I also hope that my students’ students will learn to love learning not simply because they have tests to pass or assignments to complete, but because curiosity and the enthusiastic quest for knowledge will add immeasurably to their lives.

If you were creating a classroom home, what would you include?

It is not on any map; true places never are. • Herman Melville

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