Let’s explore this metaphor further. We hear hints to this quite often. You might hear in the lunchroom “There was magic in the classroom today”, “It worked like magic” “I wish I could do magic today in class”.
I am not suggesting teachers use trickery or subterfuge to deceive students like a street con artist would do. Though I am sure all teachers have been tempted in this. Listen to the words of Whit Haydn describe the three card con game:
We’re playing a game called Chase the Ace,
You have to guess from the back what’s on the face.
Once I mix the cards around,
You tell me where the Ace is found
Hey! Step this way!
Come here and play!
This is the game for the sporting fan,
Try your luck with the Monte Man! (footnote)
A magical teacher is not a flim-flam man who scams and swindles with schemes to defraud.
I am also not suggesting that teachers be like a circus sideshow barker who shouts,
“Step right up to the Amazing Traveling Carnival and Side Show Extravaganza. Come on in! It’s only a dollar! I guarantee you haven’t seen anything like this! Rides? We’ve got Tilt-A-Whirl and we’ve got Merry-Go-Round and a Ferris Wheel! Stay for the Wild Man of Borneo! We’ve got soda pop and corn dogs! Ice cream and cotton candy! Come one come all! Only a dollar, only a dollar!”
I am sure teachers have been tempted to attract the attention of students like that. What I am suggesting is something deeper and wonderful.
Now listen to these preliminary comparisons of a magician and a teacher.
-He is a Showman like Circus Ringleader who points the audience to the spectacle
-He is a mind reader who reads the group with great observation skills
-He creates a receptive atmosphere
-He influences the mental state of the students
-He projects an air of mystery
-He attracts and focuses attention
-He uses words to create change
-He creates memorable moments
-He reveals and evokes wonder
Listen to the haunting words of world class poet, musician and magician Jay Scott Berry (footnote)
I can impress you in the wink of an eye with skills that will surely astound
I can amaze, amuse, inspire, delight, and lead you to the profound
You may simply think to brush it all off as prestidigitation.
Or perhaps you may wish to look a bit deeper to the pool of inspiration.
For the magic runs wild in the sea of your mind and to find it is always the goal.
It whispers and sings in the depths of your heart all the way down to our soul.
It beckons the dreamer ever to fly, the dancer ever to dance.
And I the Magician, the Worker of Wonder, can merely offer the chance.
Now imagine as the teacher walks into the classroom. The students are on edge of their seats.
Excitement filled the air with anticipation. What ideas would she produce today? She had no mirrors or threads and nothing up her sleeve. She seemed to control the environment with the smile on her face. She told stories of wonder that created life into the pages of the book and in our hearts. We traveled together as the day unfolded. She did not perform a magic trick because the attention was not on her. She evoked the magic in us. She read our minds and hearts. She knew when we were ready. She gently brought us to a place where we wanted to learn the secret knowledge of math and science. She enticed us to explore. Her magic hat was a book. Her magic words were ….”I believe in you” “You can do this” She was filled with enthusiasm, confidence, she was a master of the subject, symbol of something the students desire. We all wanted to be a teacher because of her. One thing that this teacher did was to see that the magic was in us. She unleashed a sense of wonder that we could do marvelous things with our minds.
This teacher evoked the wonder and taught that true magic takes work! The magic was that the students desired to work to produce more magic.
As Blaine Lee, author of the Power Principle, says “The great leaders are like the best conductors – they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.”
Teachers need to encourage students that success does not take a magic hat but it takes putting on their thinking caps. They convey ideas like “It is not a genii lamp for wishful thinking but using brains to do real thinking. Exercising the body makes us physically strong but successful mental strength comes from determination, persistence, tenacity, resoluteness, toughness and endurance. There is no elevator to success. You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets. It takes effort.” That is the magic teachers can produce in the students.
Author Robert Fanney echoes this when he asks “Is there magic in this world? Certainly! But it is not the kind of magic written about in fantasy stories. It is the kind of magic that comes from ideas and the hard work it often takes to make them real.”
One of these teachers was my 7th grade English teacher who believed in me.
I was in Middle school. You remember Middle School- the time where self-efficacy declines and wonder diminishes. But in this class the atmosphere was exploratory and enjoyable. But I remember less about her and more about the magic she unleashed from me. I discovered that I could write poetry with thoughts beyond my years and with language skills beyond the normal 7th grade level. I was creative! I was a writer and a poet! I learned to love writing poetry and I produced more in her class than any other class. I always remember this with a renewed sense of wonder.
She was my cheer leader who produced magic in my heart and helped me regain my sense of wonder. She was my wonder champion.
Rita Pierson says, “Every child deserves a champion-an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best they can possibly be” (footnote)
Listen to E.E. Cummings reflection on this, “We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
This is a true magician teacher!!!
For many years this sign hung on the door of my own classroom. “In this classroom you are invited to reach your potential! I believe in you! You can rise to the challenge!” I thought of my 7th grade teacher every time I walked by that sign.
Great teachers are like magicians because they reveal and evoke wonder.
Stay tuned for Part 3….