Magic has many different connotations but only one meaning:
“the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.”
It may be a magic trick, Harry Potter, energy healing or a child learning to read. All those things and many more, for me, are magic.
Yesterday we had a magic packed day at Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford. We have been before when it first opened but my son was only 2 years old and my daughter had only read the first book and seen the first two films so their obsession with this series has grown considerably since then.
My daughter has now read all the book at least three times and I lost count a long time ago how many times we have watched the films.
I read “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” to my first ever class.
It had been out for a couple of years at that point and was just starting to really capture everyone’s attention on a large scale. It was 1999. I was in inner city Bradford. My Y5 class were a group of despondent and disengaged predominantly muslim boys. There were of course exceptions, but it definitely wasn’t cool to learn and it was even less cool to read. To make things worse, I was a young, female teacher and they believed at first that I wasn’t worthy of their attention.
That soon changed.
By the Christmas I was heartbroken but by Easter I had turned the whole year around and by the Summer I didn’t want to leave them.
This was due to a huge shift in my approach and creating learning opportunities that they could really relate to. Instead of Country Dancing in PE (which was what we were supposed to do!) we did the dance routine to “5,6,7,8” by Steps and we translated the first scene of Macbeth into a broad Yorkshire dialect. Every opportunity I got I tried to get them really excited about learning and make it accessible for them. Fortunately this is now the norm but 20 years ago it was less so. We’re going back to a time of white boards being a reasonably new thing and one computer per class, if you were lucky. I was the first teacher in the school to make anything on the computer; worksheets, headings for displays… Everything was still being done by hand.
Introducing Harry Potter as a class read not only brought reading up to date and relatable, it brought them together as a group. Sitting and having a story read aloud can be a really magical thing, even for older children. The story captured their imaginations like nothing else we had done. They were engaged, motivated and excited in a way I hadn’t seen them before.
Yesterday when my children and I went to Harry Potter Studios with my daughter’s friend I experienced that light going on again in my son.
My daughter is obsessed with Harry Potter. My son, likes the films, hasn’t had the staying power to read the books (he’s 9yrs old so there’s time!), but he was transfixed.
Seeing all the costumes, props and scenery close up ignited something in him and he was sparkling.
Today he is still bouncing with excitement, despite a really late night and such a busy day yesterday.
We are going to read the first book together at bedtime (see if I can ease him into reading the second one himself!). He is still talking about how amazing everything was, how clever it is that they can create the special effects and the fact that he has seen everything close up.
If I asked him to write a story about magic today it would be full of creativity and magical references to the wizarding world he was inhabiting briefly yesterday.
For me, magic is the essence of childhood. It is that spark that captivates a child and inspires them to do something amazing. Unfortunately it seems to be being eroded not just from the school curriculum but from childhood altogether. Children are told that the tooth fairy isn’t real and not to be so silly if they daydream about flying or visiting a distant planet on a teaspoon.
Why are adults so determined to extinguish that spark?
It isn’t about teaching children to be realistic, to understand how the world works. They don’t need to know all that yet, there’s plenty of time for knowing that we have to work how ever many hours to by the Playstation they want for Christmas. Let them be free from those adult worries for as long as is humanly possible.
It is imposing our adult worries on our children that is contributing to the mental health crisis we are seeing among young people at the moment.
Magic in Education?
When I talk to Y6 teachers, which I do frequently because it is often Y6 that schools ask me to run workshops for to help them manage their stress levels before and during their SATS, they often comment on how demoralising it is teaching the children for the writing test because everything is so prescriptive now and the imagination has been made an after thought rather than the core of story writing.
I find this so sad because it used to be the other way round when I was younger. You got the child excited about the subject then once they had written a fabulously creative story you checked for spelling, grammar, punctuation etc. Now we seem to be helping children create a story around the fact that they need to use speech marks or a particular part of a sentence rather than finding a really good plot and working those things in to it.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to really bring the magic back into the classroom, stop worrying about marks in a test and start getting children really fired up about reading and writing again?
I’m not saying that individual teachers aren’t doing a wonderful job of creating this magic, but globally we need to shift the focus back if we are to create young adults with the imagination to create the solutions we are going to need in the future, who write the future best selling books and films, who create the artworks or come up with the machines to combat the environmental issues… all those things begin with imagination.
Let’s put imagination back on the curriculum — it’s magic!
Kate Beddow is the creator of Calmer Classrooms with Mojo a whole school mindfulness and relaxation programme which is delivered in schools around the world. She works closely with teachers and provides them with resources to help them create a calm and focused environment for their students to learn.
Kate is also the mindfulness trainer for Become the Force, a real life Jedi training school, and was a contributing author to “Women of Spirit” a book featuring amazing stories of real life women overcoming adversity.