Teaching: it’s like Magic!

Let’s all think about the great illusionists of the world. I’m thinking David Blaine or Dynamo; their acts are either based on the extremes of their skills (spending days without water and food) or absurdity (sawing a person in half or escaping from a straitjacket while submerged). In both cases, the laws of physics are questioned, and part of the thrill is trying to work out how it works.

I for one, always spend time on the ‘how did they do that?’ and I’m always left with a feeling of unfulfillment when I haven’t solved the problem.

Entering the teaching profession, you need to be able to give pupils the same thrills — yet at the same time not be scared of giving the act away. In fact, giving away the act is the main part of it. And yes, you will also have to develop some amazing skills along the way.

Personally, my specialism is science; and part of science is to explore and explain the world around you. Imagine developing the skills to bring alive curiosity and nurture the skills which allow pupils to view and understand the world around them. Literally changing the way they view the world; let me say that again, we know that repeating things increases their gravitas…

Literally changing the way they view the world.

Profound learning can be defined as something which changes the way you think. As a physicist I can remember the point when seated in a classroom where my ‘something’ happened; I’m keeping that one for another day.

Sitting on this beach with my partner at the time, we looked up and saw a multitude of azure and the multiplicity of the universe. She was actually inspired enough to paint a canvas, whereas I saw the amazing majesty of Maxwell’s Equations, the dichotomous duplicity of the particle wave nature of light and the use of this energy for the island.

When we stand in front of a class of pupils, the aim of all teachers is to fill them with awe and wonder. Everything is designed to ignite their passion, not just for science but for learning. These are the frills; paralleled by the stagecraft of the magician.

This could be through a lung dissection (structural design to increase surface area), the reaction of copper oxide and magnesium (the make up of an early incendiary device) or the observation of alpha particles in a cloud chamber (actually seeing the track of a completely invisible particle which can mutate and kill your own cells).

Earlier I alluded to a sense of unfulfillment — I’m going to take it a step further and call it frustration. As a specialist, you get to pull them in with the fanfare of awe and then give them the skills to explain the phenomena and then apply it to their environment.

When pupils explain to their history teacher that incendiary devices in the war had unpredictable detonation time, or can explain why you hunch/curl up into a ball when you’re cold to reduce your surface area, because of what they experienced in your lessons…

…that’s when you know you’re on the way to the magic!

This is a piece I wrote for @getintoteaching and can be found on their website.

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