How Magic Can Help Teachers

Magic Show

We read a great article on a website dedicated to helping teachers be more effective.  It was about magic naturally.  It began with the question, “What do Derren Brown, David Blaine and the like have to teach us about managing our classrooms?”

The answer according to teacher and magician William Lismore is a lot.

For instance, with the four words, “Are you watching closely?” the audience — a packed house or a classroom — will very likely focus and their attention will be directed at the speaker of those magic words.

We recall seeing Harry Blackstone Jr. perform live and he said, “Watch closely.  What you are about to see you will remember for the rest of your life.”

Man did we watch closely and man do we remember.  He floated a lit lightbulb over the audience and back to the stage.  It went right over us and we could see nothing to support its flight.  That memory is locked in our peanut-sized and shaped brain.  Mr. Lismore provides three areas where magicians can use their skills to enrapt a classroom.

The three skills are Misdirection, Showmanship and Suggestion.

We don’t want to take away his thunder and suggest you read his essay — even if you aren’t a teacher.  Magicians can learn from teachers as well.

We had a teacher in the fifth grade who could perform magic.  He was fantastic.  He could pull coins from the air, from behind some kids’ ears and out of their noses.  Kids would pass him in the hall and ask him to pull a coin from their nose.

We think he taught home economics or physics.  We don’t remember but he could do things with tissue paper and sponge balls that would blow away even an adult audience.  It may have been creative writing he taught except we didn’t take creative writing in the fifth grade so it probably wasn’t that.  Still, we remember him once making a kid’s head seem to disappear in a cardboard box.  Everyone screamed and then he returned the head and all was fine.  But you know what it is like in school, if one person gets sick, everyone gets sick and there’s a mess and an investigation.

We think it was geometry he taught.  We know he used the blackboard and could make it look like he could shove the chalk up his nose and pull it out of his ear.  He was a heck of a teacher.

Funny what you remember and don’t remember. We still remember my phone number from the time we were in fifth grade — so influenced by our teacher — and how many times our phone number, HUDson 700,  was dialed by the principal to let my mom or dad know that I needed to stop touching or pulling on kids’ noses or ears.  Ironically, that continues to today although authorities are so less forgiving and they don’t call our parents any more — usually just a social worker.

We got a magic book out of the library and read and read. We took that book everywhere and still have it today because the overdue penalties made it an impossibility to pay the library.  Eventually, when we turned 50, we paid the fines — or are still paying.  They double every year so it will be about five years before we pay it off.  Some one asked why we didn’t just buy the book and we explained that would defeat the purpose of a library and pulled a fishing reel out of his mouth.

Derren Brown taught participants in one of his shows to say “My fence isn’t 12ft high!” when angrily confronted by people. It is as good as hitting restart on someone’s brain.

Before moving to the US, William  Lismore was an English teacher. He now works with adults learning basic literacy and earning their high school diplomas.  Read his excellent essay here.

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