Sometimes the magic comes with bells and whistles, like a loud, colourful circus and we sit enthralled as the magicians mesmerise us and do the seemingly impossible. But perhaps, more often, the magic is in the mundane, ordinary, everyday events that we so easily take for granted. Sometimes this sort of magical learning takes our breath away, not because of its performance spectacle, but because of its simplicity, its commonness, and its apparent insignificance.
Everyday learning is magical because it can be so easily overlooked. Sometimes it can sneak up on us and take us by complete surprise. Sometimes we learn when we least expect to, from unlikely sources, in ways we might never foresee.
Everyone has learning strengths
So much emphasis in today’s society is put on the spectacular and the mega-event. We all enjoy being entertained and we enjoy experiencing the magician’s craft. But we are all magicians and perhaps we need to be challenged to make our own magic and to recognise the magic that is in everyday things.
In education, social work and other human service professions, there is a temptation to worship the spectacle and deify the magician. It is so easy to become spectators in our own learning processes. It can be comfortable to settle back and put our reliance on teachers and therapists to create the magic that will change our lives. And indeed, our human service professions have made the performance very seductive. We want experts and so, it seems our professions need to see themselves as experts.
There is a collusion that often shifts the learner from an active to a passive role, from a do-it-yourself to a do-it-for-me mode. It shifts the emphasis from the challenges of learning to a focus on the skills of the teacher/therapist. Sometimes Magic is an attempt to explore the elements of do-it-yourself, everyday magic and to build on the inherent learning strengths we each possess.
Everyday learning moments
We can all identify moments of learning that have changed our lives. The changes themselves may have been big or small but the sources of the changes often lie in the apparently trivial, inconsequential events that surround us. Even when we witness the big magic performances, it is often a little detail that can spark our learning.
These moments of learning help shape who we are and build our sense of identity. They are individualised: what works as magic for one person may have no impact at all on the next person. We can all probably recall large segments of our schooling that had no impact on us at all or that even turned us off education. We enroll in a course to find that it is uninspiring and irrelevant. We visit a counsellor but go away feeling unheard and unhelped. We hear of a great presenter who is conducting a workshop and we are excited and hopeful, but the chemistry doesn’t work. We are unmoved.
Moments of learning can be elusive
At times we may desperately want to learn or change or grow, but the experience just doesn’t happen. Because of such disappointment, it is easy to regard moments of learning as fleeting, random and capricious. They can’t be predicted and can’t be controlled. Libraries are full of books by philosophers, psychologists and educators who try to describe and predict how learning occurs. Yet so much of our learning has a feeling of serendipity – if it happens, it happens.
Through the learner’s eyes
Teachers would like to be able to guarantee that they could capture the imagination and excitement of all their students. Therapists would like to guarantee their interventions were always effective in creating change. While such watertight guarantees can never be given, we believe that looking at learning through the learner’s eyes can provide valuable insights and can open up opportunities for learning to occur.
We believe moments of learning will always be magical and experienced as little epiphanies or flashes of insight. They will continue to surprise and excite and move us in many ways. We also believe that magical moments can be encouraged and invited. Indeed, we think the ability to evoke moments of learning is a hallmark of a skilled teacher or therapist.
Sometimes Magic provides a set of prompts suggesting that moments of learning may be all around us or within us. We, as learners, certainly don’t need a circus or even an ‘expert’ magician to experience them.
Sometimes magic happens when we simply look in the right places, with the eyes of a learner.
Sometimes magic can to be found in our everyday activities and our encounters with everyday people (and animals!)
(Sometimes Magic is published by St Luke’s Innovative Resources, and is a set of 33 colourful cards designed to sharpen our insights into how learning occurs through the eyes of the learner)
Share your story with us.
When has learning been magical for you?