Right now there is an aspiring teacher who is working on a 60-page paper based on some age-old education theory developed by some dead education professor wondering to herself what this task that she’s engaging in has to do with what she wants to do with her life, which is be an educator, change lives, and spark magic. Right now there is an aspiring teacher in a graduate school of education who is watching a professor babble on and on about engagement in the most disengaging way possible.Right now the re’s a first-year teacher at home who is pouring through lesson plans trying to make sense of standards, who is trying to make sense of how to grade students appropriately. Right now there’s a student who is coming up with a way to convince his mom or dad that he’s very, very sick and can’t make it to school tomorrow.
On the other hand, right now there are amazing educators that are sharing information, information that is shared in such a beautiful way that the students are sitting at the edge of their seats just waiting for a bead of sweat to drop off the face of this person so they can soak up all that knowledge. Right now there is also a person who has an entire audience rapt with attention, a person that is weaving a powerful narrative about a world that the people who are listening have never imagined or seen before, but if they close their eyes tightly enough, they can envision that world because the storytelling is so compelling.
The reality is, the people previously described as the master teachers, the master narrative builders, the master storytellers are far removed from classrooms. The folks who know the skills about how to teach and engage an audience don’t even know what teacher certification means. They may not even have the degrees to be able to have anything to call an education. And that to me is sad. It’s sad because the people who were described, they were very disinterested in the learning process, want to be effective teachers, but they have no models.
Mark Twain says that proper preparation, or teaching, is so powerful that it can turn bad morals to good, it can turn awful practices into powerful ones, it can change men and transform them into angels.
The folks who I described earlier got proper preparation in teaching, not in any college or university, but by virtue of just being in the same spaces of those who engage. Guess where those places are? Rap concerts, survival camps, non-formal youth mobilities. Now people oftentimes say, “Well, magic is just magic.” There are teachers who, despite all their challenges, who have those skills, get into those schools and are able to engage an audience, and the administrator walks by and says, “Wow, he’s so good, I wish all my teachers could be that good.” And when they try to describe what that is, they just say, “He has that magic.”
But I’m here to tell you that magic can be taught. Now, how do you teach it? You teach it by allowing people to go into those spaces where the magic is happening. If you want to be an aspiring teacher in urban education, you’ve got to leave the confines of that university and go into the hood. You’ve got to attend that non-formal environments and you’ve got to view those folks that have the power to engage and just take notes on what they do. And if we could transform teacher education to focus on teaching teachers how to create that magic then poof! we could make dead classes come alive, we could reignite imaginations, and we can change education.