Teachers are spectacularly the magicians of the classroom

Sometimes the best way to describe a teacher’s job in the classroom is to use the magic word. Simply magical. I’m not referring to fancy card tricks, pulling rabbits out of hats, or making people disappear. I speak of magic in terms of wonder and delight, remarkable and incredible, unbelievable and exceptional. What our teachers face daily and yet overcome so that they can still shape the minds of children is nothing short of amazing.

Of course, yes, I’m definitely biased. In my humble opinion, teachers are among the most important people walking this Earth. They are found hidden in the background of every medical advance, every technological advancement, and every historical movement that has altered the course of humanity. If we stop to consider the many remarkable feats a teacher achieves in a career, it is impossible that we cannot marvel at magic.

But sometimes, however, the little things seem the most amazing, and that’s why teachers are so lucky. Every day is an opportunity to work small miracles in the lives of children. Miracles that result in a phenomenon, the very definition of magic.

Teachers use every personal tragedy, every life lesson, every moment of truth, and every bump in the road as a trick up their sleeve, a tool of the trade that one day, one day will amaze a child. They waste no personal experience. Countless times in their classroom, teachers will be inspired by the lesson of the greatest teacher of all time – LIFE. They will dig deep into their repertoire of life lessons and make poverty, disability and barriers disappear, if only for a moment. This is why teachers are so lucky. They become magicians.

Take Melissa Phelps, fifth-grade math teacher at Blanchard Elementary School. She is the David Copperfield of magic teachers. She used her past experiences as a bench warmer and a wallflower to find the invisible children in her class and bring their existence to light.

Ms. Phelps was not always the outgoing person you can see daringly teaching a group of high-energy fifth graders. She grew up a self-proclaimed “wallpaper child”. Her shy demeanor led her to find contentment in the shadows, but as a counterbalance to her comfort on the sidelines, Melissa’s teachers brought out the hidden gems in her personality. They helped her see her trustworthiness, friendliness and kindness and positive leadership. They worked their magic and Melissa got over her shyness.

So when she met a 10-year-old boy with blond hair who reminded her a lot of her old, eclipsed self, she perked up and knew exactly what to do. She reciprocated. She did what her teachers had done – she worked her magic.

It was a test, however. His inferiority complex was ingrained. His quitter mentality was deeply rooted. His lack of confidence was demoralizing for him and his math teacher. But Ms Phelps laser-focused on the blond-haired 10-year-old boy. That alone was a huge step in the right direction because she had noticed. She made the invisible visible. From there, she simply chiseled away the concrete wall he had built around him. Slowly, methodically, Mrs. Phelps introduced the young boy to his own abilities and helped break down his low self-esteem.

The lessons Mrs. Phelps taught this little boy about his own abilities go way beyond math. They go much deeper than numbers skills. The magic that Mrs. Phelps sprinkled on this little guy will far exceed any content he learns in school, because what she taught him will last a lifetime. She changed the very course of her life, and you just can’t argue the importance of that, how incredible she is.

This 10-year-old boy with blond hair could one day win the Nobel Peace Prize. He could find the cure for Alzheimer’s disease or invent a way to teleport. He can grow up to be a terrific father of four or save an elderly lady from a fire. Who knows what the future holds for Mrs. Phelps’ student? It sure is fun to speculate, though.

I know one thing for sure. The magic dust that his fifth-grade math teacher sprinkled all around him certainly changed the direction of his life.

It doesn’t get any more magical than that.

Sheryl Green is a secondary educator from Columbus. Email her at sherylgree14@yahoo.com.

Brian L. Hartfield