The magical act of teaching

The Magic Circle, John William Waterhouse (1886)

Teaching a class session is like preparing a staged performance, except the performance is a magical one, and includes the audience.

You have to write the play. You have to prepare the stage. The play must be rehearsed so it hits the right notes. All the players must be ready with their lines, hydrated, inspired. The orchestra must be ready. The stage hands must be alert and vigilant. Perfect tones of music must play in the background, unseen. All the props must be in place. The audience must be comfortable. They must be ready with just enough information to participate in the intellectual, emotional, auditory, visual, aesthetic experience.

And the day of the performance, all these things must come together for a crescendo of perfection.

Imagine that.

This is what weighs upon my heart and mind as a professor every semester, every day, every teaching day. I yearn for perfection in my preparation.

Yet there is always much in the play that is unpredictable chemistry, pure magic, pure audience-creator interplay, a magic spell that cannot be replicated, an epiphany never repeated, a powerful event that happens in spite of me, no matter what I imagine and no matter what I predict, far beyond my abilities, and in the world of the unseen.

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