McBride Museletter

Hello Friends and Wizards! My name is Stonewick, and I hope this Museletterfinds you well.
The subject of this short essay is Teaching. At some point, most, (if not all) of us, have taught a simple trick to a young relative, or maybe even taught magic in a more formal and structured setting. When we do this, we become The Sage.
Jeff McBride often refers to the Four Archetypes of the Magician – The Trickster, The Sorcerer, The Oracle and The Sage. The Sage is many things: Philosopher, Writer, Historian, Collector and Enthusiast. But the Sage is perhaps, most importantly, a mentor and a teacher. Think Eugene Burger or René Lavand, for example.

I have been a public high school teacher for 20 years. I also sponsor an after-school magic club, so I am in the role of teacher every day, and magic mentor every Tuesday afternoon.

As such, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of the things I have learned from my time as a high school teacher and magic mentor. It is my hope that the following ten points will be helpful to all of us in that role of mentor or teacher.

  1. Welcoming attitude: New students are often nervous. They have thousands of questions. Not the least of which is,” Am I up for this?” Or, “Am I going to look like a fool?” By welcoming our students warmly, we put them at ease and help them to get off to a good start.
  2. Meet students where they are: Sometimes it’s hard to remember that our students have not yet crossed the same rivers we have. They are inexperienced in some areas, and may even be a little immature in others. That’s okay. It’s important to keep in mind that just because we may know a concept or technique so well it has become part of our DNA, this same technique or idea may be completely foreign and difficult to the student.
  3. Know who they are outside of the learning environment: Having awareness of a student’s home life and other interests can really help us bring out the best in them, on multiple levels.
  4. Recognize strengths and areas for improvement: It is vitally important to have an understanding of what the student is, and is not ready for. We may have planned a powerful and dazzling lesson, but we must always be flexible, and ready to drop that plan and move over to something more basic. We can always come back to that amazing lesson later.
  5. High bar of expectation: If we accept mediocrity, then no one wins, and we have done an unfortunate disservice to our art and profession. Not only that, but we have cheated the student. After all, we promised to make a wizard out of them, and all we have taught the student to do is imitate a puzzle he or she was shown the solution to. No, no! Make it clear that magic is not easy, and the goal is excellence. Start with something that requires little or no technical skill, and teach the student to rock the presentation. Encourage the student to come up with a frame and script that reflects the student’s own interests and passions.
  6. Take it seriously: If we approach our task without some degree of seriousness, we run the risk of trivializing the craft. For example, at my school I sponsor an after-school magic club. One day, one of the students brought in a non-member. He said his friend missed the bus and was going to catch a ride with him later. Well, we deal with secrets here. No exposure. So, I insisted his friend find another place to hang out until we were finished. Harsh? Maybe. But it was, as we like to say in the industry, a “teaching moment.” One which I hope they all placed into their back pockets.
  7. Unconditional encouragement: Like learning to play an instrument, paint or write poetry, artistic endeavors often seem impossible for a long time. It can be easy to give up on ourselves. We need encouragement. We need to see that someone we know has fought these same battles, and come out on the other side. We also need to know that our teachers will never give up on us.
  8. Show passion: Passion is contagious. I love watching Bob Ross paint his amazing landscapes. I don’t paint. So why would I care? I think it’s because watching someone do and share what they love is intrinsically fascinating. When we show passion for what we do, we automatically create interest.
  9. Humility: Humility is vitally important for several reasons. Sometimes the best thing a teacher can say is,” I don’t know, but let’s explore that thread and see where it takes us.” “I don’t know” demonstrates the fact that we are never done learning. And it’s a great motivator to learn something new. And this new knowledge makes us better at what we do.
  10. Don’t underestimate your influence: When we become teachers or mentors, like it or not, we become influential. What is important to us–how we behave, and how we treat others–will in some way be reflected in the lives of our students. We may not imagine that we are a big deal, but we are!
One more point I’d like to make. As we all know, magic is often a solitary enterprise. Eugene Burger tells us,” In the deepest sense, a student must learn to be his or her own teacher”.

So, when we are struggling with that classic pass, writing our scripts or trying to stay focused on the thousand finer points of theatrical presentation, it’s good to remind ourselves that performing magic well is really hard! Let’s not neglect to be nice to ourselves. Let’s promise to be patient with, and encourage ourselves. Let’s not forget to be our own good teachers!

From Tobias:

Thank you, Stonewick! I loved this piece—partly because it brings us the perspective of someone who has dedicated their life to teaching, and primarily to teaching something other than magic. We can always learn from other disciplines. In fact, a lot of creativity comes from examining our own art, our own area of expertise, from the viewpoint of someone outside it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Stonewick is also passionate about, and teaches magic himself!

We have two opportunities coming up this month for you to come and experience our own special way of teaching magic here at the McBride Magic & Mystery School. The first is our Magic Summer School, reviving an event we tried first over a dozen years ago, back in the “Wonderdome.” It’s a 2-day intensive “fun and learning” event hosted by Jeff McBride, just before this year’s Magic Live! If you’re going to that… you might also want to extend your magical vacation and go to this!

For something a bit deeper, there is our 7-Day Master Class, just after Magic Live! This class is often over-subscribed, but as it turns out, we still have one spot available for this year’s session, because someone had to drop out at the last minute. To grab their spot, go here now and sign up.

Finally (and there will be more on this soon!)—Beyond Applause is now ready for release. As you read this, the book has just been sent off to Amazon, and probably won’t be on sale for another day or two. I wanted to say a big thank you right now, though. So many of you have helped me get the materials and thinking together for this book over the past dozen years—many not even aware that your questions, discussions and correspondence have inspired the thinking behind the book. So… Thank you! One of the wonderful things about this community is how we all inspire and help one another. I am eternally grateful!

Wishing you all a happy and magical August!

Tobias Beckwith

 August, 2018 – Magic & Mystery School Events
3-4 Magic Summer School
6 Slow Down – Jeff MSMin 10   Host – Daryl Rogers
9 Sisters of Mystery
9-15 7-Day Master Class
13 Record Your Audience – Tobias MSmin9  Host – Team/Master Class Night
20 Time to Rehearse – Larry Hass MSMinute 9  – Host – Santiago
27 Magic Show Pricing – TBA – Host – Jason Porter
August 2018 – Jeff McBride Calendar
16 McBride’s Wonderground Las Vegas