Holly Valentine | December 2019

Believe in the Magic

“Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl

We rush so in our daily lives. Yet here we are in the season of magic.  The season of finding things in the most unlikely of places – maybe it’s the perfect gift for someone you love, or an unexpected treat delivered to you. The time when it’s ok and expected to believe. The time when people won’t think you crazy for adding a little sparkle. Everywhere I turn right now, I see the word, “believe”.

Believe

Why is that? Many people find themselves saying this is the most wonderful time of the year. Yet my question – and challenge – always is, why does it only have to be this time of year? Why can’t we just keep watching with glittering eyes and believing in the magic?

When things get tough, we tend to lose sight of the magic. Our glittering eyes become jaded and we focus on the seemingly impossible tasks or the dark images in front of us. We have all been there. There are days, months when it seems like the glitter is gone, and the magic has been hidden away never to return.

Then it happens. The magic. It appears when you least expect it. It may be found in the silence, or through unexpected laughter. Maybe it’s a friend’s voice or smile, a cat’s purr, a cozy blanket with a cup of tea and a great book. It could be a child’s laughter and joy. Maybe it was an event that you could never have predicted happening, but it opened your eyes to new beginnings. Magic isn’t always something big and grandiose. You can find the very best magic in the little moments that make you stop and take it all in.

The Magic

What is it you love about working with children? Stop and think. For me, it is those little magical moments, where their innocence and thirst for knowledge shine through. The moments when you watch them grow and take risks. Or when you are able to share simple human moments and emotions. The moments you both let your guard down. It’s so easy to lose those moments as we rush from curriculum deadlines to testing, to report cards, faculty meetings and so much more. But it’s not just the moments we lose then….it’s the magic. We tend to take the time to recognize these moments in our classrooms this month, but why is it so hard to do that once the decorations are all put away? There is magic everywhere in your classroom. You just need to stop and find it, as Susan Riley did in her music classroom one December.

As so many do, I always start my time each day with kids with a quick conversation before digging into the lessons planned. We don’t talk about school, we don’t talk about anything except each other and what is important to each of us. We build connections and that is when we create the magic. Sometimes we don’t even talk, sometimes we make art together. Once, I even challenged them to find search for and find magic in their day ahead. We discussed it at the end of the day and those conversations in themselves were magical.

Real Magic

Is magic a thing? It’s a light in your heart, a sparkle of its own. I find myself drawn to holiday stories and movies, and am never able to get enough of them. It is not lost on me that among my favorites are books that find magic through simple, heartwarming stories of everyday things. Two that I read often are Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares and The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston. If you haven’t rad them, put them high on your list. These stories aren’t about the glitz and spectacle of magic…they are about real magic and the ways we find it.

Those who know me well often give me a hard time about the way I love a little sparkle or add a little glitter to all of my projects. The way I see it, it’s not the literal sparkle that I love the most…it’s the feeling those sparks of light give you. They often just smile at me (and likely shake their heads), because I am always the optimist looking for magic. Sure there is magic they tell me… as they roll their eyes. Oh but there is! You just have to look for it! 

The quote at the beginning of the article, by author Roald Dahl, has always been a favorite of mine, yet one I have always cherished quietly by myself.  It means so much more after a friend gave me the print shown here (and I think even without knowing it was a favorite, which in itself makes me smile) towards the end of a time when the magic was hard to find. This print hangs prominently in my office where I stop, breathe, and read it out loud every single morning before starting the day.

Hidden Magic

There are days when I need it to remind me to search and find the hidden magic, and there are days when I read it quite happily and I just want to send the magic out to others. It has never been lost on me that this particular print, with its cherished message, is in black and white with a neutral frame rather than bright and glitter filled. I love it even more for this. Its magic is there. It is always there. It’s just hidden. I see it and feel it every day. I see it and smile.

Don’t lose the magic of the season. Find it, add to the sparkle, and share it with others. When you do, the magic will only grow. When my students ask me questions like, “how did you do that?”, or  make a sweet comment like “you are so good at that”, I smile and tell them it’s “because I’m magical”. They used to laugh. But now, they either nod in agreement, or finish the sentence for me, knowing what I will say. It makes me smile to think that they too are finding the magic.

Find the magic in each and every one of your students – and when you can’t, look harder. It’s there. It just may be hidden in the most unlikely places. May the year ahead keep the glitter in your eyes and the belief in magic very real for you.

About the Author

Holly Valentine is the Director of Curriculum and Assessment for the Institute for Arts Integration and Steam. Prior to joining the Institute, Holly worked as an Arts Integration and Classroom Teacher for 20 years in a suburb of Rochester, NY. She is a certified Arts Integration Specialist and has served as an Arts Standards Writer for the New York State Education Department. Holly has been a recipient of the NYC Broadway League's Apple Award for her work in Arts Education. She also serves as the Director of Education for the Rochester Broadway Theatre League, where she has created nationally recognized programs and develops standards-based curriculum for touring Broadway shows in order to bring the theatre to classrooms and classrooms to the theatre. Holly holds both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and Psychology as well as a Masters degree in Education from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY,  where she currently lives.