A Year of Stories – “The Joy of Teaching”
I taught my first magic lesson at the age of 19 between college semesters. I thought it would be an easy way to make a few bucks, and I charged $200 per student for 5 straight days of 2-hour classes. I managed to get four students signed on and made $800 in one week, which was the most money I’d ever seen in one shot.Years later upon moving to Connecticut after college and struggling to make ends meet, I turned to teaching again to fill in the gaps. This time I offered group lessons through a local Continuing Education program and also accepted private students that I met through my weekly gig at a local restaurant.
What was initially about money became something much deeper that would change my life for the better: a profound love of teaching.
While I have taught over 100 students of magic since 2010, I’m choosing to focus this article on two young individuals I met in 2011 that would become a major part of my life: Brian and Katie, aged 11 and 9 respectively at the time.
Brian and Katie would both go on to take weekly private lessons from me until 2014, which is a very long time in the world of private magic instruction. They each showed an incredible amount of dedication and passion, and through them I continually rediscovered my own passion for the art. They pushed me just as much as I pushed them, because I had to regularly come up with new lessons and new tricks to teach as they mastered material faster than I could plan.
These two amazing young people went on to give a handful of public performances with me. Brian shadowed me at a local restaurant gig, performing one trick at each table I approached and absolutely nailing it.
In 2014 the three of us prepared for a show that would be open to the public with ticket sales. In order to create buzz I arranged an appearance on local public access television, a show called “Cameras Rolling” that I’d appeared on many times before. Brian and Katie held their own, answered interview questions perfectly, and each performed one trick on camera. They conquered a fear that most professionals never quite get over and did it with flying colors.
A few months later we gave our show to a packed house. Brian and Katie each performed 15-20 minutes of their own magic before I came on to fill out the evening with 45 min of my own. It was a resounding success, also filmed by a different local public access TV station, and later aired on repeat for the whole town to see.
Brian was the first to drop his regular lesson schedule with me. He was in high school and a burgeoning local theater star. He loved magic and, as far as I know, continues to enjoy it, but priorities change when you are a teenager.
Katie dropped her lessons some months later, which I had sensed coming for a while. She still loved magic, but also expressed the concern that as she was becoming a teen, it wasn’t “cool” to be a girl doing magic. This was very upsetting to me, and alerted me to the larger gender issue in magic. I now regularly encourage young girls to pursue magic and do my best, though I’m only one person, to break down the gender gap. [More on that in a later post]
I didn’t take it personally when either of them stopped their lessons, but I missed them, of course. Spending that much time with a particular student during their developing years, and especially private lessons in someone’s house, you really become a part of the family. By the end I felt more like an older second cousin, or a goofy uncle, than their magic teacher.
Due to my demanding performance and travel schedule these days I don’t have as much time to teach. Still, I maintain a few students as often as I can. Teaching is a true joy. I try to be the kind of teacher I wish I’d had when I was first learning magic, and though I miss the students who leave, I also bear in mind this quote:
“A teacher is one who becomes progressively unnecessary.”
If you are proficient at something, considering setting aside some time to teach. It is one of the most rewarding things I do.
Until next time,
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Connect with Brian!
- A Year of Stories: “Faking Confidence” July 24, 2016
- A Year of Stories: “Professional Courtesy” July 17, 2016
- A Year of Stories: “Be Patient” July 10, 2016
- A Year of Stories: “Just Ask” a.k.a. How I Got Sponsored July 3, 2016
- A Year of Stories: “Meeting Kristen Schaal” June 26, 2016