One of my favorite classes in college was Anthropology 101 class. I was a theatre major, and this was a gen-ed elective I was not looking forward to taking. The very first day, arriving to the gigantic lecture hall with about a hundred other students, I could hear music as I approached the double doors. As I got closer, it was more identifiable and I heard Bob Marley's "Could This Be Love" playing over the speakers. I remember feeling a sense of ease and thinking that maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. Our professor played music before every single class. Always something upbeat and fun. It was so simple and yet so magical as it always shifted my mood into the class no matter what has happened beforehand. It also helped to transform the feel of a pretty stale looking lecture hall. I always use this very simple magic, playing music, before facilitating any workshop or class. With the work we do as Leadership Trainers, we're almost always using someone else's space and usually we don't know what that space will be. You could be doing a drama class in a gym or martial arts in the "cafetorium." Here are a few tips and tricks I've gathered from the field to help infuse some magic into your classroom:
- Music! I know I've already mentioned, but I think it bears repeating. Dumbledore knows it well: “Ah music... a magic beyond all we do here!” One fun way to infuse your students musical taste into your playlist is to survey them at the beginning of the year and ask them what their favorite song is that they love to listen to and makes them happy. Make the collective class a happy playlist and pick a different song each class to play.
- Lights! Students usually sit under fluorescent lights all day. Their eyes are pretty spent by the time after school rolls around. If you have some strands of lights, plug them in and hang them up around the room. You can use masking tape to tape them to walls and line the floor of the room with them. Turn off the fluorescent lights, turn on your happy playlist, and plug in the lights!
- A moment of calm. Sometimes it's easy to think that doing things big, exciting, and loud will help get your students into the right mindset, but don't we all need a moment to unplug and take a moment to ourselves? How often during our students’ day do they get to do that? If you have access to yoga mats, (and if not you could use recycled roll paper so the students aren't lying right on the floor), you can place them about the room. Lead your students through a guided mediation/visualization. To make the room feel extra special, you can infuse the ideas above and change the happy, upbeat music to something more low key and relaxing. This is a great way to mix up the beginning of your class while still keeping the magic!
- Visuals! Who doesn't love writing or drawing with chalk. Gather some large black butcher paper and hang it up on all of the walls in the room. Place buckets of chalk in front of each area and write prompts on each wall. For example, your prompts could be, "how am I feeling right now?", "what was the best part of your day?", "one thing I'm looking forward to this weekend," etc. Give them the option to use words or draw images. This is a great way to get your students to express themselves in a low exposure setting and to be creative. Bonus: it gives you a moment to gauge the temperature of the room.
- Make your students part of the ritual! What if you don’t have access to your space beforehand, you ask? You could create teams, they can give themselves team names, and they each have a task to help you quickly set things up. You could have a DJ of the day and they could be responsible for setting up the speakers and playing the music that day. You could have a "beautification" crew who help to clear the desks in the room to allow for a big open space. Involving them in the magic helps to make the experience even more meaningful, and they may come up with even more awesome ways to make their classroom truly magical.
You don't need a ton of resources or even a wand. Just some thoughtfulness and creativity and your own style of magic! How do you infuse magic in the classroom experience? Let us know in the comments section—we’d love to hear about and celebrate your best practices.