Most of us grew up knowing the fairy tale of Snow White. The characters in the story are our archetypes – a beautiful soon-to-be princess, seven helpers, a charming prince, an evil stepmother and most importantly, a magic mirror.
For years during the beginning of the fairy tale, the evil stepmother approached the magic mirror and threw out a question that we as readers assume that she already knew the answer to, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”. It was her way of getting some external, and magical, validation for her beauty.
The magic mirror played along reflecting the truth that the evil stepmother wanted to see, until one day the truth shifted and Snow White became the star of the show and we know how well things went from there on in.
Evil stepmother aside, the lesson that the magic mirror teaches us, is one of truth. What we think or believe, and what truth is reflected back to us, may not always be the same.
Over the past five or ten years, one of the biggest buzz words in education has been the word ‘agency’. We as teachers should provide students with agency in the classroom. It has been proven that the ‘chalk and talk’ lecture style of teaching simply cannot compare to a lesson when the students are proactive in their learning. If our lessons have a real-life authentic application, and students are given the opportunity to find answers, then the connections made are longer lasting.
So where does the magic mirror fit into all of this?
It is our job as teachers to provide our students with opportunities for agency, but there is another step. A teacher friend of mine recently told me to google ‘Meet the person responsible for your…’ and unsurprisingly there has been a wave of teachers trying to empower students to see the truth about the role that they play in their learning.
The example below is from Hoopeston Area Middle School in the US, but the magic mirror movement has caught on worldwide and there are hundreds of similar photos that come up from the online search.
If we assume that the mirror tells the truth, then the person responsible for learning is ultimately the student. The photo above rightfully places the onus on the student for their choices, success, words and actions and most importantly, their legacy. As subject specialists, teachers provide students with all of the tools they need to build a life for themselves, but it is up to the student to begin the construction. The great part about this idea is that the student really can build whatever they would like to.
Especially in the DP, students have both the maturity and the autonomy to know the part that they play in their own success, but sometimes we need the kind of reminder that the magic mirror brings.
Teachers are here to help, to guide, to include, to provide support, to empower, to facilitate, to provide safety, to encourage creativity, to aid reflection and independence and a host of other things besides. But the magic mirror doesn’t lie, the person ultimately responsible for taking the reins is the student.
Taking ownership is tricky. Because the mirror will tell us that although we should take credit for our successes, that we also need to be responsible for when we do not hit our targets. Having the truth of our struggles reflected back upon us can be confronting, but it is also necessary, because it can be a great motivation to achieve what we would ideally like to see.
It is inspiring for teachers to see their students grow as they progress through the years because if school life really is a story with a magic mirror then the real hero is, and always should be, the student.
Picture retrieved from: https://www.hoopeston.k12.il.us/o/middle-school/live_feed
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