Superintendent Dr. Thomas A. Gorman

As a child, I remember waiting in anticipation for Christmas morning. I never knew what surprise might be found under the tree. As a parent, I have been able to relive that pure joy through the eyes of my children. Their soft “oohs” and giddy shouts of glee, when opening gifts, can still be heard in my head. Those moments were filled with a genuine sense of wonder and awe. 

Recently, I attended a child’s first birthday party. The parents, wanting to make the occasion special, hired a magician who entertained the kids and also made the adults laugh. The kids were awed by the magician and wondered how he could pull a dove out of a hat or make a cut-up rope become whole again. The adults were equally impressed because, even though we knew these were magic tricks, we were awed that he could still change our perception with the slightest of hand. 

Educators do not use sleight of hand to teach but they do use a few “tricks” of their own and some students may even claim their favorite teacher also uses “magic.” To be awe inspiring, to create a sense of wonder, to educate, inspire and empower, teachers must keep students engaged so that foundational material can be learned and implemented by each child.

Teaching kids is part entertainment and part pedagogy. Today, keeping a student’s attention does require the skill of a magician. Just think what teachers have to compete against - cell phones, texting, blockbuster movies, Netflix, social media like YouTube and TikTok, and so much more. Teachers must use whatever is available in their bag of tricks to creatively capture their students’ attention, engage their students’ interest, and inspire the wonder and awe that opens the door to both learning and applying new concepts. 

When this combination of wonder and awe happens, and a lesson goes well, a teacher can experience the “oohs” and “ahhs” typically heard at a Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza. However, these masterpiece performances do not always happen instantly like in a magic show. Many times the magic happens over time, and along the way students experience something very foreign to them in today’s society - delayed gratification.

I know I am dating myself when I talk about waiting for the mail to arrive, but we waited for weeks at a time to get a college acceptance letter, updates from a loved one, or news from back home. Yes, we had landline phones, but mail was still an accepted way to correspond. This waiting period taught us to wait in anticipation and delay our gratification. Much of this Zen or meditative philosophy has been lost with text messaging and same-day delivery service.  

But students still get glimpses of this delayed joy when, after working studiously on an academic project, they receive positive feedback from their teacher. Or, after practicing the same musical piece for months, their anticipation is met when they have an opportunity to perform in front of a live audience. Athletes, too, practice the same skill sets every day in order to shine in moments of competition. Both parents and students alike experience wonder and awe at these accomplishments and more.  

When students are willing to be amazed they are able to wait weeks or months to see a plant grow in class, a pile of rubbish be converted into compost by slowly working worms, or a chrysalis becoming a butterfly. They challenge themselves by putting syllables together, then words, and finally complete sentences. This hard work pays off each year as they increase their vocabulary and writing ability. And the ultimate wonder and awe are experienced as thirteen years of anticipation comes to an end on the Montville Township High School's athletic field as each senior’s name is called when they cross the stage to receive their diploma.  

The world gets faster with each new invention. So, during this season, let us all allow some magic in our lives that amazes us. Let us enjoy the feeling of waiting in anticipation for something that was hard earned. And let us allow, embrace, and remember those special moments in life when we are filled with wonder and awe.

-December 20, 2023

The "Superintendent's Column"

by Dr. Thomas A. Gorman also appears in

"The Citizen" newspaper and on-line at "Montville TAP"