Magic is Happening - Trusting the Process


“Magic is happening!” Zoe, age 6, exclaims as she watches paint colors mix and swirl down the drain. Working in an art integrated school with an emerging, curriculum I have learned to trust the process and keep an eye out for magic.

It is true what they say about magic, you have to believe it is possible in order for it to exist. You have to believe in something you can’t see. It is not about trickery or sleight of hand, it’s about trust, time and patience. It’s about each small moment being authentic, real and believing in the person standing right in front of you. Magic happens when you see the full potential of the person in front of you. When we accept each moment we begin to make choices based on our value system to enhance and expand our lives. Sometimes that means creating clear boundaries and leaning in to hard conversations, sometimes it means celebrating small successes, and sometimes it means admitting our mistakes. 

More than anything magic is about transparency, honesty, and trust. Believing in the human potential allows us to own our learning and to remain open, curious and eager to build relationships in order to find the magic. We will learn alongside one another, understanding each person has something to offer and each person is valued for their contributions. This leads us to a community of learning without judgment, shame, false pressures or elitism. This nudges us forward towards equality and freedom in thought and increases the chances of keeping opportunities available to learners of all ages, abilities, classes, and backgrounds.

If we don’t believe in the child in front of us how will she learn to believe in herself? The actions surrounding our beliefs influence the small moments adding to patterns, habits and daily practices. These small moments are what matter and
if they are not grounded in trust, hope, growth, and change we risk living in a stagnant world without new ideas. So how do you believe in something you can’t see? In the classroom as teacher researchers, we are constantly curious, searching for clues about what our learners know, where they should go next and how they can best reach their individual potential to expand their own thinking and the thinking and experiences of the entire learning community. We actively do this by asking questions, remaining curious and collecting as many clues as possible. We do this by trusting the children and valuing the words, actions, and experiences they share in our community.

Above all, we have learned to listen and we work to get out of the way and let our learners lead. The children’s voices should dominate the room, their ideas should fuel their learning. However, in order for us to maintain an environment that models equality, freedom, and respect, voices of all ages must be valued and so, we give and take in roles of leadership and offerings depending on the needs of the group. When we see learners ready to fly we need to make sure we respond and provide opportunities for growth and challenge.


Embracing the unknown

At the Sweetland School, we do not expect to have all the answers, we hope to learn alongside our students expanding our experiences together. Here are some guiding principles that have allowed us to trust the process and create a culture valuing voice, choice, and creativity.

  1. Learn to listen, this means really slowing down and paying attention, collecting words, and images, and reflecting frequently on the collected documentation. Students and teachers engage in this process.
  2. Be curious, truly curious.
  3. Share your observations with the children and with other facilitators. Build on what you know. Start from where you are, your practice will develop with time.
  4. Do not have all the answers - questions lead to more questions.
  5. When you don’t know what to do, don’t give up - trust the process, it’s okay if it’s messy, that is growth. The mess is part of the process and you can always reassess, reflect and tidy up later.
  6. Extend yourself out of your comfort zone, accept the unknown. When we are vulnerable we are human, don’t be afraid to be human.
  7. The arts have an important place in magic making. The use of beautiful materials, song, and movement allow us to exercise the imagination and digest our observations and surroundings. The arts give us glimpses into our inner worlds and allow us to share in the wonder and excitement of the learning at hand.
  8.  Let the curriculum emerge, authentic learning crosses and mixes all disciplines given the opportunity.

When we create environments where educators are given freedom and respect to learn alongside the learners we create rich and healthy environments for our children and teachers to feel valued. When we create environments where teachers are afraid to follow authentic questions and go down rabbit holes we limit the human potential, we undervalue new ideas and remain stuck learning how to answer questions not how to ask questions. 

“What wonderful things this is!”- Henry age 7.

“It’s a secret machine.”- Mary age 6.

I call it magic when our thoughts lead us to a new place, when we begin to finish one another’s sentences, when I hear “I have an idea!” in the studio and when we as a learning community are supportive, and invested, learning together. When we trust each other to live up to our full potential we see fresh possibilities inside ourselves and we welcome the unknown. If we can learn to listen, respond and get out of the way the magic will reveal itself.

About Lindsay Pinchbeck 

Originally from Scotland Lindsay Pinchbeck came to Maine for her undergraduate degree. Lindsay has been teaching with and through the arts in a variety of settings for the past 20 years. Lindsay is the founder of Sweet Tree Arts and Sweetland School a community arts organization in Hope, ME offering a K-8 Arts Integrated, Reggio Emilia inspired school. Pinchbeck received her Masters in Education through Lesley University’s Creative Arts and Learning program. Lindsay believes the creative arts should be accessible to all. She encourages us to be active participants and keen observers with the hope of enriching our communities through the arts. Learn more at