DIBOLL — Diboll ISD kicked off a magical new school year during its convocation Wednesday morning at the Lottie & Arthur Temple Civic Center.

Motivational speaker and illusionist Billy Riggs spoke at the convocation, which was magic-themed. Riggs has been speaking publicly for more than 30 years, has sold more than 300,000 copies of his speeches and has authored six books.

Riggs mixed comedy with magic and motivation. He told the DISD teachers and staff that his goal was to illuminate how learning can be made a magical experience for both the students and themselves.

“I am what I call a disillusionist, which means I don’t get nearly as excited about performing my illusions as I do about getting into your head and exposing your illusions, damaging psychological illusions — faulty perceptions of the world and your place in it that harden into glass ceilings in your head forming self-imposed barriers to success from which you just can’t escape,” he said.

Then Riggs shared some statistics from Oxford University — 47% of all current U.S. jobs will be automated by 2033. This includes chefs, retail employees, factory workers and more.

“This means that your job is as important as it has ever been, but it is far more urgent,” he said. “You must drill into the skulls of your students that they cannot drop out of high school.”

He encouraged teachers that convincing their students to graduate and complete a two- or four-year program or a certificate in a field that is resistant to automation is imperative to making magic happen.

Then Riggs performed his first magic trick. He appeared to levitate a table with the palm of his hand and then with a piece of the table cloth.

“What you just saw is a table moved by an invisible force — a completely natural force, I assure you,” he said. “Your life, in a similar fashion, is moved by a host of invisible forces — your beliefs, your assumptions, your biases, your defense mechanisms.”

Riggs placed a teacher’s motives at the highest of that list of invisible forces — why they go to work every day — because there are “very few things in this life more sad than going through the motions of your job with no purpose in mind.”

“Before you get out of your car to walk into your office or your school building, flip a switch in your head and make sure that while you’re there, all you care about is making a difference in the lives of your students,” he said.

He told teachers to resist cynicism and embark on a journey to reignite the burning desire to impact their students’ lives because the students can tell when they are faking.

He told the teachers he has one son from his second marriage after struggling with infertility, and that’s the only child he will get in this lifetime.

“When I take that boy, he’s a 5-year-old, and I place him in the care of people like you for six or eight hours, more time than I will ever spend with him in his entire life, that’s a sacred trust,” he said. “Love these kids, even on the days when they’re not lovable. Even when it’s really hard.”

Superintendent Vicki Thomas thanked Riggs for speaking and addressed the teachers.

She detailed a list of accomplishment DISD achieved last year from the football team to the county fair participants to the UIL medalists and to the district for its B rating from the Texas Education Agency.

“From our classrooms to our competitive arenas, your work and your leadership is helping our students to excel,” Thomas said. “There’s a lot to celebrate.

“I know the amazing talent in this room. I have the privilege of visiting your classrooms often, and I see how hard you work. I see the purpose and the drive that you give every day. You carry that purpose into your classrooms. You carry the pride you take with your work and you show that to the students. The performance that results is from your efforts, and you are the one that is making magic in that classroom for every student that you serve.”

Diboll ISD begins classes on Monday.

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