Friday, May 11, 2012

Week 2 Comment #1 for: Cyndy Mandaski

Week Two Reading:  Human Potential, not Music Notes

By Cyndy Mandaski

The Ted video had me hooked from the start; I do not feel that I would have absorbed as much from the readings had I not seen, heard, and felt Zander’s energy in the video first.  The video and “The Art of Possibility” are inspiring words of wisdom for all walks of life, not just for musicians.  He talks more of human potential than musical notes.

Having a son who has now played violin for 5 years and a son who is learning to play the saxophone for the first time this year, I truly “laughed out loud” when he modeled how an early student of music plays a Chopin prelude.  It was as if he had been in my living room over the course of the last few years watching my boys learn to play!  Zander has not only an understanding of music, but of children’s growth as well. Many of the things he (and Rosamund) said in this week’s reading hold true from a teacher’s perspective.  Zander says, “My job is to awaken possibility in other people”.  I took what he was saying to mean that his goal is to take his students on a journey where they find their worth and look for the best in themselves.

I contemplated for a long time on what is meant by “The Easy A”.  At first reading, I thought that it doesn’t make sense to just pretend that all students are the same and they all get an A.  Pretending that my students will all rise to the challenge and do things they can’t do.  
After sleeping on it and being back in school with my 8th graders after thinking about it, I read that section again.  Maybe what he meant is that giving out The Easy A brings out what is unique in students, rather than how they fall when “standardizing” kids against each other.   Grades (and of course the high-stakes testing I just administered) are all about how my students measure up against all other 8th graders in Ohio.  Grades and OAA scores do not take into consideration the environment and unique talents of my kids. The Easy A however, allows students to face their own unique challenges and tell why and how they deserve their A.  This would give a teacher richer information:  not how they stack up against others, but how they stack up against their own hopes and dreams.  This concept aligns with the Social and Emotional Learning program my school has instituted, and I can see how it can have great benefits.  However, my district says I have to assign grade cards and administer OAAs.  To find how The Easy A can be used in my classroom is a challenge I will have to think more about.

My Comment

Cyndy, I am impressed with your in depth review of Zander beyond his book. I do understand like you how difficult it would be to give an A to start everyone off. Students are unique and all will not perform to the “standard” of A but that does not mean that all may not try because of the excitement of that expectation. I think its something worth trying on a small scale. It is a shame that Zander had a lapse in judgment in using a convicted sex offender around children. But lets look at the “possibilities” from Zander’s side. I can see how with his optimistic view on human behavior and motivation that he saw Peter’s potential success and not his past failures. 

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