Thursday, May 26, 2011

Week 4 - Reading: New Ideas

I am truly amazed at the gift of working with people that Benjamin Zander has. His story in chapter nine was amazing. Knowing how tough students can be on performances, especially classical music concerts it’s truly a testament to his ability to engage a crowd, no matter who they are comprised of. I must say that I was inspired by this chapter to really try to create a spark in my classroom next year with the endless possibilities of learning.

I appreciated the apology story about Cora the violinist. I think it was a great reminder of many of the other points in the book but most importantly to remain humble, appreciative, and understanding of other people’s situations and circumstances before forming an opinion or casting any form of judgment.

The story about the teenage orchestra in Sao Paolo was just great. I can recall chaperoning situations that I had challenging students and issues and also recall responding to them aggressively early in my career. However, I learned that dealing with the person and the cause for the action is much more effective and sensitive. I really liked this story because it gave me another great strategy for overcoming those challenging chaperoning situations.

(image from: Ken's Oven, "Gift Box", March 26, 2009, Creative Commons License)


  1. Everything happens for a reason and people as individuals usually do things as a result of something else that is either obviously known, or for reasons that others simply just do not know or understand. This is why each situation should be handled differently depending on that particular individual.

    I know it sounds confusing but if you think about it, it makes good sense. I was in a situation in high school where a teacher failed me out of her class because she thought I was skipping her class when in reality I was very sick. In conference, she stated that I was not there so she just past judgement and said I was skipping although I was still passing her class. It just goes to show that things are not always what it appears to be therefore each situation is to be handled differently.

  2. Brian, I also share you your sentiments regarding the crowd Benjamin had to contend with. The perception of the people was such that these lower class students would have no appreciation for the fine arts. Benjamin, of course, did not just magically conduct and everybody was all of the sudden amazed. He did a lot of preparation to get this desired effect. He put in thousands of dollars of his own money to get the projection he needed. In the same way, I know I spent my own money for a laptop so I can use multimedia to keep students engaged. If my classroom did not come with a projector, I believe I would have to buy one. Of course, engagement is the best classroom management strategy. The misbehavior often comes from a lack of engagement. I thought your insight regarding the anger in chaperoning situations was interesting. My wife works in a Family Law and Criminal Law court room. She said that some of the toughest kids get talked to with more of a calm demeanor from the judge. This is because the students are used to getting yelled at, so the calm tone seems to get their attention more. However, the anger approach tends to work best on kids who are generally good, and so a quick yell keeps them on track. Although anger seems to only work in the short term. I believe if Benjamin came out those kids with authority and anger, the results would have been quite disastrous!

  3. I loved your comments about being enrolled and re-inspired in the classroom. It is so true, especially in the educational field, that even when we are passionate about something we may stay passive. Why is that? For me, its because I feel like I’m barely making it with all the mandatory stuff--and life—and would rather not stretch to try anything new or say anything that may cause extra effort. But if we all thought like that, there would never be any innovation! I always use my busy life, or inadequate salary, or student behavior, as an excuse not to be “enrolled”, as you say. Maybe I need to remember that being active/enrolled starts with a simple change of mind-set, and allowing opportunity and possibility to have potential in my life. I too have now started looking at occurrences in my classroom and life differently. I honestly have had some pauses when I wanted to blow up at my students, but instead took a deep breath and remembered the Art of Possibility and everything that the Zander’s shared. I know it sounds corny, but it’s true. I think we all needed this book here at the end of our masters and for many of us the end of our school years—now lets slug it out and get ‘er done!

  4. Brian,

    Your comment about Cora the violinist was a great reminder to me on how we should go about interacting with not just kids, but adults as well on a daily basis. Sometimes I forget that humility is one of the most difficult things to learn and maintain in my own life. This idea of realizing that everyday is a gift and every encounter an opportunity to affect change in the world around us is something we should all be reminded of once in a while. I could have used this reminder this last week of school when working with young people that seemed to be spiraling out of control as we headed towards the summer. These same young people that act out in this way are the exact same kids that probably fear the instability, the lack of caring adults in their daily routine, and the connection to others in a safe environment. Thanks for reminding me of how I should go about my own life and truly be gracious in the opportunities I have been given.