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The Art Of Possibility

Often you come across something that inspires you and gives you a new insight to teaching. Miranda found this when she discovered Benjamin Zander and the 'Art of Possibility'. 

I really very must share this little gem of a discovery. Now and then you find a demi-god who teaches you something about teaching. My sister has just introduced me to Benjamin Zander and the ‘Art of Possibility’ – the only book she has apparently read from cover to cover since Black Beauty. Sorry Dr Chrissie, it has to be said (again and again and again). BZ’s book and attitude seem so totally now, I feel that he’s just about summed up all the bits and pieces we’re aiming at through AFL techniques; through the challenge curriculum; through Kagan strategies, and practices involving encouraging our children to take a reflective approach to their learning, travelling on a ‘learning journey’ that is as unique as their own talents and abilities.

In the lovely YouTube video ‘How to give an A', BZ explains that all his students (he is a conductor for the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra) begin the year with an A. They write a letter to him pretending that they are at the end of the school year. They explain how they have achieved their A – the pathway they took, how their progress evolved, the skills they needed to get there etc. He explains that beginning on a positive and equal footing then moving the learning to a personalised level straight away is an effective means of  gagging the ‘little voice in your head’ which tells you that you’re no good, that other people are better, stronger, brighter. He uses the example of violinists sitting together getting nervy about a tricky forthcoming passage of music, wondering if they should have practiced more. But he could equally have used the example of the Year 3 Friday spelling test, and made the same point.

This seems to translate so perfectly to the primary school model for enabling effective learning, promoting active learning and generally encouraging our children to have the courage and resilience to keep facing up to challenges. This simple approach and mindset – believing in people and encouraging them to buy into their own success through exploring it themselves – is surely a brilliant way to help children to move beyond the shadows shed on classroom learning by constant head-to-head competition and comparison.

Differentiation, need not be different ability groups sitting together, working with the knowledge of who is top and who is bottom and who is in the middle. DZ shows us how differentiation can truly come from within and will only be meaningful if genuinely steeped in the language and understanding of each child. There is no comparison, because each child’s “A” grade is for a different thing!

It’s up to us to try to apply that at the chalk face. I’m going to have a go.

Check out the YouTube Teachers’ TV video to see if you feel as inspired as I do: ‘How to give an A’

Have you watched a video recently that has inspired you? Why not share it with our online community? Or if you wanted to share it in a blog contact Megan for more information. 

Tags: Miranda, Manchester, NQT, supply, inspire

Category: Australian Teachers

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