Friday, November 4, 2011

Media Asset Creation: The Art of Possibility Chapters 1-4

Image used for education purposes
After reading a book, I often have my students write a letter to the author, to encourage the relationship of reader to writer.  I therefore took the liberty to put my blog entry, regarding the reading from The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, in the form of a letter to the authors.  
Dear Roz and Ben: 
Thanks for your heartfelt stories.  I especially loved the story of Ben’s experience at the home for the elderly and the story of the 5-year-old Katrine’s experience of Mahler.   You really are an excellent storyteller.   Roz, I loved the account of your therapy session with Marianne and the effect your perfect question had on that entire family.  It truly takes expertise to position the right question at the right time to make such a perfect and radical difference in someone’s life.  I imagine you are a phenomenal therapist.  I also think “you are really talented at working with and helping others”.  
I have to apologize to you for the seeming miserable schooling experiences you have had.  As a teacher, it is slightly painful to hear how my colleagues have injured their students.   I beg you to only recall that teachers are merely humans who don’t always do or even know the right thing to do at the right time.   I would also urge you to consider that grades (even Bs, Cs, Ds and Fs,) are really the educator’s means of beginning the conversation of “Is something amiss?”  The teachers who “gave” me A’s, I have, at best, indifferent feelings towards, as I really learned very little in those classes.   Granted, those teachers who “gave” me failing grades are thought of with less affection than indifference (if such a thing exists).  But those teachers who held me accountable to high standards and let me know (by a “bad grade”) when I wasn’t performing my best, are those I hold in high esteem and those to whom I owe much gratitude.
Certainly the best, most proficient educators are those who can establish a relationship with his/her students and guide them to that “beautiful statue within” and align those “standards” to which we must teach, with the evolving soul sitting in that desk.  This master teacher is, in fact, equal, patient and unalterable in her will as she deals with students according to their nature and with things and opportunities according to the force and the truth that is in them.  While not partial, she can raise some while smiting the indifference, negligence or sloth that exists within others.  This master teacher gives the wise further wisdom, imposes consequences on the hostile and leads the ignorant or foolish according to their obscurity.   She is able to handle the different elements of a student’s nature according to the need.  This master teacher does much to abolish ignorance, being a friend to those who are in need of a friend, and being an authority to those in need of direct guidance.   This master teacher does not care for invented schemes of any kind, but works tirelessly to lead her students towards the truth of the world, the truth of themselves and the truth of the relationships between the two.    
From the stories in your book, it sounds like novice teachers dominated much of your schooling.  All I can say is that many teachers start teaching when they are 21 years old and don’t yet possess these master teacher traits.  Grades are given to teachers as a way of beginning the conversation of, “Is there anything amiss?”  Certainly, some teachers are more proficient at conducting this conversation than others.   Mastering the art of teaching is a life’s work, and the difficulties inherent in the job prevent many from ever realizing mastery.   Additionally, “giving an A”  (a.k.a. tenure) to those who don’t pre-possess intrinsic motivation results in stagnation and negligence among teachers who would benefit from some extrinsic motivation from an authority figure. 
Again, my deepest apologies for the injuries inflicted by my teaching colleagues.  It is nevertheless interesting to note that both of you are well-educated, talented, and proficient in your chosen professions.  And you both have certainly put together an interesting and enjoyable book. 
Jennifer Williams


  1. Jennifer, I like what you have to say about teachers being human. I suppose if everyone were to give all teachers an A (which is all about attitude), then we would have a worthy profession that others would respect; however, my experiences dictate that there is a lot of teacher bashing. Maybe it all stems from the fact that we have all had bad teachers, but that's the human aspect of anything and everything. Instead of looking for the good in things, we tend to concentrate on the bad. I believe there is some truth to giving everyone an A and leading them to giving there best...whatever that means to them.

  2. Wonderful exploration of the reading and wonderful letter to the authors. I think you really nailed it in the part of the letter where you talk about the grades as being a beginning point of having the "something's amiss" dialogue. I feel that the point of the chapter is all about changing the typical teacher/student relationship such that grades are not the basis of the relationship but the student's learning and what the student identified as "why they got (past tense) their A." It's all about having a relationship where the student trusts the teacher to guide them into greater learning and the teacher trusts the student to do their best and to be committed to their own education. It's what's missing from the industrial education model. Great job.