Benjamin Zander - Work (How to give an A)

Benjamin Zander – Work (How to give an A)

Teachers TV. Benjamin Zander talking on how simply you can motivate your students to win an A by giving them As right from the begining 🙂

Benjamin Zander has conducted the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra for 20 years he's also artistic director of the music program at Walnut Hill a High School for the Performing Arts in Boston as a writer he co-authored the art of possibility transforming professional and personal life he talked to head teachers at a conference organized by the National College of school leadership I'm a teacher like you I teach at the conservatory in Boston I have a class on Friday afternoon people come from all over the world and they're excited to be there and they're eager to learn you know but what's really going on they're saying am I better than her am I better than him I know I'm better than her I don't think I'll ever be as good as him I hope I can be as good as they're constantly comparing and they're measuring and when they can't come out to play they say the violin it looks as though there's one person playing the violin right there are two people there's a person playing the violin and then there's another person standing behind the person who's playing the violin whispering in his ear you haven't practiced enough do you know how many people play this piece better than you do that difficult passage you missed it the last time it's coming right up you're gonna miss it again that's the voice in the head and if anybody's saying what does he mean a voice in there what's he talking about a voice in there that's the voice I mean took a moment for you to hear it right but that voice keeps talking and talking and talking and it never stops you know sometimes it talks so loudly that it drowns out the music so my job is to get hold of that voice and this is how it works I do it each year I come into my class at the beginning of the year and there are about 40 students in my class and I say after a little bit of housekeeping I say your grade for the year is an A or an A it's your grade and there's one condition the condition is that they have to write me a letter in the first two weeks of the class of the year the letter must be dated the following May when the class hands so that left the date at the table is May 2000 of the next year and then the letter must begin with these words dear mr. Zander I got my a because then they have to write a letter describing who they will have become by the following May to justify this extraordinary grade and I tell them to fall passionately in love with the person they're describing in the letter and they do they write about who they would be who they could be who they see themselves added only that damn voice would stop telling them they can't do it when I come into class the person I teach is the person that they have described in their letter you see I only take a students now there are few people looking very concerned and saying how does he do that well the answer is very simple you can give an A to anybody you can give an a to a waitress in a restaurant to a taxi driver you can give an A to the other drivers when you're driving in traffic you can give an A to your mother in law you can give an A to your boss you can give an A to anybody what happens when you give an A is that the relationship is transformed this is hard for teachers I know this is very very hard I addressed a group of teachers earlier this year and one of them came up to me afterwards and said I like this giving an a it sweeps he said but he said but it doesn't make you don't know the students you do you don't know them you don't know their work so I imagine as the year progresses and you find out that some of them are quite mediocre I imagine you modify the grade right I said no and then I tell him about this young girl I met she's about 15 I said what's your name she's a joy said I beg your pardon she said joy now should her parents modify her name no because we don't give children a name as an expectation to live up to we give children a name as a possibility to live into the person who understood this perfectly was Michelangelo and I'm sure you've heard this beautiful thing but it bears repeating somebody asked Michelangelo about sculpting and he said I'm sculpting is easy because you have a piece of marble inside the piece of marble is a beautiful statue all you need is a hammer and a chisel just to get rid of all the stone that's in the way that's actually a theory of Education it's of course not the one we use the one we use we're up here the students are down here and they try to get up and they do their homework and they work hard and they study and they work as hard as they can and this is as far as they get this is the gap between their achievement and our standards and because they're very manipulative because they know what we want to hear so they can get up a little higher Michelangelo's model is totally different it's I – I we each have a hammer and a chisel and we're working to get rid of all that stone that's in the way of that beautiful statue it's a totally different world I just came home to me very powerfully one day I was this was the first year I had ever done this with the a and I was really excited about it I came into class and I said to the other class with their and I said what if you'd like to get an A in the first class of the year I mean you haven't done anything you get a day what does that feel like to my amazement one of the Asian students put up his hand like that forgive me for my attempt is his accent he said in Taiwan he said I was number 68 out of 70 students I come to Boston mr. Zander says I'm a a it's very confusing is it I am number 68 out of 70 mr. Zander says I'm an A but I am number 68 I walk three-week very confused then one day I discover much happier a the number 68 I decide I'm an A I call that cosmic laughter that's not headteachers laughter that's cosmic laughter because what you're laughing at is the realization of course that the a is invented the sixty-eight is invented we might as well invent something that lights up our life and the life of the people around us I don't if you know this but in about in America in our music schools we have about half our students from Asia from China and Japan and Korea and Taiwan and Singapore and all these places and they play fantastically well they're great they win the competitions but they don't speak up in class and I found out why I actually asked them I said what is this about and they explained to me this in mr. Zandi you have to understand in Asia it's very important to be right the teachers always right and the students try to be right and as one of these young lady said the best way to be right is not to say anything then you won't be wrong now I believe the exact opposite which is you cannot learn anything unless you make a mistake so I tell my students when you make a mistake celebrate and the way to celebrate is like this how fascinating it's actually quite difficult tried out on the golf course next time you're hurt you know why it's difficult is because when we make a mistake we tend to pull down the body pull down notice the next time you make a mistake the body pulls down our instead when it pulls down you go how fascinating it's like this is difficult to do you know we had a conference of leaders of the music world you know heads of orchestras and schools and opera houses and so on and we had a three-day conference and there was a lot of what I call downward spiral speaking I don't know what the head teachers down with barrels are but I'll tell you some of the musical downward spirals the little old ladies who like classical music they're all dying so there's not going to be an audience the children don't learn instruments anymore they do is watch MTV so they're not going to grow up like in classical music yeah and the National Endowment of the Arts is not is not supporting and the foundations aren't supporting the Arts the way they used to so we're gonna run out of funds by the end of the second day people were walking around the corridor in the hotel like this because you know everywhere this downward spiral you can't get right I was looking at the Times this morning and I thought of bringing it in and showing you how many columns and the times are downward spirals it's amazing every column is a downward spiral and of course the stock market that's a downward spiral downward spiral also upward spiral upward spiral and downward spiral actually the same thing because wherever you have a winner and a loser you will automatically have a downward spiral so of course sports is full of downward spiral but it doesn't matter in sports because we all go out for a beer afterwards but our educational system is based on a downward spiral because there's nowhere to go from a neighbor down so we shouldn't be surprised if our kids look anxious sometimes it seems as though there's nothing but downward spiral which of course isn't true which is why I asked for another flip shelf now over here we have possibility the world of possibility the realm of possibility and this is where the vision is and vision is very important vision is really important because your people get confused about vision they say oh it's our vision is to be number one p.m. now that's a go vision to be a vision has to be for everybody everybody at this conference somebody stood up in front of the whole group and said three percent of the population likes classical music vehicle if we could move it to four percent our problem would be over I say everybody loves classical music they just haven't found out about it yet how would you walk how would you talk how would you be if he thought 3% of the population nice clothes come visit only we thought how would you talk how would you walk how would you be if you thought everybody loves classical music they just haven't found out about it these two worlds are totally different worlds I had an amazing discovery this is a really big deal for me I was 45 I'd been conducting for over 20 years and suddenly one day I had this kind of road to Damascus event Eureka I realized the conductor of an orchestra doesn't make a sound my picture appears on the front of the CD but the conductor doesn't make a sound he depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful and when I when that happened it changed everything people in my orchestra said what happened to you Ben what happened that was what happened I realized my job was to awaken possibility in other people because I wanted to know whether I was doing that and you know how you find out you look at their eyes if their eyes are shining you know you're doing it you could light up a village with this guy's eyes if the eyes are shiny you know you're doing it if the eyes are not shining you get to ask a question Who am I being that my players eyes are not shining I can do that with our children – Who am I being that my children's eyes are not shining now over here we have goals have you noticed how girls tend to be rather grim we have a goal it's a rather grim pursuit we have to make the goal now over here you can have a goal as part of the vision by all means you have a goal and if you make the goal great and if you don't how fascinating because you know we all know we all know why we have goes why do we have goals to make eyes shine that's all that's the reason we have a goal so if the goal posts are too close together you can't score if they're too far apart it's too easy so if it's not working the eyes aren't shiny move the goalposts you know that's the thing now over here over here you have the words you should you ought you need and you must try those on your children and see if their eyes shine over here we have things like how about what is what are we looking for what's next over here you see totally different language totally different now over here you have blame and fault and threat and over here requests and apologies totally different this is where we put people down and also put people up over here everybody gets an a it's a totally different world now the leader the new leader is the one who first of all can distinguish the downward spiral and then has the power to take people from there over here to radiating possibility and anybody can do it anybody eight-year-old child can do it anybody can do there's a key there's a key to the kingdom of possibility I'm going to give you the key to the kingdom of possibility right now okay so this is the story always comes in a story okay the story is this two prime ministers were sitting in a room and they had a conversation about affairs of state you know the way Prime Minister's do and suddenly the door bursts open and a man comes in in a state of apoplectic upset he's just like this is making so much noise and racket and carries on because they stopped their conversation and the resident Prime Minister says Peter please remember rule number six immediately Peters restored to complete calm he boughs he apologizes and he walks out of the room they go back to their conversation 20 minutes later the door bursts open again a woman comes in she's hysterical and their hair is flying and she's mascaras running everything's a mess and shouting again and again the Prime Minister says Maria please remember rule number six immediately she bears she apologizes she walks out of the room and then train him is later it happens to the third time the third time the visiting Prime Minister says my dear colleague he says this is astonishing said I don't three people have come into this room out of control and you just say rule number six would you be willing to share what this rule number six is he's always rule number six very simple don't take yourself so goddamn seriously says who that's a wonderful rule what may I ask are the other rules there aren't any cosmic laughter pretty tentative I must say now it comes down to three things three things one it's all invented you've got to get that it's all invented to standing impossibility and three rule number six that's it simple you you

42 thoughts on “Benjamin Zander – Work (How to give an A)

  1. I feel it to be a confusing video. Mr. Zander spends a lot of time with the concepts of negative voice in your head, downward spiral, grading system and spends IMO much too little time with the language of possibility. He didn't even write words of possibility on the flip-chart. What are the techniques to allow me to give my mother-in-law an "A"? How in the world can I possibly do this? (She's dead.) One of the things I find fascinating about playing music is that She (music) doesn't care at all about me or whether I'm following her or not. I care greatly about Her, though. This love, fascination, interest what have you is often strong enough to get me on track and help me avoid getting distracted. I'd like a bit more than just "Rule #6" to help me to stay on track.

    My teacher (Samuel Baron) wanted to show me that he empathized with me and told me a story of a concert in which he came out and noticed "…all the evil energy…" in the room and he played very badly (he said). I asked him if he did not indeed simply IMAGINE the bad vibes and he adamantly insisted that this was the real situation in the room. He further insisted that you can't think this away – especially not on stage. Over time, I've come to agree with him and I am attuned and sensitive to these energies. But a sourpuss only has power over you if you let him/her. I was hoping to hear from Mr. Zander HOW to not take them or/and myself so seriously, distracting me from the beauty and joy of the music at hand. What are the tools for this? What's the language? How can I even laugh at the "chatter-box" in my head who rears its jealous head just when I'm concentrating on something else?

    I used to make appointments with this voice when it started up, "Oh yes, I know what you're saying, but I've got something to do, now. Let's talk over coffee at 14:30." This would always temporarily ameliorate this voice. At the appointment (which I always kept) I'd learn what an idiot I was or how guilty of something I was and was able to accept. I was also often able to dissipate some of the voice's fears. I gave it certain, specific tasks to accomplish etc. I was hoping to hear more about this, here. How fascinating.

  2. “The conductor doesn't make a sound. He depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful. I realized that my job was to awaken possibility in other people.“

  3. ok…inspirational, but it really isn't that simple now is it. Standing in possibility and rule number 6 is a drop in the ocean for what is really required to be successful, especially in classical music.

  4. "radiating possibilities"… this is the philosophy of giving without expectation … I am happy to see he is applying in to students and sharing with the audience…

  5. "radiating possibilities"… this is the philosophy of giving without expectation … I am happy to see he is applying in to students and sharing with the audience…

  6. I showed this video to my daughter, and she is writing the letter of having an A in her music class/audition. She tends to be too harsh with herself. I am trying to help her. We will see…

  7. He is a brilliant man. When he talks about the voice in your head he is talking about what Prof Dr. Steve Peters calls "The chimp". He is also on You Tube.

  8. saw his Ted talk and now this. he is excellent. i thought he was just talking about classical music but more of a motivational life coach type person which is perfectly amazing as well. really good speaker and glad he travels around the world motivating people.

  9. Aha! I just read that his wife is half of the accomplishment. No wonder! There's always a woman in there when things get really good. I've never had to give grades, but I would always give every student an A if I was ever forced into that situation. Potential cannot be measured and it can manifest later. No one stays mediocre.

  10. I love it! I love it! I love it! Benjamin Zander is the true president of the new world because he let his personality bloom. And I agree with him totally!!

  11. Congrat. Dear Mr.zander, you ve got a perfect way to make your student THINK! To make the most possible! Art!

  12. the man is a charlatan and a fraud….how does he get away with it? He talks the most arrant nonsense, All he has is the gift of the gab and nothing more…would you buy a second-hand car from him? I think not

  13. Is Hans Zimmer in the audience when he says: "we can light up a village with the shine of this man's eyes" ?

  14. I'm still sceptical. Environmental factors influence people more than teachers/conductors/managers. E.g.

    On a constructive note, the persistent emphasis on optimism is not likely to help if it deceives people so that they fail to tackle their problems. That would-be singer or actor or sports player who is never going to make it? Encouragement to keep going on the wrong path in life is not only misplaced, but also destructive. The smart money is on using the natural tendency to pessimism as a spur to improvement, like here:

    Let's face it: most people have bigger problems than how to play musical instruments, laudable though that activity may be. (It tends to be the preserve of those with rich parents, who could afford to pay for tuition when they were young.)

  15. As he says : hoping that in future the world will be full of people with an A – possibilities . ! the future – future of living with possibilities ! A viola player

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