Giving yourself an A

Imagine all the stress and anxiety we have around grades in school. Now what if all of that could disappear while at the same time improving the performance of the students?

Here’s an idea from Rosamund and Benjamin Zander’s book, The Art of Possibility of how it might work:

As someone who teaches the art of music, Ben Zander had hesitations about grading his students. He saw how grades caused stress and turned musicians into mechanized script followers. It took his students out of the moment and the result was music that didn’t sound as good as it could have. He knew that if he could get them to relax and not worry so much about grades, they would play better.

But eliminating grades wouldn’t solve the problem and the school wouldn’t be on board with that plan anyways. Instead, each student was given an assignment to write a letter. The letter was to be dated the end of the school year. In the letter, each student was to write: Dear Mr. Zander, I got an A because…” and then as much detail as possible about all of the great things they accomplished throughout the year to earn such a grade.

In a class full of perfectionists, Zander found that this technique helped them let loose. They could take creative risks and really fall in love with the music without the concern about how they would be evaluated. The result was a positive environment for students to immerse themselves in music and grow as performers.

Not every class is full of the same hard-driving, perfectionist-type people, but there’s something powerful about making a promise to yourself. There’s magic in picturing a bright future, then having the space to make it come true. That, I think, is the beauty in giving yourself an A. The opportunity to dream and know you’ll be supported in making it become a reality.

Lots of credit to Ben and Roz Zander for their book, The Art of Possibility