Saturday, May 19, 2012

Week Three Reading: TRY

In this week’s reading of The Art of Possibility, there were some quotes that really stood out to me. 

When told by a violinist that a difficult passage in the violin concerto was virtually unplayable, Stravinsky is supposed to have said: “I don’t want the sound of someone playing the passage, I want the sound of someone trying to play it!”

That quote makes so much sense to me based on the environment where I teach and the students who are placed in front of me every day.  According to the state department of education, my students are “failures”.  Their test scores are and always have been abysmal.  Older students from this neighborhood do not graduate high school, let alone go to college.  Many of my students have police records and are involved in gangs.  My students know their school has the lowest rating possible and that they are behind grade level. 

My goal this school year has been to motivate these students in ways they have never even considered.  So many of my kids have never truly tried to accomplish anything academic, by the time they reach 8th grade they have no desire to even try.  They have failed so many times, they have a “why bother” attitude.  My first month the words I heard most often from them were  “Shut up talking to me” and “That’s doing too much.”  I had to get across to them that I was not expecting perfection in solving algebraic equations, but I was expecting effort, and interest in how they work.  I was not expecting students to recite all of the phases of the moon, but I was expecting students to be curious about these events and try to hypothesize why the moon changes.  In a sense, “I don’t want the sound of someone playing the passage, I want the sound of someone trying to play it!”

Now, I realize that the quote from Stravinsky is stated in a different light.  He wanted the emotion, passion, and drive to come through in the music, rather than just the notes.  I want my students to actually know it is OK to TRY even if they fail, or only achieve a small success.  I want a classroom full of students who are willing to try.  We are not completely there, but I am proud of the progress we have made in just one year.
Another concept in this week’s reading that stood out was the concept of the one-buttock player.  It goes along with the Stravinsky quote, in that passion is as important (if not more important) than just hitting the right notes. I wonder if the CEO from Ohio had success when he transformed his company into a one-buttock company.  Can I have a one-buttock classroom?  Not this year, but if progress continues at my school that could be in our future.  How exciting!

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful reflection on the reading. Thanks so much for sharing your passion and your journey. I taught in a barrio in Southern California called Hawaiian Gardens that was very much what you described and by the fourth grade they'd already given up. I taught sixth grade and was lucky enough to be teamed up with another new sixth grade teacher who was a former engineer and we didn't know any better but to expect for our students to try, to do their best and together we'd do better every day that we tried. Our district had a special elite 7-12 high school that students had to test into to go there and usually we sent maybe one student every couple years. The other sixth grade teacher and I worked with our students and offered after school and Saturday testing prep (which included nation-ball and donut breaks!) and that year we broke the testing process by sending six students. They changed the qualifying requirements the next year. We can't better if we don't try. Thanks for sharing.