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.