The Art of Possiblity
Sunday, April 10, 2011
I'm reading a book for a Master's class at Full Sail University. It's called The Art of Possibility-Transforming Professional and Personal Life (Zander & Zander, 2000). It's a type of self help book that was written by a conductor and therapist. It's immediately apparent in the first few pages that it's a bit self-help-new-age-ish but I'm cool with that, if not intrigued. Besides, my personal and professional life can use a good spring cleaning.
Launching the Journey: The introduction promises the reader "the means to lift off from that world of struggle and sail into a vast universe of possibility." Sounds good! I completely embrace the concept of practice. Practice is something I understand. It is only now, at age 42, that I really stand and look at back my life in amazement, often wondering where I found the time and self-motivation to practice the as much as I have to be the pianist I've become and the flute player I am as well. I learned to play the guitar at age 28, and can play any number of other instruments as well. Convincing students to practice is a big part of my job a music teacher. Only a small percentage practice the way I used to as a child.
Chapter 1: It's All Been Invented: This title reminds me of Bare Naked Ladies' song "It's all Been Done." I really agree with this. I see this in cycles of music, fashion and culture. I liked the 'think outside the box' puzzle and analogy. I invite readers of this blog to check out this video that I made at a meeting of my local National Writing Project. Fans of Harry Chapin will particularly like this video: Flowers are Red. My video references two children's books: Tomie de Paola's The Art Lesson and which also speak to thinking outside the box. The author refers to this as Practice One and recommends asking one's self:
"What assumption am I making, that I'm not aware I'm making, that gives me what I see?"
and after answering that question ask one's self this question:
"What might I now invent, that I haven't yet invented, that would give me other choices?"
In Chapter 2, Stepping Into a Universe of Possibilities, the authors challenge the reader to practice "revealing the hidden framework (of one's self) from which the world of measurement springs." The author states that we all function in a world where we are constantly being measured to someone's standard for something. This often unconsious and invisible burden can stifle human creativity and inspiriation. The authors state that in order to flourish in a "universe of possibilities" one must be aware of the box in which we reside and the limitations that view puts on our potential. This is the second practice. We must ask ourselves "How are my thoughts and actions, in this new moment, a reflection of the measurement world? And how now?"
The third practice appears in Chapter 3, Giving an A. In this chapter the authors reflect on the nature of grades as a means of assessment. The authors point out that grading is only a way to measure one student against another and is not a true representation of one's own achievement (or lack thereof). I get this! I find it very hard to give a traditional A-F grade for music. I'm more concerned as to their progress unto themselves. It is obvious to me as a teacher of music that all children do not learn the same way or at the same rate. This is why the whole No Child Left Behind movement has consistantly puzzled me. Kids get left behind no matter how hard a teacher works at teaching them.
Advanced instrumental students are often painfully aware of where they stand against other students for students are seated in bands and orchestras according to their ability. I made first chair flute in 7nth grade All Aroostook County band and was truly a shining moment for me (even now looking back) for I knew in that moment in time I was the very best Junior High flute player in Aroostook County. This was only because my arch rival Jennifer Miller and her best friend had not competed that year. For the following 6 years I would always sit #3 in County Band competitions. But I digress.
"In the absence of a vision we are each driven by our own agenda."(Zanders & Zander, 2000, p. 36). Now there is a quote, people. That's the kind of sentence that makes your want to keep reading the book.
Here's another nugget from the book "The player that looks least engaged may be the most committed member of the group" (pg. 37). I'll speak to this quote as I have recently been less engaged in my Full Sail work than at the beginning of my degree. Honestly, I am that girl described in the book slumped over in the orchestra chair, the one the author describes as discouraged by the fast tempo. I am completely committed to finishing my Full Sail degree but have recently slacked off enough from it to get concerned emails from advisors I never knew I had. Hopefully I can redeem myself in the eyes of my professor and whoever else I have to impress at the school, but it must be said that this program I chose is extremely demanding but ultimately indescribably rewarding. I am proud of the progress I have made so far and despite my recent academic setbacks at Full Sail I am going to figure out how to be successfully measured by professors without totally stressing out and giving up. I already know that I have already fallen slightly off the beaten trail, but I am not lost. I still see the path ahead and I will make it to the end. I must remember that I "am an A student. An A student is a leading player in any class, an integral voice, and the class cannot make its music without that voice" (p. 41).
Here's a few insights I gathered from Chapter 3:
1) Look for the extraordinary in children (pg 46). I know I do this. This is precisely what makes me a great music teacher. And I am never disappointed for all children are extraordinary, if we are just patient enough to look closely.
2) Do the best with what you have (pg 46). I do this too. I've always had to do this. I'm from Northern Maine. 'nuf said.
3) "The only grace you can have is the grace you can imagine." (Zanders & Zanders, 2000. p.52). Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. You gotta have faith to have grace.
Chapter 4: Being a contribution