Practice #3: Assume the Best

grade A. (n.d.). Source:

grade A. (n.d.). Source:

As I read through this third chapter in The Art of Possibility, I was almost moved to tears twice. I don’t know if I was just having one of those days, or what, but this chapter really touched me, impacts me still, and I hope will continue to impact me and my teaching for years to come. This longest chapter so far attempts to convince us not only to give everybody the benefit of the doubt, but to actually give everybody we encounter an A, just as we would give our students an A when they met all of the assignments expectations. Only in this book, Mr. Zander actually gives all of his students A’s before their first week of class is over. Mr. Zander found that once his students knew they had the grade in the bag, they were free to really experiment with their musicianship while playing, which in turn led them to much greater expression than they ever would have achieved. Removing the threat of failure freed the students. I was so inspired by this story that I have decided to do the same thing for my incoming 8th graders (a class that as 6th and 7th graders was the hardest to teach for a number of reasons).

Forgiveness. (n.d.) Source:

Forgiveness. (n.d.) Source:

There were two very touching stories in the book, both involving bitterness toward fathers. One involving a girl and one involving a boy. Both of them were free from the pseudo-hatred they felt for the fathers by allowing themselves to assume the best of their fathers and then reevaluating their relationships with them based on the new assumption. Both were enabled to overcome their bitterness and sense a new-found love from their now deceased fathers. The other part of the chapter that made me emotional was re-experiencing the somewhat traumatic life of Gustav Mahler. I love Mahler’s music and am sometimes strangely ashamed to derive so much enjoyment from his work, which is so good largely as a result of the painful experiences he endured throughout his life.

Giving an A to others is very much in the same vain with the Biblical expression of love. The Church could use a little bit more of it. Even in my own church I am at times left wondering “Man, where is the grace, people?” Christians are told to love one another in this assuming-the-best-of-each-other kind of way (I Corinthians 13). We are also told to love our enemies in this manner, and are told that this kind of love for one another is the truest form of expression of our love for Christ. I don’t want to come across as a “God is love” flower child kind of a believer, but love is given a preeminent place in scripture for a reason. As the Apostle Paul says, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”


Zander, R. & Zander, B. (2002). The art of possibility: Transforming professional and personal life. New York: Penguin Books.


Reading Intro and Chapter 1

This week: Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide by Henry Jenkins

iGottaGo by imagarth, retrieved on 7/7/2009

iGottaGo by imagarth, retrieved on 7/7/2009

I  have the intro and first three chapters under my belt. Right when I took a break from reading the intro, I came across this article on Reuters which speaks directly to the rock/hard place that our Media owners find themselves in. I almost get the impression that our moguls almost dislike the developments that convergence is bringing. While I do understand that the status quo is bringing profits, I keep thinking to myself that whichever media conglomerate figures out how to exploit these current trends first is destined for MAD money!

In Chapter 1, Jenkins spends time detailing so called “spoilers” who take it upon themselves to figure out the final results of various reality shows before the results are revealed on the program. I couldn’t help but wonder (as Jenkins does) what the world would look like if thousands of people were bent on uncovering government corruption instead of Survivor results. Jenkins cites the guru of cyberculture, Pierre Lévy, and his knowledge about collective intelligence. to explain how it is that thousands of people can coordinate their efforts to arrive at a correct answer.

From Jenkins’ description of the Survivor spoilers, it seems that those involved in the spoiling effort got an intense thrill from the whole process. I suspect it has as much to do with working in a team as it does finding the answers. Indeed, when a poster known as ChillOne figured out all of the answers, many were disappointed. ChillOne had robbed them of the true underlying joy of spoiling: teamwork.

Having just finished a 10 day trial run of World of Warcraft, the concept of being motivated not so much to achieve as much as to achieve as a team is still fresh in my mind. Teamwork makes the game infectious and multiplies the amount of satisfaction that I get from playing it. The challenge I now face is how to employ this as a teaching strategy. I need to create a problem that will force my choir, either as individual choirs or a collective one, to embrace this idea of collective intelligence. Something that no one choir member can solve on their own. Don’t get me wrong. My choirs already have a great sense of community, but for me it’s bigger than that. I believe that teamwork and collective problem solving will serve as intrinsic motivators for my students to achieve more than they ever dreamed.

So . . . any ideas?


Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press.