Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Week 3 reading post: Art of Possibility chapters 5 to 9

Image from Clipart Mojo
I was very happy to find that Benjamin Zander revisits his notion of the “silent conductor” in the earlier part of this reading. (I say revisits because we were first exposed to this idea during his TED Talk on music and passion.) During the TED Talk, I was struck by his comment that a powerful conductor is one who can inspire greatness in his musicians; that the conductor’s success is not so much measure by what he does, but by what others do under his leadership. This idea extends easily to the profession of teaching. The most successful teacher is the one who inspires the greatest work from his students. And, I see the connection between conducting and teaching even more prominently, in fact, in my action research project that focuses on the flipped classroom. The overarching goal of flipping is to make the classroom more student-centered than teacher-centered. Zander describes how implementing small changes like allowing the orchestra members to contribute their insights to his musical interpretations made them feel empowered and valued. In the same way, I hope that flipping my classroom will enable me to work with and hear from more of my students, so that they see the material as more approachable and relatable than they might otherwise feel in a lecture-based class.

Zander, R. S., & Zander, B. (2000). The art of possibility [Electronic]. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.


  1. Kim,

    Excellent parallel between orchestra conducting and classroom teaching. I distinctly recall those passages from this week's reading as well, as it was a pure stroke of genius on the Zanders's part to allow his musicians to not only perfect Zander's craft, yet expand their own individual opportunities for success. I was even taken aback in intrigue when Zander admitted an error on his behalf. Similarly, the flipped classroom is a genuine model to inspire greatness, synthesis of content, and application of mastery in our students. Kudos for being an empowering educator and leader by dedicating your success by your students' success, and thank you for sharing your fantastic insights on this week's readings.


  2. Kim,
    I too was "struck by his comment that a powerful conductor is one who can inspire greatness in his musicians; that the conductor's success is not so much measured by what he does, but by what others do under his leadership."

    When I read that, I thought of the long-running Music Under the Stars summer concerts put on by the Toledo Symphony in the Toledo Zoo amphitheater. The same conductor had been leading this tradition for 59 years, until last summer when they announced a hiatus due to Maestro Szor's health. The first song the symphony always played (after the Star Spangled Banner) was a march that was "conducted" by a corporate sponsor. I always thought it was interesting that the musicians could play this piece without the conductor leading them (the guest conductor never seemed to know what he was doing!), but his is only because Maestro Szor had led them to be able to perform without them.

    Maybe this is the ultimate goal of educators ~ to empower our students to perform without us at all.

  3. Kim,
    As always I appreciate your clarity of expression. I agree that the conductor to the orchestra is the same as the teacher to the classroom. I feel that it is refreshing that the examples and the whole premise of the reading is the relationship between the conductor and the orchestra rather than using sports, which is usually the way that leadership analogies are presented. After reading this book I really want to say to my co-workers it is really important that students feel valued and empowered!

  4. Kim,
    Your parallel between conductor and teacher is right on. I have always believed that teaching should be student centered, my job as a teacher is to bring out the student's greatness, not my own. I often find it hard to explain this to others when talking about getting a student to become motivated to do their work or participate, a lot of teachers have told me to just make them do it or if they dont do it threaten them with a zero or tell them that it is your class and they have to do what you say. I dont really believe all of this, it is the students class and I dont think anyone benefits when they do work just to please the teacher. I am going to aspire to be the conductor allowing for input from my students on how to be better at my craft while inspiring them to be great themselves!

  5. Great observation and connection with the reading. It's too bad that many teachers don't remember that a big part of their calling is to inspire, to keep the fire of learning lit. So sad when I see that fire, that seems to shine so brightly from K to 3rd grade, gets snuffed before 6th grade.


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