Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Welcome to the 2010-2011 School Year

Hi all!
Today's post is specifically for the 2010-2011 NCSSM Orchestra, but I would encourage all to read on. There may me a thought or two here for others of you in education, music, or other fields as well.

We are at the beginning of a new school year. Today is the first day of class for the NCSSM Orchestra. The room will be filled with anticipation. We will all meet each other for the first time, find out what instruments everyone plays, learn where each other are from, and find out what to expect from the 2010-2011 orchestra experience. The excitement will be palpable!

By the time my students read this, the first meeting will have occurred and hopefully most that is true. So, now what? Sit back and wait for the next rehearsal? After all, that will be our first "playing day;" the day that we actually unpack instruments and make music for the first time.

Rather than simply waiting, I want you all to consider the upcoming year for a bit. I want you to think about your expectations for the year in orchestra. I want you to think about your contributions to the upcoming year in orchestra. What will you give to the ensemble and the experience? What will you take away from the experience?

I grabbed this idea from one of my favorite books, The Art of Possibility, by Ben and Rosamund Zander. The chapter entitled "Giving an A" outlines the notion that grades in a course often say so little about the work that has actually been done by a student. That, in fact, grades simply compare one student to another and that competition can put a strain on the classroom community and often consigns students to a more solitary academic journey. The Zanders, rather, write instead about focusing energy on "chipping away the stone and getting rid of whatever is in the way of the student's developing skills, mastery, and self expression." The real question to be asked is, "What are YOU going to bring to the table to receive that A?"

So for my class, here is your assignment. I want you to think about how you are going to feel at the end of this school year in the most idealistic of terms. I want each of you, in the next week, to write me a letter. I want it to be dated May, 2011. I want you to begin the letter with the words, "Dear Mr. Laird, I had a great year in orchestra because ..." Don't use phrases like "I hope," I wish" or "I intend." Rather, I am interested in the person that you have become, the musician that you have become, the attitude that you have developed, the feelings that you felt, and what you have done to become the person you wished to be. Fall passionately in love with the person you are describing in the letter.

For those of you that are not my students, I encourage you to write the same letter to yourself. After all, you ultimately will be the one giving yourself the grade for the upcoming year. Think about who you want to be at the end of the school year. What are your expectations of yourself? What are the mountains that you want to climb? What personal goals will you achieve and how will you feel about your successes and failures in the upcoming year.

I recently heard a really cool statistic. This is from The Center for Creative Leadership, Greensboro, NC as adapted from their document, Goal Setting: A Motivational Technique that Works

. It is as follows: If you set a goal, there is a 6-8% chance that you will achieve that goal. If you set a goal AND write it down, it jumps to a 25% chance that you will achieve it. If you set a goal, write it down, and share it with a friend, there is a 55%-60% chance that you will achieve it. Finally if you do all of the previous things and ask a friend to hold you accountable, there is an 80% chance that you will achieve that goal. This is remarkable, isn't it?

Through this assignment, you will accomplish the 25% range. Maybe you could share it with some friends and increase that percentage.

For today, I want you think creatively and passionately. Let your hopes and expectations for the coming year at NCSSM or wherever you are flow freely. Write it down in a letter to me. My bet is that you will exceed your expectations and dreams. I have seen it happen before. I know it will happen again.

Best wishes to all of you for a successful 2010-2011 school year!

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