Giving an A – The 200 words project

In his graduate class at the New England Conservatory, Benjamin Zander gives each of his students an “A” at the beginning of the year and asks them to write a letter describing who they will have become by the following May when the class ends. Teachers, and society at large, he notes, tend to treat “A” students quite differently from students who are given a C minus.

So, when students are given an unconditional ‘A’ in the first class of the year, it makes the students and the teacher committed partners on a fascinating and joyful journey, where, for the time being, standards are in the background, and there is no striving — just engagement, participation, and expression. Mistakes became indicators of that which needed attention, and no longer carried any stigma. Painful comparisons to others melt away. And, rather than focusing on pleasing the teacher, each student explored their own talent, and expanded their own artistry. They are liberated from fear and their performance is likely to surprise and delight their teachers, themselves and all who hear them.

The question for us – do we start teaching/mentoring/parenting by giving the other person an A? What effect would that have?

The practice of giving an A transports your relationships from the world of measurement into the universe of possibility. This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into. – Ben Zander

Source and thanks to: The Art of Possibility by Ben and Roz Zander

(The 200 words project involves sharing a story from a book/blog/article I’ve read within 200 words)

4 thoughts on “Giving an A – The 200 words project”

  1. Rohan,

    Beautiful practice. I remember back in my school days, I never felt like I could rely on my teacher, they would tell us that it’s on us to do everything. That they are there to judge us instead of helping.

    It would be great if the educational system could become more people focused.

    And of course, applying this theory in life is also a great way to create a more loving atmosphere around you and your surroundings.

    Thanks for sharing!


  2. I have this book. Seth recommended a while back. Time to bump it up on my reading list. Thanks!

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