Thursday, September 27, 2012

Is 90% Good Enough?

Last night I went to a Band Parent Meeting for my freshman trumpet player.  The band instructor set up the cafeteria so that he could teach a class and let the parents see how he teaches.  It was a fascinating glimpse into the world of musical instruction.

At one point the instructor talked about his grading policy.  He said everyone will get an A in his class, but not to worry, they will earn that A.  We sat with puzzled looks.  So he explained further.  He has a terminology test coming up next week.  Everyone has to get at least 90% on that test.  If they don't, they take the test again.  If they don't on the second try, they continue taking the test until they score at least 90%.  As he told us, if the students don't know the terminology, they can't play the music correctly.  Ninety-percent is the minimum and every student has to get there or they can't become a band.

Then, for further emphasis, he had the band play a piece of music they had just begun rehearsing.  The goal was mastery.  It is not enough to practice it until you can do it right; you have to practice it until you cannot do it wrong.  After playing a few bars, the instructor told the members of the band to purposefully make one mistake and only one mistake while they played the same melody again.  The difference was horrifyingly obvious.  Fifty kids all making only one mistake was painful to our ears.  Fifty kids all getting an A- was difficult to hear.

All students will get an A.

All students will get an A because that is what is expected and they will practice until they cannot do it wrong.  I believe the instructor. I believe him when he says all students will get an A.  I believe it because he has set up his classroom to make it happen.

Have you set up your store so that all your employees will get an A?  Are they expected to master their jobs?  Are they practicing until they cannot do it wrong?  Have you ever heard a band where every musician made one and only one mistake?

Thank you, Mr. Shaner.  I'm thrilled you will be my son's instructor for the next four years.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS  Homework in his class is simple.  Have you mastered it? No? You have homework.  Let me ask you... What are you trying to master?


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