Benjamin Zander is the music director of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and a faculty member at the New England Conservatory. Benjamin Zander is known for his interpretations of the works of Gustav Mahler and his popular pre-concert lectures, and for giving A as starting grade to his students.
Benjamin Zander at Ted
From his blog http://www.benjaminzander.com/board/index.php?group=38
Michelangelo is oft-quoted as having said that inside every block of stone or marble dwells a beautiful statue; one need only remove the excess material to reveal the work of art within. If we were to apply this visionary concept to education, it would be pointless to compare one child to another. Instead, all the energy would be focused on chipping away at the stone, getting rid of whatever is in the way of each child’s developing skills, mastery, and self-expression.
We call this practice giving an A. It is an enlivening way of approaching people that promises to transform you as well as them. It is a shift in attitude that makes it possible for you to speak freely about your own thoughts and feelings while, at the same time, you support others to be all they dream of being. The practice of giving an A transports your relationships from the world of measurement into the universe of possibility.
An A can be given to anyone in any walk of life — to a waitress, to your employer, to the members of the opposite team, to the other drivers in traffic, and even to your mother-in-law. When you give an A, you find yourself speaking to people not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realize themselves. Your eye is on the statue within the roughness of the uncut stone.
This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into.