Giving An A: From Measurement and Scarcity to Possibility and Abundance

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“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” Michelangelo

‘Giving an A’ is the original and very brilliant concept of Benjamin Zander; Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and his wife Rosumand. They commit an entire chapter in The Art Of Possibility to defining this practice and the benefits.

Before we begin, let me admit; although I’ve spent some time in education: Earned my Masters in teaching. Built an in house training and learning university for 500 employees, taught briefly from kindergarten to college and practiced coaching and consulting adults for 5 years or so. I still, by no means am I an expert in learning, behavior change or education. Rather, I’m a curious student of learning, change, transformation and the art and science of human potential.

The Zander’s point out that, “In most cases grades, say little about the work done. When you reflect to a student that he has misconstrued a concept or has taken a false step in a math problem you are indicating something real about his performance, but when you give her, him a B+ you are saying nothing at all about mastery of the material, you are only matching him up against other students. Most would recognize at the core that the main purpose of grades is to compare one student against another.”

‘Giving an A’ is the practice of removing grades and giving each student an A to begin the semester with. Instead of spending any energy on comparisons between students all of the energy and focus is spent on chipping away at whatever is in the way of keeping the individual student from realizing the zenith of their potential; developing their skills, mastery, confidence and self expression.

The Zander’s explain that they believe grades and anxiety over performance measurement keeps students from taking the risks necessary to fully develop themselves and their skills.

In ‘Giving an A’ the Zander’s announce that each student in the class will earn an A. However, there is one requirement to fulfill this grade. Each student has to write a letter dated at the end of the semester. The letter begins with the sentence, ‘Dear Mr Zander I got my A because…’ In this letter the students describe in detail the story of what will have happened to them by the end of the semester that is the reason for their extraordinary grade.

The Zander’s contend standards are helpful in defining the range of knowledge a student or employee must master. But that is not the context of “Giving an A.’

The ‘A’ is given to erase judgement that grades and measurement have and it’s a practice that allows teachers and supervisors to line up with students and employees to produce etraordinary outcomes.

‘Giving an A’ creates a new realm of possibility.

It is a catalyst for innovation and creativity. A challenge that communicates to each student they are capable of the extraordinary. A shift in the human psyche takes place when leaders and teachers help us students and employees move from comparison, measurement and scarcity to possibility and abundance.

On a deeper level ‘Giving an A’ is a way of being, showing up and living. It’s a mandate for the realizing my fullest potential, unleashing the A within me, but also a mandate to engage every human being as the ‘A’ they are capable of being, the possibility they represent, the miracle of creation they are.

What might be possible if parents, leaders, teachers and supervisors communicated the simple truth that each of us is an ‘A,’ and challenged each of us to clearly describe the ‘A’ we want to be?

‘Giving an A’ begins with you. It begins by giving yourself an ‘A.’ It extends to others as you experience the difference; possibility, abundance and love can make.

So let’s practice this ‘Giving an A’…………………

your assignment

1.Write a letter and date it in the future.

2. Begin the letter with Dear _____

3. I Am An ‘A’ because…..

Make sure you use past tense. You’re looking back. Place yourself in the future. ( no use of I hope, I intend or I will)

List out all the specific insights you had about yourself, the milestones you attained along the way.

Go ahead list achievements, completions, accomplishments but most importantly invest time in describing the person you have become and how it happened .

Describe your world view, attitudes, feelings that are the result of you becoming and doing all you hoped for by the letters date.

Fall passionately in love with the person you are describing in your letter. The person that is the A.

(And if you’re in my class at Northwest your letter is dated December 17, 2010 and it is addressed to Dear Ms. Hoelzle)

This assignment of giving yourself an ‘A’ is an attempt to realign you with your Creator, the miracle and talents within you. To remind you, that regardless of your past performance or your story; you are possibility unlimited!

Now feel it, see it and imagine it.

And then consider how you might ”give an A’ to others also…

‘Giving an A’


Pam Hoelzle

Seattle Business Coach

425 218 5864

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