The muted trombone is iconic. Everyone knows it well because it speaks to a particular truth about learning:
If the messages and information we receive are not personally relevant, they are just noise.
"When am I going to use this in real life?" is a constant refrain heard from students in traditional schools. The information and messages they receive are not relevant or self-chosen. That's why it is so important to let students lead the way in their learning. They will choose things that are exciting, challenging, interesting and relevant to them. That's when deep learning happens.
People of all ages are constantly filtering messages and information. Think about how quickly you sort through a Facebook or Twitter feed. How many billboards do you recall on your drive to work every day? What is relevant to you, sticks. What is not relevant is quickly forgotten, whether it is a billboard about used cars or a teacher talking about the War of 1812.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."
At SSA, we create an environment where every student has the opportunity to explore their personal "vast and endless sea." It makes all the difference between students who are excited about learning and the muted trombone, "wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah."