Hi-Hat on the Left


During my daily drive, I enjoy listening to podcasts. Most would fall outside of the educational realm, but I can usually find something within the podcasts that can be applied to my role as an educator. The Moment with Brian Koppelman is a podcast that I enjoy listening to because of the interesting and important conversations about creativity that take place between Koppelman and his guests.

Last year, Koppelman interviewed actor Paul Giamatti, and the discussion turned to how Giamatti continues to challenge himself as an actor. Brian told a story to Paul about a session drummer and his challenges. The story of session drummer Kenny Aronoff, and his work with John Cougar (Mellencamp) provided a source of inspiration for us as educators.

Kenny was a very talented musician, and his playing on a song was so technically proficient that it lacked the garage sound that John Cougar was going for. A recommendation was made to put the hi-hat on the left, an opportunity to take Kenny out of his comfort zone. Moving the hi-hat from the right to the left created a challenge and imposed a limitation for Kenny. Once the step was taken, Kenny was able to adjust and this change to the process managed to provide the right sound. Koppelman and Giamatti then went on to talk about how placing “the hi-hat on the left” can help those in creative ventures to introduce a sense of discomfort in order to reinspire the creative process.

As educators, we can sometimes get caught up in our daily routines. Sometimes, we get to the point of being in a creative rut. When this happens, try putting “the hi-hat on the left.”

Here are a few suggestions for getting out of your comfort zone:

Find a new place to work. Some educators do all of their planning and creating while sitting at their computer in their classroom. Find a new spot. Look for a whiteboard and sketch out your ideas. Do some long-term planning. Take a walk, like Steve Jobs, and come up with your best ideas.

Discover the Power of the Morning. Wake up early, and you may find that your best ideas and inspiration will come with an earlier start to your day. Wake up and write down everything that comes to mind as you begin your day. Jot down questions that you might have, and revel in the fact that you have all day to think about them.

Limit yourself. Using artificial limitations can often inspire the creative process. Try to create a great lesson that you can accomplish in only 6 minutes. Jot down higher order thinking questions related to a unit of study for the next 10 minutes. Think of just one question powerful enough to guide you and your students for the next week.


Think about how putting “the hi-hat on the left” can help you as an educator. Find a place of discomfort. Give yourself permission to change up the routine. Try something different. Create a challenge for yourself or impose a limitation on your work. This can often lead to a breakthrough that will carry you forward.

Do you have any ideas for putting “the hi-hat on the left?” Share in the comments section below.

Rich (@RACzyz)

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