Mr. Benson, my high school math teacher from whom I had the honor of learning geometry, BC Calculus, MV calculus, and some dabbling into linear algebra, had a replica of “The Thinker,” by French sculptor Rodin. When a student in our class made an especially insightful comment, connection, or creative solution, Mr. Benson would gleefully take down the sculpture and place it on your desk. There it would stay for the remainder of the period. Earning it was an honor which didn’t happen often. From my recollection, it was not much more than a few times a year. This summer I attended my 20th high school reunion and I strayed from the school tour to peek in Mr. Benson’s old classroom door. I could show you exactly where I was sitting the one time I was awarded this honor.
I struggled to find a way to replicate this tradition, yet make it my own. A few summers ago, while touring the Leonardo Da Vinci museum in Florence, Italy, I stumbled upon this bib and knew it was the perfect item for my classroom. When a student has a ‘moment of brilliance’ they get to sign their name on the bib and keep it with them for the remainder of the period. I’m sure this won’t surprise many of you, but yes, most of the students who have been honored with this prestigious prize HAVE worn it for at least some of the class period.
As the beginning of the school year approaches, I have been thinking about how to introduce this coveted bib to my new group of students. Today in the car, I had an idea.
While at first I enjoyed the unique sounds of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” I tired of it after its umpteenth playing on the radio. But after watching this video go viral on Facebook, I now hear her original version with new ears (speaking of which, it has over 2 million views on You Tube which is quite astounding to me).
I’m wondering if showing this video during the first week of school could naturally lead into a conversation about problem solving strategies. After I saw Mike Tompkins’ version of “Rolling in the Deep” not only did I hear Adele’s version in a whole new way, but I actually enjoy hearing her song again. Maybe I’m grasping at straws, but it reminds me of how students’ often try to replicate the same problem solving strategy as they have seen in a textbook or that their parents taught them. In doing this, there’s rarely any creativity or deep thinking involved. But when you see someone take that same problem and solve it in a truly unique way, you gain more insights into your original method, often understanding it far better than you originally did. Is this a theme worth pursuing with these contrasting versions of the same song? I’ll keep mulling it over.