Today, a short exchange with a high school senior reminded me of a similar moment years ago. In both instances, I helped a student solve a physical problem.
Today, the student borrowed a copy of Hamlet because he had left his at home. Soon into the day’s activity, he brought the book to me because it seemed to be missing pages. It went from page 2 to page 7, and he didn’t know what to do. He had hit a roadblock, an obstruction, an impediment. I saw something, and asked to hold the book myself. I saw some pages protruding from the rest. Turns out, the binding had started to come loose. The protruding pages, stuck somewhere in Act Three, were–you guessed it–pages 3 through 6. I handed him the missing pages, having solved his puzzle. As he made his own way back to his seat, I followed him to offer a friendly debriefing of the episode. I said I had exercised a bit of creative problem-solving–by looking outside the immediate surroundings of the puzzle. It was then I suggested that the solution involved moving from microscope to telescope. I stepped outside the problem to see it from another point of view, a larger one, one with a wider perspective. Simple problem, simple solution, but the student about to head off to college came to me before creating the solution himself. Who knows why, or what this little episode means, but it reminds me of a similar moment years ago, but that’s a story for another time.
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