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It’s rare to see the quality of ingenuity encouraged in school. Generally speaking, who, when, and where get answered, while, “How might you?” is left behind as too messy to grade. It’s one of the most difficult qualities to foster in people who’ve so far been encouraged to dedicate their lives to arriving at the correct answer, not a new one.

When I lived in Malawi, I was talking with a group of secondary school girls who were complaining about a teacher. They told me, “He puts things on the test that he never teaches us in class.” This seemed like simple poor pedagogy to me, until they continued, “He says we’re supposed to think for ourselves. We shouldn’t have to think for ourselves until college or something.”

While it’s rare to find an American student so forthright about their expectations, the attitude itself is common.

But practice makes perfect, right? There’s always hope.

If you run into a problem while working with young people, enlist their help. Work through it out loud. Brainstorm. Be creative first, then be logical. Between those two attitudes, you can get pretty far.

I’m not a very clever innovator or problem-solver, by nature. But that’s why I have my junior youth to help me. We’ll get there together. As for the exactly how, that remains to be seen.

photo credit: Leo Reynolds via photopin cc

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