Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Puzzle-mindedness

In third grade, I used to solve quizzles, wuzzles, phrase scrambles, commonyms, mad gabs, number blocks and hink pinks. I did this to please my teacher, Ms. Vasconcellos, who was the focus of a crush so secret I wasn't even fully conscious of it. Eventually, these word and logic games simply became an end in and of themselves. I was hooked on solutions, on thinking my way through to the answers to satisfy my brain. In class, Ms. Vasconcellos would emphasize what she called thinkable fun. There was no need to turn off your brain in order to have a good time. At home, I always had to follow orders. My father actively discouraged thinking for myself in many situations. Maybe that's why I liked Ms. Vasconcellos' class so much.

I kept in contact with Ms. Vasconellos for years even after I finished elementary school. She would tell me about the latest ideas she would use in her classes like puzzle-mindedness which was, in her words, "the tendency to approach problems and challenges as if they were puzzles which required a combination of creative and flexible thinking with a willingness to break up the task into discrete steps in order to solve." She always kept me on the path of thinkable fun. Not so many years ago, I visited her in the hospital as she was dying of ovarian cancer. I hope that I don't stray from the thinkable path now that she's gone.

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