There is a tin man in the courtyard of JFK
Facsimile of a teacher who
Perhaps in his day did play court jester
To 20th century pedagogy.
He favored creativity in teaching science and GT.
He challenged student curiosity.
Within his classroom
Amid the infusion of banter, nicknames, and fun,
Kids like Nicky Noodles and the Terpatator
To name just two
Found that their thinking flourished with this man
This tin man statue has a heart
A rather large one on display
Symbolic of the passion
That would on days
Avert a paced, programmed curriculum
And allow for curiosity and creativity.
This rogue passion,
This tin and one other statue
Are central this morning
In what I’m saying to you
But before I turn my comments to that other one
A brief detour in my train of thought---
A most simple addition problem was asked me
The other day
Requested and required
To be done only in my head.
I thought college degrees, lifelong study
Easy, I’ll do okay.
I go way back to second grade, Mrs. Hayes
Times tables memorized
During math collectively said
And so in this way, multiplied products
Were etched into our heads.
By rote, by heart
Multiplicand by multiplier
Products computed multiplicatively.
This problem was simple addition.
How hard could that be?
To convey this math minute of mine with accuracy
Let me try it with you.
Are you ready?
Start with the number 1000
Add another 1000
Add another 1000
Add another 1000
And add 10.
Have you 5000 calculated in your head?
As I had.
Or by chance is it 4100 instead?
I’ve quizzed others before you
And I’m still pondering why
Among so many
5000 was a common reply
Is the sum so easily done.
It’s part this fascination
Curiosity how the mind functions
That drew me into education
As it did that tin man.
Curiosity and creativity
Two very powerful C’s
That have core value in schools of the 21st century.
Now, turning to that second statue
Encountered in Hawaii
Where in the lobby of the Fairmont Kea Lani
I beheld the beauty of Mermaid Dream, the sculpted creation
By a former student from Southington.
This artist with chainsaw and chisel
Carved a vision he did conceive
Within a ton trunk of driftwood
In detail so defined one could believe,
Life springs from fiction
Fantasy could actually be.
His work is commissioned
By famed actors, international businessmen, and kings
There’s a Vatican sculpture received by the Pope
The emergence of this artist
Begets a question of Southington:
How did we prepare students back then
For an industrialized world of production lines
Where a wealth of content knowledge
Stored in mind was treasured
And in that manner, a graduate was measured.
Let me take you back decades from 2018
To one school building
To that one student
And the way it likely had been.
Dale sat in his designated desk
In his designated row
In DePaolo of 1973
Walled in brick,
Learning contained therein
In discrete curriculums
Limited by bells
Constrained by educational regimen.
In English class, he diagrammed
Someone else’s sentences
Language study conducted
By placing words correctly onto connected lines
For lessons relegated creativity
To the study of select authors through black and white print
In this manner
Appreciation for creativity was meant
Allowance for one’s own was just not the intent.
Creativity in other academics?
Perhaps found here or there in pockets
Or provided by a teaching maverick.
No, he like any other boy,
Produced the annual garden hose holder
Curriculum’s contribution to Father’s Day joy.
Perhaps it was only in art alone
This student’s mind could take flight
Into the creative zone.
Now maybe you, I, students of the 20th century
Where the A, B, C’s of teaching
Were so solid in concrete content
Delivered by a sage on the stage
By textbooks, chalk and talk.
Graduates prepared to take place in a world
Which suddenly became global
Through burgeoning technology became mobile.
Let’s fast forward to the core C’s
So needed in the 21st century.
Content, of course,
But delivered through lessons
That coerce collaboration, communication
Critical thinking, but above all creative thought.
Teachers who value these core elements.
Students learning in pairs through peers
Instruction led by the guide on the side.
Today the outcome of a Southington education
Cannot be a singular Dale
The result of happenstance
But rather a diverse community
Done by design not by chance
Dales of all kinds prepared to be
Productive global citizens of this century.
Release that grip on what we’ve always done
Just because it’s always been
And fire up a passion like the tin man.
Embrace these C’s in our instruction.
Invoke creativity in every possible lesson.
Let your mind sculpt our children
As you see with eyes
Like that homegrown artist
Who could conceive
A vision of life in a dead tree.