"How's the phone working?" Mrs. Jackson asks.
"It's working out really well. I mean, there are moments I didn't anticipate. Some kids get scared if they are talking and the room is silent and then others have a hard time hearing if the class is even remotely engaged in task that requires any noise. I hadn't thought of the human side of it."
"That makes sense. But is it a tool you think you will use in the future."
"I think so. Here's the thing though: the power isn't in the tool. The power is in the problem-solving. See, they're doing a project where they look at an issue in our community. They work with students in another school across town and they create a solution to the problem. Part of the research on the solution is actually going out and doing community service."
"Very nice, but what happens when they don't create a solution?"
I get really sarcastic here, "Well, it shows up on the rubric. I have a whole category for it. The boxes are really cute. I made it myself using paper and pencil and . . . "
"No, what happens if there isn't a solution?"
"I'm not sure where you're coming from."
"What if the solution is a mystery or a paradox? What if it has no solution? Or if the solution causes more damage?"
"I didn't think about that."
"I just fear that you're beginning with the wrong question. Instead of asking them why they love their community or how they would serve it, you are starting with how they would change it."
I get really quiet here, feeling ashamed of how excited I had felt just minutes before.
"Tom, I'm stealing your idea and doing it in my classroom, too."
"What about all the questions you just asked me?"
"I'll ask my students the same questions. I want critical thinkers and problem-solvers. I also want students who are humble and recognize complexity and mystery. This is the kind of project where I can bring in both ideas."