While working as SEN (Special Educational Needs) teacher at Southbank International School in London, I managed to attend a public lecture on MRI technology at the The Institute of Physics - which happened to be just opposite us on Portland Place.
There I saw a photograph of the neural wiring of ONE individual brain. (Taking the MRI photograph had had something to do with tracing water molecules along the neural pathways.) I am not a physicist, so it struck me that this web of inter-connectivity resembled the scrambled mess off lily-of-the-valley root systems. Two tangled masses of web-like thin threads spreading haphazardly toward a larger anterior mass, and then downward around the curvature of the skull. WOW!
Repeatedly I had come across comments about there being trillions of possibilities for synapse connections. Here it was. And it was real!
This viewing led me to the analogy I now use at the beginning of the year in every class I teach. We look at fingerprints. We use ink on our fingertips and make our prints on a paper. We make one sheet that has the prints of everyone on it. We use magnifying glasses and discover that, yes, we really DO each have a different fingerprint.
Then we talk about the brain and about its size in comparison to the fingertip. The kids get it. Everyone's different!
That communal fingerprint chart stays at the front of our class all year, reminding us that there are limitless possibilities for each of us to be "wired" in different ways. We are each better at some things than others. We are not "bright" or "dumb", we are just different.
It works. With children.
Older ones soon begin to question whether our marking systems are fair...