Thursday, December 30, 2010


Lately my grandson and I have had fun fitting jigsaw puzzles together, and the process has slowly begun to seem a lot like teaching. Just today I spent many minutes studying an open space in a puzzle, completely unable to find a piece to fit it, when suddenly, like a little magic, the proper piece seemed to place itself in my hand. I had been about to give up in aggravation when that piece found me and, just by itself, helped the whole puzzle seem much closer to completion. I couldn’t possibly count the number of times something similar has happened in my many years in the classroom. Puzzles seem ever-present in my life as a teacher: kids, classes, whole days, whole weeks can be thoroughly inscrutable puzzles. I often feel struck dumb in the middle of a class, completely perplexed about what to do next, what piece to place in the puzzle of this lesson I’m supposed to be teaching. It happens even more frequently after school or at home when I’m planning units or lessons, and everything seems strewn out in front of me like a thousand scattered pieces of a puzzle, none of which fit anywhere. When this happens, I sometimes have the wisdom to simply sit patiently and prepare myself to receive the answer, to suddenly see where the pieces fit effortlessly together. With patience, the answer almost always comes, just like today, when a small speck of a sparrow’s neck settled perfectly into our puzzle.

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