jig-saw puz-zl (jĭg‘sô‘)
–noun; also called picture puzzle: a set of irregularly cut pieces that form a picture or design when fitted together; a form that has interlocking pieces in order that they stay together to form a specified pattern; English mapmaker and engraver, John Spilsbury, invented the jigsaw puzzle in 1767; it was a map of the world.
Can we afford not to BE our piece in the puzzle?
At Scholars Together this year we have been learning from a jigsaw puzzle, one we created with each of our names decorated on a separate piece. It continues to teach us, to be a practical metaphor for the importance of being just who each of us IS, was meant to be…that we matter to a group….in our individual families, learning communities, and in the world. We are finding that there are skills for working independently and others for working in a group, AS a group. These are some of the things we have been learning as we put our own puzzle pieces together each day when we come together as a group…reminding us that we ARE a group.
Scholars, I hope I have accurately captured your messages as you relayed them, as I didn’t write them all down…come forward if there is something you would like to change or add.
Eren: Each puzzle piece is different…when you look closely, no two are exactly the same…just like us!
Liz: Each of us is an individual, just like each puzzle piece. No other piece can fit into the place where my puzzle piece fits…just like no one else can do exactly what I do, in the way that I do…we are ALL needed. We don’t have to be in competition with each other. There is the perfect place for each of us to be who we are, to do what we were meant to do.
Isaac: When putting our puzzle together, we need to take a look at who our puzzle partners are…what goes next to each piece. How do the pieces interlock and fit together? When we work in a group we need to notice what is going on around us. How are we interacting with each other…how can we fit together? What are each person’s talents and struggles so that we can use them to work together? Now, when I am putting my puzzle piece in our puzzle, I know exactly how it fits into the other three that are around mine and I can put it in correctly quite quickly. I am working on doing that more effectively with the people around me. That is my current challenge and opportunity.
Leyla: We need the puzzle pieces on either side of our own in order to connect to the group. We NEED each other. We each need to participate in order for our group to work, for our puzzle to show its complete picture. If one or two of the puzzle pieces are disconnected, it affects the whole puzzle. If one or two group members are disconnected, not paying attention, or participating…it affects everyone in the group. When everyone is connected it feels good, our picture is complete.
Reese: Just as when a puzzle piece is missing from the puzzle and it is very noticeable, when one of us is missing it is also very noticeable. We have to find ways of filling in for someone who isn’t there…when they couldn’t be with us on that day or when they are here but not paying attention. Our group isn’t as strong or doesn’t feel complete… we all have to do a little bit more because we don’t have that person. But I know there are some times when we all just have to pitch in and do some extra work until the person comes back to our group.
Tien: I have really enjoyed learning that the more I am ME, know and appreciate ME, the better I fit into a group…the more I can be a productive member of a group. Just like each piece in the puzzle is unique and NEEDS to be unique in order to fit that exact place, the same is true with me, with all of us. I used to avoid some group situations because I thought I would have to change too much in order to meld with the group, or that I had to agree with all of what a person expressed in order to work with that person. But I find that truly interlocking with a group is concentrating on the good that we ALL possess, and when I do that the more perceptive I can be about what needs to be done. Each of us has something special to share, to do, to be…and our sometimes-puzzle-of-a-world needs each and every piece, interlocking with the others…supporting the whole in this way.
Dave: We need each piece to make the puzzle complete, the middle pieces, outside pieces and the corners. We need EACH of us to make our group work as a whole…to make our world work as a whole. Speaking up in a group is one important way of connecting with the others, and in getting things done as a group.
Zach: Sometimes when one of us is not cooperating or participating in the group, that person has to take his/her piece out of the puzzle. It doesn’t feel good to have to take the piece out. But it helps us realize that we had drifted off from being our part of the puzzle…and to be more aware that it really matters to participate and do our share in a group. We decide when we are ready to participate and put our piece back in. It feels really good to put that piece back in place…to be part of the group.
Ari: Everyone designed her/his puzzle piece differently and just the way s/he wanted to do it. Some used their favorite colors and others used colors that they thought went together. We all shared one set of markers when we made them and it worked out fine. No one saw each other’s piece until they were done and no one tried to make theirs like someone else’s, and they still all fit together just fine. I am going to feel free to be me more often, not copy others, and be okay when others want to express themselves in their own ways. The lessons are “be yourself” and “share.”
Jay: For each of us to be represented as simply a small piece of a jigsaw puzzle is both a humbling and an educational experience. Our piece is just a simple, strangely-shaped piece of cardboard, but it’s specifically shaped in a very complex way to fit perfectly with the pieces around us. And, if we’re really paying attention, we quickly learn that the whole, the completed puzzle, is greater than the simple sum of the pieces. As a complete group we accomplish so much when we remember to rely on each person’s unique skills.
written by Tien Stone Langlois, Director/Instructor, Scholars Together Learning Center