I’ve had these geometric shapes since my first year of teaching 18 years ago.
I think a professor gave them to me (memory fades after so many years) – they were something for me to use to teach 3-D geometric shapes to sophomores. Even though I stopped teaching math quite a few years ago, I hung onto them.
Last week, my boys were hanging out in my office for a few minutes and found them in the recesses of my closet. They immediately set to work building 3-D figures. They snapped pieces together and broke them apart again and again as they tried to figure out what exact combination would work.
They were learning through play and experience, trial and error… over and over until they finally made something beautiful. There was no anxiety, no frustration… just a lot of creative energy.
Right now I imagine educators and parents alike are feeling a bit anxious…. maybe even frustrated as they try and fit all the pieces together. In many ways, it’s like we’ve each been given a set of random things that should all fit together to make something beautiful – but in order to get to the beauty, we have to set about snapping pieces together and breaking them apart and trying again and again til it clicks.
Whether we are educators, parents, or really just humans, we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make something click right away. We want to skip the messy parts and jump to the beautiful, perfectly constructed creation.
But that’s not what we expect from our students, is it? That’s not what we expect from our children. That’s not what we tell our friends when they are trying to put their own puzzles together.
So why is it what we expect from ourselves?
My prayer this morning is that each of us can look at the mess of pieces before us with the excitement of a puzzle just waiting to be solved. May we be gentle with ourselves as we snap pieces together and break them apart again and again. Help us remember, Lord, that it’s not always the final product that matters – sometimes, perhaps even more often, it’s the many, many attempts along the way.