Pieces of a Puzzle

If I said education was like a big puzzle and every piece is important, I’m fairly certain most of you reading would close the tab to this post faster than a student closing out of an unapproved website as the teacher walks by…

Before you hit that X, bear with me…

In the puzzle that is education, everyone wants to be the corner piece. Instead, strive to be that middle piece that completes the bigger picture.

Like most educators, I often leave professional development meetings feeling deflated. When I have the opportunity to listen to educational rockstars, instead of feeling like I can take on the world, I feel like the world is not only on my shoulders but I don’t have an ounce of the strength to hold it up.

Of course, that feeling isn’t at any fault of the presenter. They are there to inspire, lead and inform me. It’s my own doubt and anxiety that leaves me feeling deflated like a leftover birthday balloon.

You see, like many teachers, I want to be the best in my craft. I want to be the next Ron Clark, Weston Kieschnick, or John Hattie. I want my teaching to not only inspire students but the teachers around me. But when I leave those meetings that are designed to make me the best version of myself, the opposite happens. I walk out thinking “I could never do that because of…” I make excuses instead of rising to the occasion and facing the challenge head-on. I tell myself “Well, I’m not in the same type of environment as David Burgess” or “I don’t own the school like Ron Clark…”

The thing is…it doesn’t matter if I own the school or if I dress like a pirate to teach. My worth as a teacher is just as valid and just as important.

You see, I’ve spent a lot of time striving to be the cornerstone of my school; the cornerpiece of our puzzle, so to speak. Are those corner pieces important? Of course. We need those pieces to start the puzzle, right? We follow it up with the edge pieces to start strengthening the foundation of the puzzle. But even with the corners and border pieces, all put together, we still can’t see the bigger picture.

A puzzle cannot come together without the middle pieces.

Now, I may be asking you to time travel when I ask you to think back to a time when you were putting together a puzzle. In our fast-paced world, we’re more likely to play a game of Candy Crush, but for the sake of the metaphor… let’s pretend.

Spending hours upon hours putting together that 1,000-piece puzzle is grueling. It all comes down to those last few pieces, right? We can start to see the final product the closer we get, but we can’t feel that true sense of accomplishment until we slap down that very last piece. Where does that last piece usually belong? Right smack dab in the middle.

That’s the piece of the educational puzzle I hope you’ll strive to be.

You are the middle puzzle piece. Without you, the puzzle is incomplete.

We’ve all experienced the frustration that is putting together a puzzle, spending hours of squinting our eyes at a mind-boggling image…only to discover the last piece is missing. It makes the entire puzzle feel pointless when we can’t find that last piece, doesn’t it? That last piece is pivotal to completing the puzzle. You are that piece.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the teacher of the year, if you’ve written a best-selling book, or if you have an entire school named after you. You’re still the most important piece of the educational puzzle.


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