E is so relaxed these days and has her day organized to suit her. I tell her to write down her daily schedule so she has a balance but she always tells me, “Mum I know what I am doing.” A teenager in control, I guess! I leave her to organize her day. E loves to do many things, another newly discovered pride of hers is crocheting and I will write about that on another day.
From day one, E, my middle schooler took this on, a seemingly out of character action. Covid19 has taught me a lot about my own children. The perseverance, resilience and determination to take on projects and see them through. E chose a puzzle from Amazon. The puzzle picture E selected on Amazon could not be sent to Ghana, so we chose our second option, a thousand piece puzzle that looked like the pieces would be bigger than what we received. In a rare moment of excitement, E just took over. I was fascinated as the puzzles we have completed before had much bigger pieces and were so much easier to put together.
This puzzle, however, seemed complicated to me. Times Square??? The colours, neon lights, fiddly details. I told my husband I can never start working on it without my glasses on. In my head I knew this would take weeks to complete. Some of the observations are very poignant and led me to think about my students and their capabilities, when they are given the choice to complete activities they enjoy. I thought about the reasons why we should allow them to come up with their own solutions or ways to complete tasks. This is making me really think about the different kinds of learners that come to us as teachers and how we have to embrace what they bring.
So, E took control and spent hours, daily fitting the ‘tiny dots’ together, that is how they seemed to me. Whenever I joined her she shooed me away not literally but subtly as she knew exactly what she was doing. Documenting her work by taking photographs helped me notice the development.
Once I sat beside her, she asked,” Mum have you been to Times Square?”
I bragged I had been there every time I visited New York, and had experienced it both day and night.
E took fixing the puzzle very seriously, she had a plan, which I thought was or would be obvious, sort colors and have the picture open so you see each part all the time. Well I was wrong, she had the picture flung under the table or anywhere but open, which I thought was so surprising. Had she memorized the picture? Can you memorize a picture that is so detailed? What was she thinking whilst working? Sometimes she listened to a podcast or music so had earphones plugged in and would not even realise I was hovering.
This burst of ‘busyness’ happened over a period of two weeks. Until Dad took over and spent a couple of evenings sorting out the rest of the pieces. I realised he had a plan, he took the loose pieces out and laid them face up spending many minutes scrutinizing the picture with glasses on his face but still squinting in order to match the same coloured pieces he had sorted and stacked together tidily.
With my teacher’s head on, I reminded myself that students have different learning styles. I appreciated the communal effort but wished E and her dad were working together all the time, maybe they could learn from each other. Dad must have popped in once or twice and made comments to encourage E, who thought, that’s not the way I work. So they seemed to end up taking turns.
The puzzle is almost done, resembling how pieces of luxury chocolate cubes are enjoyed at different times. One day the whole piece will be finished and you’d wish another whole new block would appear. Through this observation I have learned a lot about E’s strategy or approach as a learner, her independence, risk-taking and thinking through the whole process. One of my observations left me thinking about her technique. She kept saying I have to finish with the Coca Cola sign and she did! She was actually setting small silent goals for herself, which it seems she achieved. Therefore perseverance does help and self-motivation too. Hopefully these traits will be applied or have been applied through her studies, but as a parent, I did not know this about my daughter.
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