Stretching to Grow

This year has brought a lot of new changes to my life, and it’s stretching me.

First off, we have a new addition to our family. Not a baby (thank goodness), but rather a 16-year old exchange student from China. Suddenly, we are a family of five. Things are different. I see my routines in a new light. I’m trying to be a better person. Maybe I’m even succeeding, at least some of the time.

A friend of mine has gotten sick. She’s one of those friends that is always there for EVERYONE. Suddenly there is a two-year old who needs watching on a regular basis. So I am riding an elevator up and down 15 times so that the sweet toddler can press the button again and again. I’d forgotten how tiring tiny children can be. I’d forgotten how loving they are, how full of wonder they are, how much you have to read their body language.

Finally, there’s the literal stretching. After a long hiatus, I’m back at my beloved neighborhood yoga studio, where they casually ask me to drape my leg over my shoulder or balance on one foot while folded over for what seems like an eternity and I do it, because that’s what’s going on at that moment, and, surprisingly, I CAN DO IT.

I’ve clearly lost control of my life. Surely, I could say no, right? At some point, I could have said “our family is perfect the way it is” or “you will need to find alternate arrangements for this child” or “are you crazy, I don’t bend that way”. But I didn’t. Through these stretching experiences, I find out new things about myself. I continue to grow. I stay young, or at least, younger.

How are you being stretched? How are you expanding your horizons and experiences? I invite you to say yes to the unexpected, and see how you grow.

Becky Maas teaches fifth graders the wonders of science. She has two children of her own, and can frequently be found singing, reading, or picking dog hair off her clothes.

Unique Pieces

This past weekend I did something I haven’t done in a long time – a jigsaw puzzle. It was a rainy Saturday, and my son and I were ready for a change. With enthusiasm, we got out the box and dumped 750 small cardboard pieces all over the dining room table. As I began sifting through the pieces, a sense of dread began to rise in my stomach. All the pieces looked the same. They were all a bluish greenish brownish whatever. I’m never getting my table back. I hid my dismay from my son, and feigned enthusiasm. “Here’s another edge piece!” “Here’s another piece with some rainbow!” “This might be part of a teepee?” I said cheerfully, sorting the mystery pieces. For at least 30 minutes. And then, after a while, a long while of studying and sorting, suddenly the pieces started to look different. Some were a grainy blue, and some were a striated blue. Some were a little green. Some were light green and some were actually yellow. My confidence grew, but as we got to that point where you have single-piece puzzle-sized holes, I couldn’t find that one piece. I knew what it had to look like, I knew its shape, but I couldn’t find it. Then it occurred to me, what if it actually looks different than what I expect? With new eyes and open expectations, I sifted through the box again. Maybe this one? Yes. How unexpected!

At that moment I realized that our students are like these puzzle pieces. They come to us, grouped by grade, dressed in khaki, blue, and yellow, wearing their trendy sneakers, and raising their hands to answer our questions.  But they need to be studied. Each one needs to be poured over, and turned on our mental palm. What do they bring from their family? What makes them worry? What makes them excited? What will they remember when their 41? And when you have that one student that is acting out, not listening, breaking a pencil, staring out a window – take a fresh look. Maybe they aren’t what you were expecting, but they still fit. They still have a place.

I still haven’t recovered the use of my table. Our jigsaw puzzle, and my classroom puzzle, are both going to take time.

Learner, Thinker, Writer, and Puzzler: Becky Maas serves Trinity School as the 5th Grade science teacher. You can follow the wonderful myriad of students that attend her science class on Twitter @science4fifth.