You take a block from the bottom and you put it on top. You take a block from the middle and you put it on top.
It teeters and it totters.
It weebles and it wobbles, but you don’t give up.
In September my teaching partner and I opened up a new pack of Jenga. Not literally, of course, but humour me. We opened up the box and there were twenty-eight fresh new blocks. Each one had a name and a story. They looked similar, but once you looked closer you could see the lines and grains that made each piece unique.
Gradually, over the days, weeks, and months, we created a tower together. Other pieces played pivotal roles: our fairy godmothers who brought us apples to feed hungry learners, guest teachers who taught us problem-solving and teamwork, community officers who cared enough to teach us about safety concerns. Steadily and quietly a Music teacher, a French teacher, the Special Education team and school administration came alongside and with care and intentionality created a strong foundation. Cheering and encouraging us in the background were yard duty teachers, support staff, and parents.
A few times our tower teetered. It tottered. It even toppled. But each time we picked up the pieces and rebuilt our tower. We created something special: a classroom community.
Some students joined and some left. We kept their pieces because they are part of who we are. They were part of the creating process and therefore part of us.
Over time the pieces shifted and repositioned as friendships faded and new ones developed. We faced loss and heartache more than once. We learned to be resilient and that it is okay to cry. Happy and sad feelings can co-exist.
Our Jenga class learned that failure is part of growing. When we attempt to do hard things we sometimes fall down, but the joy is in the rebuilding. It’s wise to be patient and reassess before jumping back in. Efficacy is a result of taking a breath, pausing, and then moving forward.
Gradually, the blocks became the builders. The students set goals and held each other accountable for their actions. They cheered each other on and checked in when a classmate struggled.
During the final days of this school year we reflected on our classroom community. We took our actual blocks from the middle and put them on top. The pieces eventually toppled, because that is the purpose of the game after all, isn’t it? But it was not a failure, it was a symbol of our strength. Everyone took their block home that day knowing they could be a pivotal piece in another community.
No matter where they go, they will remember that they were part of something special: our classroom family.