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The Hidden Relevance of Education: Part 1

Part 1: Jigsaw Joan’s Little Lesson

Watching my toddler giggling happily as he completed his Paw Patrol jigsaw, I fell to musing on (teacher’s habit possibly) what a lot he was learning. Patience, observation, logical deduction, and perseverance. At some point the idea for this new series was born when my mind whizzed back to a story I loved as a child in an Enid Blyton compilation called ‘Jigsaw Joan’,[i] which I suddenly realized encapsulated many things I have passionately come to believe in as an educator:

i) Subject matter can seem more up to date and relevant, but this is a very narrow view of

relevance and depth in learning.

ii) That this ‘relevance’ may not always be immediately apparent, or even visible at all, but

is highly valuable to development and growth in learning.

iii) That something done for pleasure can be an immensely valuable learning tool and

learning experience, again in ways that could be all too easily dismissed as they are not

immediately obvious.

So, to Jigsaw Joan. Joan loves doing jigsaws and she is very good at them. Her two brothers tease her as they think jigsaws are useless and teach you nothing. One justifies his stamp collecting because it teaches him Geography, the other Mechano because it teaches him to be ‘clever with his hands.’ Both activities with more immediately palpable benefits. Joan remains undeterred from her jigsaws and retorts, ‘I will just do them for pleasure then!’ Good for her, and you’ve guessed it, she gets her moment and proves that she really has learnt a very great deal.

Her brothers have a birthday and they are given some money to spend. They leave the note on the table and the breeze through the open window blows it near to a mousehole. The excited mouse shreds the note for a nest. When they boys discover their shredded note, they are very miserable.

Enter Joan. She looks at it and sees it as a jigsaw. She pieces it together, puts sticky tape behind it, and hey presto, the note is restored. Her amazed brothers praise her highly. The note is accepted at the toy shop.

Whatever the plausibility of the note being accepted, what does the story show us? Joan is patient, deft, a problem solver, and really has learnt something USEFUL from doing jigsaws, even though one might look at a jigsaw and say ‘I won’t need that to learn how to pay my mortgage.’ No, but it might make your calculations and reflection on how to proceed faster.

I always enjoyed this charming Blyton story, but its deeper message has only really come home to me now. Don’t look at an activity or subject and dismiss it because you think it old or inapplicable. Ask, how will my ability to learn, apply, solve and deal with problems grow. Also ask, I will enjoy this and that helps you learn, grow, and hone your skills, too.

And obviously, I would argue Classics ticks all those boxes. Its relevance may not be ‘obvious’. But enjoyed and relished, the benefits and reflections are enormous.

[i] This great story can be found in:

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