Assembly point - A solution one piece at a time

19th June 2009 at 01:00
Use a simple activity like doing a jigsaw to illustrate an assembly on planning, motivation and perseverence

Over the half-term holiday I decided to do a jigsaw. It was a village scene with a church, cottages, green fields, hills and blue sky. I haven't done one for about 25 years but thought it might be meditative.

As I started to progress, it reminded me of tackling other projects. For example, fitting a new bathroom, learning to play a piece of music or writing an essay.

The beginning of a project can be daunting, but this jigsaw was a choice, so I poured all the pieces out and made a start.

It usually helps to break down tasks into smaller chunks, so I sorted the pieces by colour and then fitted them together into disjointed groups.

Like many projects, once you've got going, you start making progress in leaps and bounds. The jigsaw seemed to be progressing nicely. All of the edges were put together, I managed a whole tree and then the house that was next to the tree.

A project is easier and more motivating if you have a vision of where it's going. With a puzzle you have the picture on the box, but how much harder would it be to complete without the picture?

When learning a piece of music it must help to have an idea of what it sounds like.

When designing a bathroom, having an image in your head of how all the pipes will connect together, along with a view of what the finished decor will look like, must help.

With an essay, having an idea of what you want to say, what message, points or arguments you want the reader to understand is crucial.

And then, after completing four-fifths of the jigsaw in about an hour, I ground to a halt. I hit the sky: the big open space of blue. I decided the only way forward was to sort as much as I could into the different shades of blue, but this really didn't help. So I sat thinking, "there must be a quick method", but I could not figure it out. I thought about giving up, but I'd come so far.

How easy is it to leave a project unfinished? You see it time and again with DIY projects. Likewise, if you are a decent enough musician you will be able to sight read pieces so that they sound OK, but to get a piece polished takes practice.

It may be interesting to research and write an essay and enjoy the formation of ideas and arguments, but to really finish it off takes combing through your writing and rewriting sections to give further clarity and in the end the boring and time-consuming proofreading so that there are no grammatical or spelling errors.

So the sky . the only way I could work out how to do it was to pick a slot and try out each piece until one fitted and then move to the next slot. Once I had resigned myself to this method I picked up speed and came up with logical ways of testing.

Yes, it was only a jigsaw, but it was an achievement. I enjoyed the first parts, organising and building, then the pace increasing as all the sections started slotting together, but then I reached the plateau. I had done the easy parts and paused at the sky. But did I give up? No. I persevered and completed my project for that afternoon.

Jasmine Renold is head of ICT at Withington Girls' School in Manchester and from September will be assistant headteacher at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School.

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