Kintsugi: Putting Broken Pieces Together

There is a story told of an emperor in Japan who broke his favourite bowl. He sent it back to China where it had originally been made to have it repaired. When it was returned, it was full of ugly staples that held it together. The emperor called on the artists in his own country to come up with a better solution for repairing his bowl, and so began the Japanese art of mending ceramics through the use of golden seams. The process highlights the fact that the ceramic piece was broken by highlighting the cracks with golden veins such that the history of brokenness makes the bowl more beautiful than it was before (Winner, 2018). The brokenness represents essential moments in history. The flaws are not hidden but rather celebrated.


How can we use this concept of redemption, the idea of turning broken pieces into objects more beautiful than the original, within the work of the classroom? I grew up with the desire to “change the world.” Specifically, I wanted the education system to be better for students than it was for me. The reality is that we cannot change what already is, but we can play a part in transforming the world.


When I think back to my childhood, I recall how I struggled as a student and yet, by the grace of God, made it through my studies. As I was finishing up my studies in high school, I decided that I would become a teacher in the hopes that I could help others navigate their own educational journey. I am the teacher I am today because of the brokenness that I experienced as a student. My philosophy of education is rooted in the belief that each student is uniquely created by God and that education should celebrate both diversity and community. Learning should be an experience that brings joy and a sense of belonging for all students in a class that integrates academic and social-emotional learning.


On a day-to-day basis, I need to make decisions about how I interact with others and with creation. My decisions can either support God’s redemptive work or they can work against it. Supporting God’s redemptive work includes listening to others and becoming conscious of my own biases. It involves real work for real people as a response to loving God and loving others. It includes caring for the world by making decisions that look beyond my own conveniences and consider the value of the world’s resources we have been entrusted with. I am challenged as an educator to continue to ask myself, “How does this contribute to God’s redemptive work?”


I love the reference to kintsugi, the art form that highlights the brokenness of a piece of pottery in such a way that this brokenness creates an opportunity for beauty that was not there before. Within education, we know that mistakes are a powerful learning opportunity. I wonder if talking about our mistakes or perhaps struggles is something that we don’t do enough of. As we face our own struggles and the struggles of our students, it is good to be reminded that even though God is the potter and we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8), he is also able to redeem our brokenness and make us beautiful.


References

Winner, L. F. (2018). Characteristic damage. In The dangers of Christian practice: On wayward practice, characteristic damage, and sin. Yale University Press. 

Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash