Thursday, September 8, 2016

Day 1 Inhale, 2, 3 4, Hold 2, Exhale, 2, 3, 4

The first day, the first meditations. If any student, in either of my two classes, had been confident enough to talk about how that first meditation felt, I know that the word they would have used, as students  have many times before, and I am certain will again soon, when they feel comfortable enough, is weird.

The first day, the first meditation of the year is always weird. As in the past, and what happened again in both classes today, is through each of the meditations, both groups of students were absolutely silent. Silent, except for 1 or 2 in each class, during the introduction to meditation at the beginning of the class, the very first thing we did. Silent during 4 minute and 38 seconds of meditation. And silent once we were done, during the debrief, when I asked if anyone had anything to share. Just like many years before, the first meditation of the year was silent. For now, this is all I need to measure both its purpose and its success.

The first day is charged with emotion. I observed my own excitement grow as I entered my classroom this morning, somewhat despite myself. I hadn't been feeling all that enthusiastic, but the students' excitement was palpable and contagious. Most of my students were visibly moved, filled with nervous anticipation for the year to come, and happy to see their friends. A few newcomers were clearly more anxious, a little scared and hesitant, and a couple of students were not thrilled at all to be back at school, This was one of the first things I acknowledged as everyone settled in and we began our day, and the introduction to meditation.

Recognizing how we feel as essential to our health and success in school is part of why we will be meditating together every day, was a part of the introduction to our first meditation, as were my hopes for them to grow into independent individuals who take responsibility for their learning and discover the freedom and power it brings them.

Then I introduced the meditation as I have over the last 13 years. Most of what I said I have said many times before, and written about in detail, with a few variations, as my stories are spontaneous and come as the result of the discussion I try to have in the introduction.

Before I tell students anything, I do the classic teacher thing and ask students about their knowledge and experience with meditation. I was surprised that only a handful of students raised their hands when I asked who had meditated before, because over the past few years the numbers had been consistently increasing. But at the same time, I worked with the same group of students for the last two years, so I guess there has been another shift.

In the end, their previous experience doesn't matter and as I always say, and related again, I have been meditating for over 20 years and I still don't feel like I  am very good at it. And so we began. After all the explanations and a little discussion, which took about 20 minutes or so with each of my classes, and a final reminder that the only way to do it wrong is to bother someone else, I turned off the lights, hit the music and began the meditation.

Every year as I begin, I am always a little bit nervous. I am always optimistic, believing in its importance and value, but I can never really be sure how it is going to work out, and am always a little surprised, and exceptionally grateful when it does. I am sure this is a familiar feeling for many teachers, as I experience it in much of my teaching practice too, but when I meditate with my students it is even more powerful. Maybe because I feel it is riskier.

This year was no different and once again, I am grateful. The 4 and a half minutes flew by, as I guided my students through the breath count we will use for the rest of the month, inhale, 2, 3, 4, hold 2, exhale, 2, 3, 4. and the music played. As I circulated around the room, standing a few seconds longer where I felt there was a need, I noted the silence and observed my students.

Most were sitting up straight in their chairs, feet planted firmly on what we acknowledged today, and will continue to honour every day, on Treaty 1 Territory land, eyes closed, still and silent, One or two had already put their heads down, a battle for another day.

Silence, not bothering anyone else, is all I ask.

I was somewhat concerned about a couple of students in my homeroom, who come with high needs and immediately made their need for attention known, though thankfully silently. Though I stressed the idea of being comfortable in one's chair, and not needing to do anything fancy, two students on either side of the room chose to adopt a pose with their arms in the air, and finger meeting their thumbs, a well-known meditation pose. But not really necessary and perhaps questionably intentioned.

Addressing their need for attention, together with all their other needs, is going to be part of our learning, but first I will need to build a relationship and a level of trust, so for today, I was happy their hand placement was their only questionable choice, and as it didn't bother anyone else, I let it go into the silence. Tomorrow is another day.

For today, the meditations were silent and in that time my students and I came together in our classroom and breathed together as we began our day and our year together.

And tomorrow we will do it all over again.

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