Monday, September 26, 2016

Day 12- A Better Monday

The beginning of the last week in September and we are hitting our stride. Today was a much better Monday. It was also a Day 3 and it made for an interesting day, an early meditation, a late meditation and a moment to breathe in between.

I began with my switch class for LA.To clarify for a few who have asked, I share two classes with my teaching partner Mr. Y. My class is my homeroom class and his class is my switch class, because we switch classes for certain subjects. He teaches Math and Science, I teach English Language Arts (ELA or just LA) and basic French, and we co-teach Social Studies, bringing both our classes together. We set our schedule at the beginning of the year, based on the timetable we were given by administration and provincial guidelines for curriculum and hours of instruction per subject.

Day 3 is the day I don't see my class on their own until the last period of the day. I began with my switch for LA. As I introduced the day, I noted it was the beginning of the last week in September, and along with the sunny forecast for our field trip on Wednesday, we were coming to the end of the inhale, 2, 3, 4 for the entire meditation. I let them know that next week we would be beginning different meditations, opening our potential to work with our breath in different ways, now that they had gained experienced with their breathing and know how to meditate.

Then we began our meditation. It was clearly Monday morning as the room got very quiet, very quickly, especially for this class. Almost everyone put their heads down, including the boys who like to work and draw, and the girls who like to try to carry on their conversations, without any actual words. One girl, who likes to look around, did, and the other boy who looks at me made eye contact once and then put his head down. I guess everyone needed to rest, and it seemed to reenergize.

When we were done, we rearranged the desks and they got into small groups to share their Six Word Memoirs. Everyone had something to share and everyone participated. They weren't entirely enthusiastic about the written component, responding to peers memoirs, but that will come as they gain experience and stamina. Overall, the small group sharing went very well.

Speaking of stamina, after the sharing, but before the class ended and we moved into Social Studies, I warned them that I wasn't certain if we would meditate again in Social Studies, and if we did meditate I wasn't sure when we would do it, but it would probably be at the end of the class. I told them that when I plan our classes, I leave some parts very flexible, so I can measure how things go and how everybody feels, so I don't always know how things will go or how long discussions will take.

Our topic was our continuing discussion of the meaning of the words, Society, Culture and Stereotypes and the connection to Orange Shirt Day coming up this Friday, September 30. Orange Shirt Day is for Every Child Matters, part of the movement towards Reconciliation. It honours the children of the Residential School System, both survivors and those who perished. It was inspired by the story of a girl named Phyllis who was stripped of her orange shirt, as well as her dignity, culture and family in Residential School. For more information, check out or google it.

 Then just before break, I told them whatever happened in the class, I knew they would do their best and be their awesome selves.

In the previous class Mr. Y had already rearranged the desks and so getting back into their groups from the previous class went very smoothly. I told them we were going to get into some serious discussion, and reiterated what I had said to the other class. Then before we started, I told them we weren't going to do a full meditation, but we would instead take a moment to prepare for the hour or so ahead. I felt everyone was already ready to go and this was a natural moment- we didn't need more.

Mr. Y offered to turn off the lights, but I didn't even feel like that was necessary. I wanted everyone to be more alert and I wanted it all to be on the spot, without having to do anything at all, because that is the beauty of these moments. I told everyone, wherever they were sitting, to relax in their seats, straightening their backs as much as possible.  Mr. Y's room is a large science lab. While everyone was sitting in groups they were all facing the front, where I was standing, behind the large desk, which is slightly raised. I stood up straight, leaning naturally on the desk, and when I told everyone to close their eyes, I closed my eyes too.

I said we would all take three deep breaths together and I took three long, deep breaths which were likely audible, even in the back, but not forced or loud. Again, in that split second at the start, I was a little worried, could they do it? Would they keep it together? Would someone ruin it?

But in those three deep breaths I listened to the silence, somewhat amazed, yet not really surprised, and totally grateful. Those breaths didn't last very long, and I couldn't see Student A, who had been carefully placed in the middle of the room, with space around him to fidget and draw (or rip up the paper into a thousand pieces, which at least he cleaned up as he left), or Student B, who had risen the challenge when placed in a strong group of students and was sitting at the back, but they too were silent. It was a glorious 3 breaths.

As they ended, I guided them through 3 more breaths, suggesting they prepare for the class ahead, to visualize their focus, listening, participation, and most importantly taking care of themselves. We took two more silent breaths and then we got into some amazing discussion of Society and Culture and ultimately, colonization or one society taking over another's culture, leading to Residential Schools and Orange Shirt Day.

Whether it was the moments to breathe, or our awesome students, or the combination, it was an amazing class. Students were respectful and engaged, to the point that we rarely had to ask for attention, even when I was doing a lot of talking.

The most remarkable moment occurred during our movement break. Sitting for such a long time is impossible, or at least not desirable to me, and so we build a break into our class. At about the halfway mark, we stopped for 5 minutes and I set the timer, asking they be back in their seats when the chime sounded. As we counted down the last 5 seconds, everyone was already seated and ready to go. These are the moments that count the most for me, and I always make sure I tell them,

After lunch, I saw my switch class for French, then everyone was off to gym and Band/Exploratory (exactly what it sounds like- the class for non-band (it's a choice) students where we do all sorts of things- art, building projects, social games, being active, researching topics- exploring stuff), and finally they came back to me at the end of the day for French.

They were all sitting down, and as I began in French, I almost forgot that we hadn't meditated that day. But I didn't, and as I let them know I had remembered we had to meditate, there was a lot more joy than dismay-even Student B cheered a little.

Student A was out of the room and everyone else settled in quickly, and though they were quiet, the meditation was not without distractions. I began everything as usual, also noting with this group that we are already coming to the end of September, and as we began, on girl had to leave them room. She got up silently, closing the door behind her. Then an EA had to come in and get something for my new, new student, the student I received in exchange for my new student, who was not finding his place in the busyness and noise of my classroom, and both classes working together, and was switched to another room. My new, new student has different needs due to visual impairment, and so had to leave before she could join our meditation today, but has already told me she loves meditating. She is also almost as loud as I am, so we are a good fit, and I am happy to have her, but during today's meditation the result was people coming in and out of the room.

After the first student came back in and sat down, all quietly, another boy had to leave. We made eye contact and the look in his face made it clear that we was concerned that he had to leave, but he had to go. He tried to be very quiet as he left, but sometimes that makes even more noise, which happened today, and he demonstrated was not his intention, but caused heads to turn and a slight giggle. With one gentle redirection, the room became silent again and the meditation continued, even as he returned a short while later.

After the meditation ended I congratulated all of them on their power, both those meditating and those who had to go, but did so with the most respect they could. I let them know sometimes things happen and our power is in how we respond and how we take care of ourselves. If they were going in and out in the middle of meditations every day, we would be having a different conversation, but sometimes we have to go and then I want them to do what they need to do, as respectfully as possible. Just like they did today.

Then I told them two stories about kids who didn't do that, both over ten years ago. One student was so concerned about being at school he came when he should have stayed home. Right in the middle of the morning meditation, he puked all over his desk. It was gross. Another time, a girl didn't want to interrupt, but I noticed something happening with her and her friend. I went over and asked what was wrong and her friend told me she was having an asthma attack and didn't want to interrupt to get her inhaler. I told them that not being able to breathe is a good reason to interrupt and to make sure they did, because some days are like that. I let them know I was also thankful that wasn't today. Then we wrapped up the day with some games in French.

Some days are better than others- I am grateful today was a good day.

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