Friday, September 9, 2016

Day 2-Friday with a Headache

If it hadn't been only the second day of school I probably would have stayed home today, or at least gone home at lunch. As a sufferer of frequent headaches and migraines over the last few years, I have learned to gauge their severity, and as they are never well timed, my own level of tolerance for the pain. Today was the worst I hope to endure while I still have to function and be there for my students, and even though I still had to do the talking as I guided them through the meditations, I was grateful for the moments of silence as we started the morning, and then the afternoon.

When I got to school in the morning, I wasn't sure I would make it through the day. I wasn't sure the headache wasn't going to get worse and that I wouldn't have to leave at some point, perhaps with little notice, and so as we began the day I had to give my students some information. I had hoped I wouldn't have to do it quite so early in the year, but I wanted them to know why I had dimmed all the lights as I walked in the door, and why I might be less cheery, or have less patience, both today and in the future.

As I was trying to navigate dealing with my headache, and conveying enough, but not too much, information, my little guy, who I will call A, was already demonstrating his needs, demanding attention, which brought up a discussion about attention, positive, negative and neutral and the "Rice Experiment" (google it-it's really cool) and the need for attention that he, and everyone of us, has as human beings,

In the few minutes after announcements and before the meditation began, I invited the student beside A to move to an alternate spot, grateful I had an extra space, so he now has a table to himself and room to spread out. I also pointed out a box of plasticine with which he can fidget anytime, as long as I didn't find it on the floor, as well as the paper on which he can draw while he listens. I reminded him the only thing he can't do is bother anyone else, and  I reminded everyone else that everything I had said is true not only for A, but everyone. A went for the plasticine immediately, but within a few minutes had abandoned it for drawing.

As we began the meditation, just before I turned on the music, I challenged everyone to put everything away, and give themselves the time to breath, because they deserved it. I said a line I have said many times and will many more, "Everything can wait for 5 minutes because you are more important than anything you have to do." I turned off the lights, started the music, and everyone followed the prompts except for A, he just kept on drawing. I would prefer he tried meditating, but I didn't say a word- he wasn't bothering anybody and I am not asking for more than that.

Almost everybody else joined in the meditation. My other little guy, B, began the meditation, stopped in the middle to return to some kind writing he had been doing, then stopped and came back to the meditation. He didn't bother anyone. The rest was pretty much the same as yesterday. Still, silent, maybe a little bit less weird.

When it was over and I went to turn on the lights, I passed by A and noticed he had drawn some sort of blueprint. It was a house of some kind and he had everything labeled. Again today, when we were done, I asked if anyone had anything to share and as I waited for a response, I noted their discomfort in the silence.When no one responded I reminded them that that was okay, as was that awkward feeling in silence, and all of the awkward and uncomfortable feelings we have. We need to notice them so that we are aware that we also get through them.

And then we got on with our day, our name games and our first art\get-to-know-you piece. It wasn't without its challenges from A and B respectively (already) and a few other needs, but as a class I have some amazing students and we were off and running. The first two periods were over before I knew it and my headache hadn't gotten any worse.

My double prep before lunch, which thankfully let me rest my head a moment and helped me survive the day, also meant I wouldn't see my switch class until after lunch. As every teacher knows, afternoons are very different than mornings, and meditations are sometimes more challenging, and perhaps all the more necessary, in the afternoon. As we began the afternoon, I was very much hoping the afternoon would go smoothly and quickly, especially because I still had a headache.

One of the great benefits of team teaching in middle years sharing two classes, or having a switch class. Working with two groups, both individually and together as a large group has many advantages, not the least of which is getting a break from needy students, even if it is in exchange for other needy students, as is generally the case. Each group also brings all sorts of individual personalities, and I already know I am super lucky to have two amazing classes of students. These kids are just lovely.

Though my switch class does indeed have its own needs, and they are the more outgoing group. They are also an inquisitive bunch. As we began the afternoon,I brought awareness to the difference between morning and afternoons and asked them to try to notice it too, especially as the year went on. Then I asked if anyone had any questions about anything before we started our meditation. Though a little shy at first, once one student, the Student A of this class with a less overbearing personality, who I will call 1 to avoid confusion between the classes, got things going, they were full of questions. They had questions about work, and field trips and other random things, and after I took a few minutes to answer them all, before we started our meditation, I thanked them for being brave enough to ask all their questions and reminded them that their questions were important. Of course, 1 asked why? Why was it important they asked questions?

He was surprised when I answered, "Your questions are important because you are important," and then noticeably stopped listening to the rest of the explanation, but was quiet again as soon as I turned off the lights, as was everyone else.

Through the meditation there was quiet. More students put their heads down in this class, and I had the feeling that this class will be more chatty and restless once the honeymoon period ends, but that was just a fleeting feeling, because whatever comes, I will deal with. For today, for the first afternoon, and a Friday afternoon, with a headache, all I could do was appreciate the silence and the great start to the school year.

The feeling helped carry me through the afternoon, and though I am not quite sure how I made it, I did. Now my headache has more or less passed, and I am grateful for so many things, including that this writing is done for today, as well as to all of you who are reading it.

I wish you all a restful weekend.

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