Thursday, September 15, 2016

Day 6- Teacher Candidates are still students

I spent one year teaching kindergarten before I switched to middle years, and when people would ask how I liked it, I used to joke that it is a pretty much the same but they are cuter in kindergarten. Today, having spent time with two different classes of Teacher Candidates at the University of Manitoba, thanks to my former advisor, Professor Gary Babiuk, I could give the same response. It really is pretty much the same, except I talked a lot more, and they are much cuter in middle school.

Please don't misunderstand- it was a fantastic day and a super interesting experience, and as Gary is aware, I am ever grateful for the opportunities he has given me over the past five years and our continuing work together, but in the end, working with adult learners is not much different than working with adolescents, especially when it comes to meditating.

As it happened, in the first class of the morning, not only was there a student there who could speak to her positive experience with meditation, but she could speak directly to her positive experience meditating with me, as she had been in my grade 8 class in 2007. Before the class began, she immediately reintroduced herself to me and I remembered her right away- I even noticed she had married as her last name had changed. Aside from feeling pretty old, it was wonderful, and gratifying to see her as well.

As we began the morning, I asked if I could put her on spot and if she would share what she remembered of her experience meditating in grade 8. She had been in my switch class and said she remembered being happy knowing she would be in my room every day because she knew she'd have the chance to relax and let go of everything for a little while. As she shared, I felt equally happy and relieved, because in those years I was still such a new and inexperienced teacher, and hadn't yet gained the benefits of my Masters studies.

I continued the introduction and spoke for about 30 minutes, longer than I would with kids of course, but the necessity of being a one-shot presenter, giving the same essential information, explanations and telling the same stories I tell in my classroom over time, many of which I have already written about in my research and a few from this last week.

In the first group a few indicated they meditate already, and there were a few questions and comments as I was speaking, but when I asked questions I was still faced with silence and blank stares a lot like a middle years classroom. I took the opportunity to talk about that anxiety that students of all ages experience, when they have an answer or idea in their head but are too afraid to say it. Often what students are thinking is that their answer is wrong, and even if it is right it isn't that important and someone else will say it. As with my students, I acknowledged that feeling in both groups and how important I feel it is to recognize it, wait through those awkward silences, and give students a chance to think and answer. Someone usually says something and  gets the ball rolling, just like today.

Before long we were into the meditation, a standard classroom meditation, which I will begin in my classroom in October and which allows one to "find what one needs," by attaching a quality they wish to grow to the inhale, and release  the opposite quality which blocks in the exhale. I describe this technique in my chapter and am certain I will share a lot more detail as I continue to  work with my classes  through the year. So for now this introduction will have to suffice as it did with the teacher candidates today.

In both classes I made a point of stressing the meaning I have found in emphasizing the connection I make every day  with my students and Treaty 1 Territory land. I explained that honouring  the  land and acknowledging the Treaties every day is my way of taking steps toward reconciliation and while I recognize that at such a young age my students can't yet grasp the depth of its significance, as we learn throughout the year they will grow in their perspectives knowing it is important to recognize we live on Treaty 1 Territory land.

For this meditation I used a track that was just over 6 minutes. My prompts took about half the time and then I joined in the silent breathing. It was very pleasant and as usual went by quickly and I was soon bringing everybody back, which I reminded the regular meditators can be annoying because they might be just getting going. Afterwards in the first class a couple of students shared they felt relaxed and refreshed.

We debriefed a little more and then I shared a bit more on my experience and METTA meditations as we wouldn't have enough time to do one. I told a few more stories before Gary cut off the discussion as the class had other work to do.

During the break I chatted with a few students, answered some questions as best I could and was very grateful for the positive experience.

I returned later in the day for the second class. It was the same but different, or different but the same.  Though I always know what I am going to talk about, I never know what I am going to say. I like to be spontaneous and respond to the group- I have a lot of stories.

What I thought most remarkable was just as my homeroom and switch class are so noticeably different so were these two classes. In the second class there was much less discussion. There were more students on their phones and more side conversations. It was interesting to note, as was the fact that a handful put their heads down. One young man even fell asleep. I guess the start of the school year is exhausting and he needed rest. I didn't wake him up. In the last 5 years I have been presenting to adults it is rare someone puts down their head, no one has ever fallen asleep. It is fascinating to me. I really don't mind. I take it as a sign that they trusted me enough to take me at my word. I invite students to meditate, but they don't have to accept the invitation, as long as they don't take the opportunity away from anyone else. These guys didn't and that is all I can ask. Like I said, students are students.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder how many future teachers understand how important it is to recognize that we live on and share Treaty One land? Hopefully this introduction will become a part of their learning journey. Thank you for sharing this teaching with all of us.