Sunday, September 18, 2016

Day 7- Friday, our first regular Day3

Day 3 is going to be different. It is going to take some figuring out. The first day of school was a Day 3, but we didn't follow the schedule on the first day, so realizing how strange Day 3 will be this year this Friday was something of a revelation.

I gratefully acknowledge that though I haven't figured out how to see my different followers or my numbers, I know I have a few and that they don't all know what I mean when I say Day 3, so to explain, most Manitoba schools follow a 6 day school cycle, which are aptly named Days 1 through 6. At our school, each day is divided into 8, 40 minute periods, which we often group as doubles, or 80 minute periods, with a 5 minute morning and afternoon break and lunch in between. The schedule is then set, as far as outside classes, like Phys. Ed or T.A.A (Technology and Applied Arts), which are taught by other teachers, and my prep time, and fairly flexible as far as the time shared with my teaching partner and our two classes, which we determine. We try to stay consistent and follow the schedule as much as we can, but also make adjustments according to the needs of our classrooms and learning. The freedom our schedule allows is one of the great joys of teaching and learning in middle school, allowing us truly adapt to the needs of our learners and the different things we do in our classrooms. It is also the reason we can make monthly trips to the library, and take other field trips as parts of our learning as other teachers are unaffected. This year our field trip day is Day 5, with the first one coming at the end of the month.

So, this Friday was Day 3 and though my partner and I had designed the schedule, it was the first time we were living it, and I really noticed how it had worked out. First thing in the morning my class switches with the other class and they have Math while I do LA with the other class for 2 periods. Then both classes come together for Social Studies for periods 3 and 4. After lunch we switch again for Science and French, then they go to Gym, and after break to Band/Exploratory, before my class comes back to me to end the day for French. On Day 3, the first time I see my class in our room is during period 8. It may make for some interesting days. Friday was the first of them.

The first meditation of the morning was what is quickly becoming routine in my switch class. As we began, I shared with them some of my experiences from the day before, including how I noticed the differences between the two university classes, as I had with them and the other class, and how some university students had put their heads down, and one man even fell asleep. I told them I didn't wake him up and I wouldn't wake them up, but reminded them how important it was to get enough sleep. Then we began our meditation and it is quickly becoming routine. Most put their heads down, so I continue to stress hinging at the hips at straightening the back, and now they know the rest. Inhale, 2, 3, 4, hold, 2, exhale, 2, 3, 4.

Their Name Representations were due that morning. There were a few who were working furiously to finish from the moment they sat down. I addressed their homework before we began, reminding them of the bigger picture of responsibility, using their time, which they had had plenty, productively and more wisely in the future, as we are only just beginning and the work is going to become a lot more challenging. I told them for today not to worry, they would have more time if they needed it, and as I started, I reminded them the time in meditation was more important than any one thing they had to do, and I challenged them to put everything away.

All did but one, who kept colouring as we began. For the first minute or so it was fine, not ideal, but not disruptive to anyone else. As he continued, his switching pencils, fumbling and looking for colours began to become annoying, not terribly noisy, but disruptive to the stillness. I moved closer to him to give a warning, and as we made eye contact, he indicated he understood. He continued for a moment or two longer, then when he dropped a pencil, causing others to fall and make more noise, I started to moved in his direction, and he immediately put his head down and kept it there. I think he started to understand how even seemingly harmless, quiet activities, can be disruptive, which was never really his intention. He realized it wasn't the right time to get his work done, and later did manage to finish and present. He is another character and I am going to enjoy watching him grow.

The rest of the meditation was quiet and a great way to start a Friday, as well as a great lead into our Name Representation sharing, which involved a small presentation and questions and answers, mirroring the research presentations we will eventually be doing. We didn't finish all the sharing and carried it over into the afternoon, a perfect example of what the flexibility of scheduling allows, and beyond being a great way to get to know each other, was an excellent to end the first full week.

After break in the morning, both classes came together in the other room for Social Studies. It was our third time coming together in the other room and the METTA meditation had been our only one there. Until the class had began, I hadn't decided whether we were going to meditate or not. I hadn't entirely figured out exactly how I wanted to approach Social Studies until the last minute, because I am trying something new, and was throwing some ideas around until the past possible second. I ultimately decided some group work exploring the meaning of words like Society, Culture and Stereotypes was the place to start and around the same time, noticed if we didn't meditate then, I wouldn't see my class again until the end of the afternoon, and figured I better set the precedent early, and meditate with both classes, even though I had just meditated with my switch class.

If I had realized all of that just a little bit sooner, I would have done a better job preparing my switch class, letting them know they were going to meditate twice that morning and help them be more ready for it. But it didn't work out that way, and as I often say, if that is the biggest mistake I made that day then life is pretty good.

As both classes settled in I let them know what we would be doing, and that after a short time we would be spreading out and working in small groups in both rooms. Everyone was happy to hear this, as the room, though almost twice as big as my room, was also really warm that day. I found out later that it had been 27 degrees celsius in the room that day. It explained some of the restlessness, and made the achievement all the more remarkable.

My switch class was caught by surprise that we were going to meditate again, as we had just meditated. I did apologize for not letting them know, telling them the truth, that I hadn't realized that that was the way the schedule was going to work out. I also told them not to worry, it wouldn't hurt them to sit quietly and breathe twice, and that they should get used to it, as it would likely happen again next Day 3. I was smiling the whole time I spoke and they took it all in stride.

And so we began another perfectly imperfect meditation. It was fine, quiet but not silent, and a little bit of restlessness in the stillness. The other room is still weirder - more crowded, no regulated seating, with big glass windows, a bit like a fishbowl- a lot more opportunity for distractions.

A new student also joined our class that morning. He was welcomed to our room and immediately befriended by another student who had arrived in Canada not long ago and could empathize with the experience, which was amazing and also another cause for excitement in the room. It brought another level of restlessness, especially as Student B had to try to call attention. I spent the greater part of the meditation standing in that corner of the room, which of course helped.

Despite the challenges, and the not silent quiet, it was a good start to the class. The group work ahead would also be challenging- big concepts and ideas, working together to understand some text, creating definitions and applying their understandings to explain examples- not easy tasks. But we know they are up to it. Just as I know they can sit quietly and breathe together for four and a half minutes. Some days will be good, others not so good, and we will grow from them all, just as we will grow from our start today.  Pretty good for a Friday morning.

By the time my class came back to me at the end of the day, there was no thought of meditation. Instead it was time for some movement and so we played some French games to practice vocabulary, build trust and positive feelings around speaking French, and end the week in a fun way.

At the end of the day, before we all went home, I congratulated us all on finishing our first week of learning in grade 7. It has been a fabulous start.

Hopefully the week ahead will be as good for us in our meditations and learning together, and for you in your lives. Thanks for reading.


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