Monday, September 19, 2016

Day 8- The Honeymoon is Over

It was definitely Monday today, and as we begin the third week of September I can say with some certainty, the honeymoon is over. Today was not an easy day and the challenges began first thing in the morning, even before we began our meditation.

Student A had returned after being away at the end of last week. He and Student B, who despite both knowing better, just can't stay away from each other, and there were several annoying "he did this, he said that," events before the day began. I chatted with each of them and dealt with all of the other things a teacher deals with in the morning, as the day begins before announcements.

Both more or less contained themselves through opening exercises, but continued to call attention as I introduced the day, mentioning that we would be starting our first writing piece, right after we meditated. As I went to turn off the lights, both Students A and B started to make elaborate movements into their positions. I reminded everybody to relax, that the only way to do it wrong was bother someone else,  as well as addressing the natural need for attention we all feel, but to pay attention to what kind of attention we are looking for, challenging them to look beyond the need for negative attention, hoping that would do the trick, as both seemed to settle into their seats.

About 20 seconds into the meditation it was evident it did not do the trick at all, as from both sides of the room there were beeping noises. It was obvious to everyone, including me that Student A and Student B were making the noises, and to the credit of everyone else there wasn't much response. At first I tried a gentler, more patient shush and a look at each, but when it happened again I was amused, nor was I going to put up with it.

I stopped the meditation, though the music was still going, and without yelling, but raising my already loud voice to be clear and stern I said, "NO," I let them, and everyone, know their disruptions were unacceptable and they did not have the right to disrupt and take away from anyone else's experience.

Student A got the message immediately. The moment I had interrupted the meditation and starting talking to the class, Student A put their head down and didn't lift it up again for the rest of the meditation. The rest of the day was also very challenging.

At this point, I feel it is important I acknowledge, so you know that I know, this child, Student A, has a story. I can't share it with you, and even if I were allowed, I don't think I could, because I only know a fraction of it. But this child has a story and has faced challenges children aren't supposed to have to face. There are many of us, part of my school team, who also know what I know and more, and we are all working together to support this child and his learning. Student A and Student B are two of too many children in my classroom, school, and in our schools, who have had to deal with too many harsh realities of the world and bring their experiences, and their trauma, to school each day. It is a large part of why the best thing I can do is to keep meditating with them and all of my students, along with everything else we do.

So for today, Student A put his head down, and Student B tried to shift the blame to his seatmate as soon as I called out the bad behaviour. Annoying as it is, I can't say 100% for certain that it wasn't the other student, and so I said I didn't care who was making the noise I expected it would stop and there was nothing more to discuss at the moment. Later, there was more discussion, but in the moment we got back to the meditation.

I went to the music player, restarted the track and the entire meditation, essentially pressing restart on the day. I told that to the rest of the class, as we readjusted and started again. Then we began the same 4 minutes and 38 seconds, except that rather than circulating around the room, I stood behind Student B for the entire time.

The rest of the class seemed mostly unaffected by the interruption or Students A and B's behaviour. Some were in their classroom last year and are used to the annoyances, and other seems to not pay much attention. Regardless, none were visibly bothered and all relaxed into the silence again.

It is as much about preserving the time for meditation as it is about insisting on demonstrating respect for one another. If we can do it for five minutes in quiet breath, then we can build on it in all the rest of our learning. And in the end, though it was challenging for both of these students to get going on the writing piece I then introduced, they were respectful and more or less engaged during the lesson- at least they did much less bothering of each other or anyone else, at least for those classes.

After some prep time in the morning, I saw my switch class in the afternoon after lunch. Perhaps because it was Monday afternoon, perhaps it was an aftereffect of the morning, or perhaps the honeymoon is indeed over, but they were more restless and I was less patient as we began the afternoon.

To their credit, before we even got started I had to help support with my new student, another child with another story, and getting him situated where he needed to be, which meant the class was waiting for me for just over 5 minutes, which isn't very long, except for a class of middle school kids who are waiting. They did a great job in the sense that they were just hanging out, chatting and waiting, some on devices, but no chaos or craziness. At the same time, they were loud and talkative and a little wound up. And there is a sense of uncertainty as they are waiting for their teacher who is supposed to be there.

As soon as I got back, I thanked them for their patience and trustworthiness while they waited for me, but was a bit premature in congratulating them on their ability to come back quickly. Though they were quiet as we began the meditation, it is harder for this class to settle. I went through the meditation and there were no outright disruptions, but there were a lot of subtle annoyances contributing to the restlessness. A couple of girls were shifting in their seats and moving a binder they wanted to use as a pillow back and forth between them. Another boy was playing with his sweater, pulling his hoodie over his head and tying the strings around his head. Another was fidgeting with his stuff and another was trying to hide the grapes he was eating. Again it was quiet but not silent.

I didn't interrupt the meditation with the exception of one Shh, but I did address it after. Again I talked about all the different ways we call attention and that playing with things is like saying to everyone, "Hey look at me." I actually exaggerated a variety of movements quite comically to emphasize how silly our actions can be at times, and how we call for attention, sometimes unintentionally. Then we got on with the rest of our learning, finished our name sharing and then going back to our schedule with our introduction to French, which quickly brought us to break.

The rest of the afternoon held a whole other variety of challenges, fodder for another blog. For now it is done and we will see what tomorrow brings.

Today was definitely a Monday.

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