It was a Friday, getting ready for a field trip on Monday. It was going to be a good day. Switching up our schedule meant we split the first two periods, one period of Math and one period of LA for each class. It also meant back to back meditations, in period one and then period two, with both meditations were done before 10:00 a.m. Whether it was the timing, or just the day itself, it lead to two peaceful meditations and the start to a good Friday (no pun intended).
I began with my class first thing in the morning, but before we started the day I did some rearranging of the seating. I had been thinking about splitting up Student B and his buddies- finally- anyway, but my decision was clinched when I arrived to their arguing/nearly coming to blows over something, and one boy bothering the other, and that was that. I asked some girls to switch tables with the two boys, then I offered Student B the chance to slide in the other direction and sit beside a quiet boy on the other side, but he declined, and stayed where he was, now surrounded by girls.
After the switch, but before we started class, I took the opportunity to have another conversation, one of our continuing conversations, with Student B, about the work he is doing every day, the progress he is making, and the natural tendency of human nature to take one step forward and two steps back, especially as we are learning, and to be aware of both, to credit the successes and progress, and pay attention to the steps back, but not get down on ourselves and use them as an excuse to give up.
As everyone was getting settled in their new seats, and Student B displayed his dissatisfaction through his sulk, I told him one of my favourite stories, which caught the attention of most of the class. About 6 or 7 years ago, I had a student very similar to Student B- my experience holds one or two every year- and that year the student struggled to stay focused and get his work done. He was very capable, as is Student B, and I was on him to get it done- another classic paradox of teaching, what I saw as encouragement, he saw as nagging, at best.
One day this student asked me, very earnestly, "Ms. Satran, don't you like me?" I was taken aback as this kid, though also somewhat entertaining, was indeed quite likeable. I responded that I was surprised by his question, and of course I liked him. I went into the lengthy explanation of my behaviour being a demonstration of how much I liked him, as well as how I believed in his abilities and potential, finally concluding that I do everything I do because I care about him.
As I finished the five minute response he had probably forgotten he would receive, and tuned out half, he looked up at me and responded, "Could you care less?"
That story drew a laugh from Student B, and the others, as it usually does, and I assured him I could never care less about him, or any of them, and then it was 9 o'clock and time to start the day. After announcements, attendance and going over the day's changes in schedule, we got into our meditation quickly. The friend who sits across from Student B, who he sometimes tries to impress, was off at cross country and so there was no one for him to look to for attention, and in his unhappy state it didn't matter. He quickly put his head down, as did his buddies, who were quiet in their new seats, as was everyone else, almost everyone with their heads down as usual.
The 5 minutes and 44 seconds went quickly and quietly. I prompted the posture, breathe count, inhaling and exhaling focus and distraction as they worked on their projects, as well as inhaling their patience and exhaling their impatience, with the work, each other, me and themselves. It didn't take more than 3 minutes to give direction and so the last half of the track was spent in silence, enjoying the moments and the breath. I had my eyes closed for most of the time, but opened them towards the end, just to take in the peace and stillness of the classroom. It was a great way to start the day and a bonus for a Friday.
Forty five minutes later when my switch class came it was just about as quiet, but a little more annoying. I started the meditation within a minute or two of their arrival in class and they settled pretty quickly. It was fairly typical- my breathers sat up straight, the other boys have resigned to putting their heads down, and Student 1 sat up and fidgeted with something, but it was quiet in the room.
Within the first few breaths I noticed that two of the girls, regular lookers around, had decided to continue their game from the library and were looking at each other. They weren't disrupting, or calling the attention of others, but they were distracting and calling each other's attention. As I continued the meditation, walking around the room, I gave them each a glance, indicating I was aware of their communication, hoping that would be enough.
When they continued their smiles, glances, and subtle gestures, though admittedly kind of cute, I was also getting annoyed. I moved to the centre of the room, continuing with the breath count, and stopping to stand directly in front of one of the girls, blocking their line of vision. They put their heads down for a moment, until I moved on. When the other girl continued as I took the next step, I acknowledged my own annoyance with their resistance, similar to the annoyance I feel when they resist any of the learning experiences I try to facilitate for them, amplified slightly because I feel the meditation is more important than all the other learning we do (perhaps put together).
On this day, I also recognized that I was particularly annoyed because one of the girls has a sister with whom I worked for the last two years. I realized that though perhaps unfair, the bias was less about how different she is from her sister- both fabulous girls in different ways- and more about the fact that as an extension of the relationship with her sister, I had developed a relationship with her, and so her resistance to me and my values feels even more disrespect as a result, more of a betrayal. I demonstrated my disapproval with a look worthy of any middle school girl, and one I hoped she would appreciate, or at least understand- a cross between an eyebrow raise, scowl, and eyeroll to end all eyerolls. I know that she noticed because she promptly put her head down for a moment.
As I continued the meditation, still in the middle of the room, intermittently standing in front of the girls, and we brought our attention to the rhythm of our natural breath, noticing each inhale and exhale, I acknowledged the challenges meditation brings. I told them, as I made eye contact with each girl that I knew it was difficult to look inside, that sometimes it is scary to recognize things about ourselves, especially if it means that then we have to make a change, but that it is also important, and that they are worth it, they deserve to give themselves the time to look within, or at least just take a few minutes to breath without worrying about anyone else.
Then I prompted them to inhale to confidence to believe in themselves, everything they had to do and their ability to follow through, and exhale the fear that blocks them from giving themselves the chance. As we moved into the silence, which was only the last minute and a half or so of the meditation, the girls had calmed and everyone was pretty quiet. Student 1 had been fidgeting less, but as we came to the end, his movement caused small disruptions, never really allowing to the complete peace of the room before. But it was quiet, and enjoyable enough for most, so I will take it- as if I have a choice.
However, if the rest of the day is an indication of its start, then it did the trick. We all made our way through a busy day, positively and productively, even as both classes came together at the end of the day to plan for our field trip on Monday. Depending on the weather we are either going to an indoor or outdoor venue. We spent the last part of the afternoon preparing for both, as one will be Monday and the second next week, and then moved into independent work for the last half hour of the day, and their focus was impressive on a Friday afternoon. Pretty much everyone was engaged in the work of their choice and the afternoon was done before we knew it.
Now all that is left is to hope for sunshine on Monday and enjoy the weekend. I hope you do as well.