Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Day 23- A Crazy Busy Wednesday

Fighting a cold/sinus/infection/some sort of virus, and waking up with a headache, sore throat and stuffy nose, I stayed home to rest and get better yesterday, and feeling somewhat better, though still not entirely well, I went back to school today.

The note I returned to from the substitute was that everyone had had a good day, and with the exception of Student A, had been quite productive. I learnt later, as they got to work and I checked their progress, that we have different ideas of productive, but that is life in middle school and not entirely surprising. I was happy with cooperative, respectful and quiet.

First thing in the morning, before the day had begun, I also learnt from the note and other reports that Student A had had a tough day yesterday, and as we started the day, and I was taking attendance and he starting poking the person beside him, it was clear his bad day was carrying over to today.

I noticed him reaching over to the table beside him, poking the boys and reaching for their stuff, and there was no choice but to put a stop to it as sternly and clearly as possible, yet even as I raised my voice, which I don't have to do to be loud, and yelled, "No!," he continued to poke the boy beside him.

I went over to his desk and remained firm, pointing out that he had a lot of space, the boys had been exceptionally patient, and others would have been so annoyed they would have gotten themselves in trouble hitting him, and we were all getting fed up with having to ask him to keep his hands to himself. When he continued poking at the boys, I moved the table apart from his, creating about an 8 inch gap, and then moved his table in the other direction another couple of inches. One of the EAs (Educational Assistants) sat herself between Student A and the two boys, creating a physical barrier between them and Student A finally started to settle, turning his attention to folding the papers in front of him into airplanes.

As I went back to my computer to finish attendance, I commented that perhaps Student A had missed me yesterday and this was his way of showing his affection, a comment I often make when students are bickering, insulting each other, or even coming to blows, acknowledging his need for attention. I also noted that I was getting tired of telling him to leave people alone, and that everyone else was getting tired of hearing it, to which one of the students responded with a resounding, "Yeah." At first she was embarrassed, but I let her know that it was okay that she expressed how she felt, it was important, especially when it is done respectfully.

I went on to talk about expressing all of our emotions in a healthy and respectful way, including anger. I reminded them all that it was okay to get angry, and to express anger with respectful words, not insults or fists, and to remember, that anger, like all emotions, doesn't last for long. It passes, and then we move forward. I also reminded them that everyone gets angry sometimes, and everyone has someone get angry at them sometimes, and that we all work through it and live through it, which is why it is so important we recognize our anger for what it is. It is also one of the reasons we meditate, to help us breathe through these events in life, these moments of anger, to help let them go, learn from them and move forward.

Which is exactly what we did, and once we finally got started I was really hoping we could enjoy 5 minutes or so of quiet, because I was already exhausted. Just before we began, Student A chose to fly one of his airplanes across the room, landing in front of me. I wasn't sure how to respond. I really didn't want to fight with him, so I gave him a look, told him exactly that, and that I expected the behaviour would stop. Then I started the meditation.

The lights went off and I began the music and the prompts and made my way around the room and over to Student A. For the first 2 minutes or so I stood beside him, as I gave the posture prompts, through the breath count and into the guided breath. At first as I stood there, Student A had his airplane in hand and was flying it in front of his face. He was quiet enough, but not silent. As his noises got louder, I moved a little closer, placing my hand over his gently, encouraging him to relax. He resisted at first and then stopped. When he did, I took a step back, hoping he would settle. He picked up his plane again for a few seconds, and then put it down again and put his head down.

Once he settled, I moved closer, put my hand on his back, encouraging him and everyone to inhale positivity for the day ahead, and exhaling the negativity, and to work with their emotions, inhaling the calm and exhaling the anger or fear. I stayed beside him for a moment or two, grateful that he had finally relaxed and was quiet.

The stillness in the room did not last for long, as all the attention on Student A had been too much for Student B, who is making great progress overall, still wedged between the girls on both sides, but still taking almost as many steps backwards as he does forward. Today he held it together, not causing any major disruptions, but still felt the need to call attention, making eyes with his friend across the room, the same friend of Student A, who had been hit with the stick.

Early in the meditation, before I had made my way to Student A, Student B went into the arm postures, while smirking with his friend. As I circled around the room, I stopped by him, gently placing my hand on his, looking him in the eye, reminding him he didn't need this kind of attention, that he was growing, and he had moved past it. He knew I was right, and the look in his eyes told me he understood, as did the fact that he put down his head, where it stayed for a while.

Once Student A had settled, I made my way over to Student B, giving him the same attention I had given Student B, reminding him to breathe in the confidence to know we are growing, and to exhale the fear that makes us think we are not. Student B let himself relax into the rest of the meditation.

Once they were both quiet, I still wasn't sure it was safe to sit down and join in the meditation, but I was tired and I needed it too, and so I decided I had better. It was the last minute and a half or so, and it was lovely. I closed my eyes and breathed in the silence. Then I took my own advice, and a few deep breaths, breathing in patience, and letting go of my impatience, with my students and myself. As the track ended, I took one full deep breath, inhaling my gratitude for these moments of quiet before we got started.

Then they got to work on their projects and I checked their progress, noting I have quite a few very artistic perfectionists, who also like to chat, and a few students who need to gain a deeper understanding of what hard work and productive use of time looks like. This is not surprising, as it is essentially what I teach in middle school, regardless of what we are learning. It was amazing how much work they got done in the 30 minutes of class time that followed calling them on their "work", further illustrating my point.

We switched classes for period 2 again this morning and so I saw my switch class at 9:45. I enjoy seeing this class early in the day and this meditation was thankfully much less eventful. Perhaps they sensed my agitation from earlier in the morning, or maybe they were just relaxed in general, but the reason doesn't matter too much, because I was happy to enjoy a very peaceful meditation. There were no noises or disruptions. Just about everyone had their heads down, including the girls who look around and Student 1, my fidgeter. I was surprised to notice his head was down through most of the meditation. My breathers were the only ones sitting up straight today, breathing as usual.

The prompts and focus were pretty much the same, what has become a regular daily meditation, inhaling focus, exhaling distraction, inhaling confidence, exhaling fear. There was less to say with this class and the directions went quickly, leaving about 2 and a half minutes of silence to enjoy. I was grateful to have another moment to sit and catch my breath. My room was very warm, I still wasn't feeling great, and the day had had a rough start. Sometimes I need these moments more than my students. Relationships are fragile and I have 23 or 46 in a room at a time at stake. While not impossible to overcome, blowups, or even flippant, careless remarks, can cause a lot of damage and take a lot of time and energy to heal. It is so much better when they can be avoided.

I know some are inevitable. I am human, flawed and I have a lot of patience, until the moment it runs out. But a few minutes of quiet breath, like this morning go a long way to help me maintain my sanity, and make for better days.

Student A didn't have the best day. His day got worse and he had much worse day than mine. But I will be able to be there for him again tomorrow, to begin another day, with a clean slate and a fresh start, because I took the time to breathe today. As long as we keep breathing, we never run out of chances. Every breath is a fresh start to a new now.

And tomorrow is another least it is a Friday on a Thursday day, with  PD and meditating with teachers to look forward to on Friday.

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