Friday, October 28, 2016

Day 30-Friday Fun

I heard it said by several people this morning that Fridays are good days, and at least for this Friday that was indeed the case. It was a good day, and I am glad it was a Friday.

The day started with Band/Exploratory and then choir, with the remainder playing board games or catching up on their work, and a class in which I had a refresher course in Chess, as Student A and one of the buddies managed to put together a game that lasted the whole period, and ended well. It was quite encouraging to see.

It was after break that I began the day with my switch class. We had some business to take care of around assignments and who had yet to present, which led to a short talk on responsibility and following through, especially as we begin to make connections with parents and prepare to write first term report cards. Some of my words were aimed at the friend of my breather, gaining his own designation as Student 2, who has been facing some challenges taking responsibility for himself and his learning, and following through on his assignments. He was not ready to present today, claiming he had forgotten his USB at home and was angry that I had brought attention to the fact that he wasn't ready.

He demonstrated his anger as I was talking, scowling and clinking a coin against the table, which I first ignored and then gave a couple of warnings before he finally stopped, just as I was turning off the lights, and seconds before I moved to take the coins away. Everyone else was pretty quiet, with several students away ill and a couple on a field trip, leaving more space and a quieter room, My fidgeter and the boy who likes to look around were both energetic, in a restless but not disruptive way, and so I stood beside them as I went through the prompts. I encouraged them to relax, and they both did, putting their heads down and easing into the meditation.

As we moved into the guided breath, I encouraged them to breathe in their confidence and exhale their fear, as some prepared to present, and they all work to follow through on the tasks ahead, as we come to the end of first term. The rest of the meditation went by quickly and quietly, and if not entirely still, it was pretty close, until just about the end.

I had joined in the silence at the end, and was sitting in my usual spot in the circle, when I heard a stir. With less than 30 seconds to go, Student 2 decided that he had to get up and leave. I guess he was that angry. He wasn't overly loud, nor was he particularly quiet, but at least he didn't slam the door. I let a "How Rude," slip from under my breath, but didn't follow him out the door. We have a lot of time ahead and he needed the space. The meditation ended a few moments later, we moved into the presentations, and Student 3 joined the class again a few minutes later,

At the end of the class, I discovered he had left a note on my desk which read, "The fear doesn't tell me I don't good enough, you tell me I am not good enough." I was a little taken aback, but also appreciated that he trusted me enough to leave me a note. I decided to wait to talk to him, but chatted about it with Mr. Y and our guidance counselor. We will all work as a team to help support Student 2 take more responsibility for himself.

After lunch, before they went to TAA, there was that Friday afternoon buzz in the air, and I told them after they came back, before our time in the library, we were definitely going to meditate to get centered and focused. Mr. Y and I met during our prep, talked about our kids, the parents we need to meet with, and set up a plan for the rest of the afternoon.

We have a large Art room, attached to the library, which we found was free and so we decided to meet there after the break before going into the library. Mr. Y had a Math test he had to return and with it came a few talking points, about progress, studying, and mindset, or how they see themselves in relation to their efforts and their results from both of us.

Then Mr. Y gave them back their tests and we gave them time to digest their results. They exhibited the full range of emotion, from pride and joy, to pleasant surprise, to disappointment and worry. They spent about 10-15 minutes talking to each other and I spent some time talking to individual students about their results and feelings. I reminded more than one student, and the group later, that poor, or disappointing results, only reflect their understanding of those concepts, and their inexperience and need to practice, learn and understand those concepts, it does not reflect their ability or overall intelligence. It just means they need to keep learning that Math, and if they keep at it they will get better and so will their results.

This led to natural connections to what we have been learning in Social Studies, with our discussions of Human Rights and The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I told them we will be moving into deeper discussions, and a study of responsibility, which is directly linked to our rights. In order for them to make the most of their right to an education, they also have to take responsibility for it. I illustrated the point by picking up a binder, and I told them that we, their teachers, are handing them their education by teaching them how to learn, but if they don't take the binder in their hands, then it falls, I let go of the binder as I said this, and the thud the binder made was louder than I expected, especially as the room was pretty quiet, even with both classes together, and made the point even stronger. Their learning is in their hands.

As Mr. Y and I finished our talk, there was about 50 minutes left in the day. We told them that we were going to meditate and then they would have time to work in the library, or with Mr. Y in the Art room to better understand the Math they had just received. I asked them if they preferred to meditate where they we sitting, around the large tables in the room, or if they wanted to move into the library. It was a clear they wanted to move into the library, and when I agreed, they did it rather seamlessly.

Student A and a few others went straight to the computers, and I told them they could login in before we began, as our computers take time to load, but that they needed to turn the monitors off so they wouldn't be tempted when they came on. Student A logged in and was playing around, so I went and switched off the monitor and he didn't turn it on again. As I started the meditation, he was fidgeting with the keyboard, so I went and stood beside him, encouraging him to relax and placing my hands over his. It worked and he put his head down for most of the meditation, looking around intermittently here and there, but ultimately putting in down again, and not disturbing anyone.

Everyone else was spread throughout the library, some by the computers, some around tables, some on the beanbag chairs around the room and a couple on the floor. I asked if they were comfortable before we started, and they indicated they were, and they seemed happy throughout. Everyone seemed pretty happy to take these moments, and I was a little surprised that everyone was so quiet after so much excitement, especially so late on a Friday afternoon, but I'm not complaining.

I was also surprised that as one of the teachers walked by the library window, he banged on its length as he went by. I'm not sure he realized we were meditating, despite the clear view to the dimmed lights and still students, and I think it was more unconscious than malicious, but I couldn't quite believe it. My students didn't seem bothered- they are gaining a lot of power- but I certainly noticed, as did the librarian, with whom I exchanged looks of shock and disgust.

Thankfully our library is not that big and the noise didn't last too long. There weren't many other interruptions, only one other teacher entered quietly to pick up something from the printer, but was oblivious to the door banging closed behind them, Again, my students paid no attention, only I noticed as I was observing in the moment.

During our library meditation, I wanted to focus both on a productive use of time in the last period of the day, especially for those who really needed to follow through and finish work, and processing their feelings in relation to their Math test, especially those dealing with disappointing grades. In order to take the time to do that I decided to use a longer track, and for the first time this year used a piece that was 6 minutes and 38 seconds. I didn't tell them and if anyone noticed they didn't say anything. For a moment at the beginning, I was worried it might be too long, but I decided to take the time and I think it was worth it.

After the prompts and breath count, we inhaled the positivity and exhaled the negativity in their different manifestations, paying special attention to the things we tell ourselves, reminding them that needing more practice or learning is more accurate, and helpful, than telling ourselves we are bad at something or can't learn. We inhaled the ability to learn, with effort and focus and exhaled the fear that tells us we can't. There was a very peaceful feeling in the room.

We moved into a few minutes of silence and I situated myself on a chair near Student A and took a few deep breaths, breathing in the positivity with everyone else, and letting go of the negative, the impatience and powerlessness. It was a very powerful few minutes for me. It was also far quieter than I thought it would be, and led to a final half hour that was a lot more focused and productive than a middle school teacher can hope for, especially for a Friday,

Student 2. who had forgotten his USB managed to hand in his project and his missing assignment, but didn't admit he hadn't had it finished in the first place. We did get to chat a little and I shared my "could you care less story?" which brought a big smile to his face, and hopefully a new level of understanding between us.

It was a very good end to a Friday and if I didn't have to mark all their work it would be leading to a much more exciting weekend, Yet, even as I complain, I am looking forward to reading their reflections and assessing and better understanding their learning, plus with report cards around the corner, I really have no choice.

I know I am not alone, so happy marking to all the educators like me. And everyone else enjoy your weekend activities whatever they may be.

**In case you missed it, I told the "Could you care less?" story in a previous post but I am not sure which one.

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