Monday, October 3, 2016

Days 14, 15, 16- WTF, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday- Part 2

Thursday was another beautiful day, and though we couldn't go back to The Forks, it was a great day for our school wide Terry Fox Walk and BBQ later that morning.

I started with my class for LA. Before we began, I had the daily announcements on the screen as usual, and the first was to inform students of our first GSA, Gay Straight Alliance meeting coming up next week for those who might be interested.

As it is a new, important, and an often misunderstood initiative, I took the time to explain it, its purpose and importance, to make our school a safer and more caring place, regardless of if you are cisgender (a person whose self-identity- brain- conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex- body parts), transgender (a person whose self-identity does not correspond to the gender of their biological sex), gay or straight, all words which I went on to define for them and we discussed.

Most were interested in the GSA, the topic, and ready to handle the information. As always, there were a few, Student B, the "friend," and another boy, who had more difficulty hearing words like penis, vagina and sexaulity, and were giggly, covering their ears, faces and generally calling attention. I acknowledged that the topic required a certain level of maturity, and it was okay it they weren't ready, but that they needed to contain themselves and could take a walk if they needed to do that. Of course, they didn't want to leave to room and miss anything, and so they managed to keep it together.

They also managed to keep it together through the meditation, which started a few minutes later, but it wasn't easy, especially for Student B. He had been in a mood, as he had gotten into trouble at the community movie the night before and the sex talk first thing in the morning didn't help calm him.

Shortly after we started he had gone back to trying to bother the person beside him, but we both shut him down with a Shh and individual looks. He got the message and though he was never quite still he was quiet enough and didn't disturb anyone else.

Everyone else had settled into the routine, even Student A, though he was a little fidgety in the beginning too, likely the ripple effect of Student B. The rest of the class appeared unaffected, most putting their heads down.

I noted my own impatience that morning too. I am excited to start changing the meditations, not counting the whole time and being able to join in with them in the end. On this second last day of September, I observed that the counting seemed particularly long and wondered if I had started the wrong track. It suddenly seemed unfamiliar and as I walked by the Ipad I even checked to see, but it was the same track I had been playing all month. It was strange that it seemed longer that morning.

But whatever it seemed, it was still only 4 minutes and 38 seconds, and as it ended I was grateful for the moment of quiet, another beautiful day in September and the walk ahead, and so we devoted our French time to talking about Terry Fox and how he changed Canada and the world (in English, of course).

In the afternoon, I saw my switch class. Though it was right after lunch they we more settled than previous afternoons. The readers sat on the opposite side of the room, without their books, or light to read by. As we started the meditation, and the others quickly settled in, they remained a little fidgety throughout, but less noisy and disruptive. The student who likes to make eye contact did so once and then put his head down.

From the beginning everyone seemed very quiet, maybe it was the walk that had tired them out, or maybe it was me, as I had woken up with a headache and it was progressively getting worse. I didn't tell them, but maybe I was quieter, or maybe they just sensed it. Whatever the case, I appreciated the peace and the break, even though I kept counting throughout.

Instead of walking around, as I like to do to keep a more balanced count, after a couple of rounds. I sat in my spot in the circle and kept counting. As I did, I was able to take a closer look from a different perspective. One of the boys, who usually sits in the midst of the boys who are restless, was sitting across from me, beside another boy, one of the only others who sits up straight during most of the meditations. As I counted, both of the boys were focused and visibly breathing according to the count. They we both in sync with the count. They were concentrating, but it also looked very natural to them. They looked very comfortable. It was very cool and I mentioned it to one of the boys later. I asked him to think about doing some writing about his experiences, and told him that we would talk about it more. I am looking forward to it.

Unlike the morning, the afternoon meditation went by too quickly and I would have liked to keep going for a lot longer, especially with the headache. But luckily, I have awesome students, and so we got on with our work. My class and I eventually ended the day enjoying the beautiful sunshine, which offered some relief from my headache and was a great way for everyone to end the day.


I was happy to wake up to find the headache was finally gone and that it was Friday, the last day in September, before a long weekend for the High Holy Days, and Orange Shirt Day. It was going to be another good day.

There were no big discussions of sex and sexuality as I started the morning with my class for LA, but it did feel like a milestone as I marked the last day of September, the end of our first month together, with one down and nine to go. I also noted that this was our last counting meditation and that next week when I came back we would start building on our meditations in different ways.

One other difference was we went to the library first thing Friday morning. We had started the writing process the day before and I managed to get the library first thing in the morning. I instructed them to go to the library, login to the computer and then turn their chairs out, and we would meditate while we were waiting for computers to load.

This was the first time I had been there with my class and I wasn't sure how they would respond to the different setting, with all the windows, but they didn't seem bothered at all. Most sat up straight, while a few made room for their heads around the keyboards. Everyone settled in quite easily and no one bothered anyone else. The meditation itself was quiet, with the music and the fish tank gurgling in the background. It was uneventful and a great start to a Friday and the writing process. It worked out especially well as the teacher who was supposed to come during second period changed her mind so my students got 80 minutes of writing time. Most finished their first draft, even Student A.

While my students were in gym, Mr. Y and I had what are often called "Million Dollar Meetings" due to the people power, time and energy involved. We were only halfway done when our classes were returning, so our VP and resource teacher went to work with our students. They, both the adults and our students, handled the change well, but I missed meditating with my switch class that morning.

In the afternoon, both classes came together for Social Studies. We were concluding our discussions on Society, Culture and Stereotypes, defining stereotyping, what it means and how it can be harmful, and maker greater connections to Society and Culture. It all tied in perfectly with Orange Shirt Day. I told them that we would be having our discussions during the first part of the class, take a movement break, and then we finish with a METTA meditation for Orange Shirt Day. Later that afternoon, we would then be called outside for a school picture to mark the day.

The discussions about Stereotyping were fascinating. Without having to illustrate any stereotypes beyond those we have been breaking about teeenagers, they understood that stereotypes categorize and label people, encourage judgement and mistreatment, and are often based on appearances and cultural beliefs. They saw how marginalized people, without the sense of belonging society is supposed to create, are often stereotyped and further put down. It was a good class.

Most have gotten used to the nature of these classes, and are managing with the small groups within the large group. Student A has the most trouble, and during our discussion he had left the room to self-regulate in the office. During the movement break I went to the office to see how he was doing and invited him to come back and join the meditation for Orange Shirt Day. I reminded him it was a longer meditation and would need his focus and respect, and was encouraged when he readily agreed to come back to the classroom.

We went back together as the timer was ending and everyone was getting organized again. Student A went back to his spot and as soon as he sat down start engaging his tablemates around him. He was picking up their pencils and poking them and trying to reach for their stuff. I did not want to ask him to leave, but I wasn't going to have him bothering anyone else or disturbing the class at large.

I addressed him first, but it was clear he was not going to stop. Calmly and casually I asked the people on either side of him if they wouldn't mind moving to alternate spots, making spaces for them at other tables. They moved quickly happy to be relieved of the burden of having to make the choice, but yet away from him. With an empty table around him, Student A still tried reaching for the others across the table, but when I warned him he had to stop if he wanted to stay, and he did.

He reached for a toy and started to fidget, but it made noise and so I exchanged it for some paper and a pencil. As I gave the reminders for a METTA meditation and we began, Student A was occupied with the paper for a few moments, but was soon ripping it up, making noise again. I continued giving the prompts as I walked towards the door, then I missed two counts as I left Mr. Y's room to grab a big chunk of plasticine from the box on the shelf by my door, and came back with it for Student A.

Still guiding the meditation, I switched the paper for the plasticine, and with a look and my finger over my mouth, I indicated I expected him to play with it quietly. And he did. At first he was slightly noisy, but with a glance he quieted, and then occupied himself with it for the remaining 12 minutes of  the meditation, rolling little snakes over and over. I wondered why he was so quick to come back to the room if he just wanted to play, but I was happy he was able to stay and not bother anyone else. I consider it a win.

The rest of the class was quiet and the meditation went smoothly. Maybe because some people had been spread apart, or maybe it was a nice break, or maybe they also felt the extension of compassion and caring on Orange Shirt Day was important. As we honoured Residential School Survivors, and those who did not, sharing our caring and compassion, wishing for them the same things we wish for ourselves, the silence was powerful. It carried over into the moment of gratitude for our health, safety and happiness and our school experiences and opportunities today.

I can't say it was perfect. I did move around the room, lingering longer in a few, more restless spots, but those moments are becoming fewer and further between, and the quiet prevails. We are growing together in many ways, and as we did today, we also took steps to be an active part of reconciliation. It was a pretty good Friday afternoon.

I am also grateful for this weekend and holiday, for the break and time to catch up on the writing, which is now done. There will be no meditations on Monday and Tuesday as I am away for Rosh Hashana. I tried to convince my classes someone could take over and lead for me, but they weren't quite ready. That will come, as will more meditations on Wednesday.

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