Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Shorter Week- Nov 21-24th

It is a little bit dangerous that I have realized I can write about a week in a day, but with Student Led Conferences to prepare for, writing pieces to finish, and culminating our Study of Learning, which also included tabulating the results of a learning and responsibility survey I had given my students, it was another crazy week, with evenings full of marking and other work, and no time to write. Once again, I made a few notes as the week went along, and take solace in the fact that it was a short week, Student Led Conferences went smoothly and successfully, we are beginning second term, and there is still no snow on the ground.

Monday- November 21

Considering how tired I was from writing report cards, and all the other work involved with getting ready for Student Led Conferences, and how anxious/excited kids were about seeing their reports and having conferences at the end of the week, Monday was a pretty relaxed, yet productive day, and set the tone for an intense, yet easy-going week.

It was Day 5, one of the few when we are not on a field trip, and so the feeling is strange. I saw my switch class first thing in the morning and my class after break. The meditation in both classes were what has become pretty routine, though the routine is something I never take for granted.

I don't have any notes about behaviour in either class, just that it was a good start to the week. The guided breath was focused on learning, as was our learning for the week, inhaling the willingness to examine our learning, and the habits and attitudes that go with them, and exhaling the fear, worry and doubt that blocks us from making the most of our learning. It was a calm and peaceful five and a half minutes with both classes, which lead into interesting discussions and reflections about learning, what it is and how we do it successfully.

Tuesday-November 22

Tuesday morning began with French, from which I stole some time to create some "Koats for Kids" posters to advertise our school campaign, prior to parents' arrival in the building, though some of the poster were in French. I saw my switch class in the last period of the morning before lunch, and as we began the day, I told my class we wouldn't be meditating until later that afternoon and to try to pay attention and see if they noticed any differences as a result.

As I was starting with my switch class, one of my more astute students had a question. She wanted to  know why we begin inhaling what we need, instead of beginning with getting rid of the bad stuff with the exhale, and then inhaling whatever we wanted to grow. It was an interesting question, and I told her if it made sense she could begin with an exhale, as it is all cyclical so it doesn't matter too much where you start. If one inhales the positive, then exhale the negative, they then end up making room for more positive, just as if they exhale the negative and then inhale the positive. I also pointed out that as we begin the breath count, I also stress emptying the lungs before the first inhale, so that everyone has a moment to get to the same place and we all start the breath count together, and continue breathing together, at least for a few minutes. She seem satisfied with the response, and I was thrilled she asked the question. Then we started the meditation.

Student 2, who has been struggling with behaviour lately, had some trouble focusing, as we moved through the prompts and breath count. His new seatmate was one of the more fidgety boys, and his movements, though slight, were enough to disturb Student 2. As we moved into the guided breath, I encouraged them to inhale their power to choose their movements and responses, and exhale their lack of control over others, as well as inhaling their patience and exhale their impatience, for themselves and each other, as as we continued our study of learning. I also noted that they may wish to begin with the exhale, letting go of what they want to get rid of first, if they found it more comfortable.

Both of the boys settled, as did the rest of the class, and we enjoyed the final 2-3 minutes in silence together.  When we were done, Student 2 began complaining about his seatmate's movements,  which I pointed out was ironic, as Student 2 has a tendency to leave the room just as we are about to meditate without any concern about how his movements affect others, and no one has complained, but he is the first to complain about another. I noted that our responses to other's movements is part of the reason we meditate and that it is his power to choose how he responds. Then I went on to move the boy who had done nothing differently than he had the day before, and didn't need the headache of sitting beside Student 2, who would complain about his every movement. The boy he switched with didn't mind at all, and it was an easy solution, as the signs are becoming clearer that Student 2 has a lot of work ahead of him. Our study of learning and responsibility is as good a place as any to start and so we got on with our learning.

My class came back to our room after break in the afternoon and as promised we meditated. By then, they were happy for the break and ready to relax and breathe. We were still engaged in our study of learning, at the point where they would be reflecting on the work habits and behaviours that support their learning, which was the focus of the meditation.

It didn't take long for everyone to get settled, and even Student A, who had logged into his Minecraft account, turned off the monitor and put his head down as soon as I told him we were starting. The prompts, breath count, and focus, inhaling the honesty and patience to examine our learning habits, while exhaling the fear and impatience, all went quickly in the quiet and stillness of the room.

Everyone was happy to enjoy the silence, as was I, as I joined in for the last 2-3 minutes, noticing how quiet everyone was despite the late hour of the day. I noticed Student A, who chose to stay by the computer, had made room for himself and had his head down there too. Student B was quiet too, perhaps because his buddy had asked to be moved- he realized it just wasn't working and wants to be successful. I was proud he had come to me, which I told him, and maybe Student B will also hear the message more clearly when it comes from his peers. He did on Tuesday, and as the track ended I was sad I had to end the meditation and break the silence, but it was a good feeling to carry into reflecting at the end of the day.

Wednesday- November 23

It was the same feelings, stillness and peace, with which the day began on Wednesday with my class. We had two periods to start the morning, and the feeling was a lot more relaxed. There were only a few students who had to finish their writing, and the rest were finishing and hanging Koats for Kids posters around the school, and so I chose a longer, 6 minute and 47 second track to start the day. Everyone was present in body, and it seemed in spirit as well, and as we started the meditation first thing in the morning, the room was very quiet. I didn't need to give any behaviour reminders and as we moved quickly through the prompts, breath count and guided breathing, inhaling the positivity and focus needed to make the day productive and successful, and exhaling the negativity and distraction that blocks progress and growth, the feeling was already positive and peaceful.

We moved into the silence, and the room was still and remained so through the length of the track. I was sitting on the other side of the circle from my usual spot, as there was a chair there and none in my spot, and so I noted the different perspective as I observed my students, most with their heads down, from that side of the room- the same, but different. Then I closed my eyes and breathed, inhaling my gratitude and enjoying the peace. I was deep in my breath when I noticed the floor vibrate from underneath, and had the thought that the truck outside had brought me back just in time.

About two breaths later the track ended and the music stopped. The room was completely silent. Before saying anything, I lingered in the quiet, observing as some students lifted their eyes, while most didn't move at all. No one made any noise. I whispered to stay in the silence and we took a few more breaths, before I noted how sorry I was to have to break the silence, and that one day in the winter, when it was that quiet  I would have us continue, even if some fell fast asleep, but for today we had things to do. With few more deep breaths,  I slowly brought the movement and awareness back.

Before we got to work I asked if anyone had noticed the vibrations through the floor, and shared that I had been quite startled at first, and then realized it was just a big truck or some other vehicle. Almost everyone else had noticed the vibrations and thought it was weird. It was interesting to notice before we got on with the day, as many kids had something to say. It is amazing how the littlest things impact our days and lives.

My switch class came to my room in period 4, after gym and just before lunch. When they came to the room they seemed happy to be there, and happy to have the time to breathe as well. They settled quickly, and with only one period, and more students in this class who had to finish their writing, I chose a 5 and a half minute track and it went very quickly.

Everyone was pretty calm except Student 1, my fidgeter. He was fidgeting even more than usual. He was moving his body, swaying his head, neck and shoulders continuously. He didn't seem to be doing it to call attention, nor am I even sure he was aware of his movements. I noticed he stopped intermittently, but for the most part he was moving around through the prompts and the breath count.

At one point, I moved behind him and placed my hands on his shoulders, encouraging him to relax, and settle, which he did for a moment and then started moving again. I returned to him intermittently, through the guided breath, suggesting he inhale calm, allowing the body and mind to rest as they bring their attention to their breath, and exhale the excess energy which distracts them from the calm.

In the end, Student 1, and everyone else settled, including Student 2 and his new seatmate, and the last two minutes passed quickly and quietly. It was a nice end to the morning of our last full day of the week.

Thursday Morning- November 24

Thursday was a half day of classes followed by the afternoon of Student Led Conferences, which went into the evening and then picked up on Friday. In my room 21 of 22 students ended up attending, with the 22nd's family dealing with a sick sibling. Mr. Y had nearly as many attend. It was lovely chatting with so many parents, and having the students share their learning. It was long, but it was a great couple of days.

We did our last preparation for it on Thursday morning, and due to the schedule I saw my switch class during period 3 and my class period 4. In both classes, I had some final pieces to return, including the assessment of their writing piece, and their report cards. With report cards being available  online, a few had seen theirs, but most had not. I like my students to read them, because they are theirs and we take the time to write them, so I provide a hardcopy- a mini-version to save paper- and give them the time to read them, before they, and we, meet with their parents.

This is what I did on Thursday morning, first with my switch class and then with mine, before I spent the next seven hours that followed meeting with kids and their families. With my switch class, it was a lot louder, as usual. As they received their writing, and then report cards, they were more excited about sharing and comparing and pretty noisy while they did it.

With about 10 minutes left in the class, we settled into meditate, and it took and minute or two to achieve quiet in the classroom. But, once we got there, once it was still and silent, they held onto it, and it was pretty amazing.

I started the music and the prompts, but when there was still chatting. I called attention to the noise, and my disappointment hearing it, and waited for the silence, when I started everything again. Then there was quiet and it remained quiet, through the prompts, the breath count and the guided breath, inhaling their pride in their accomplishments and a successful first term, and exhaling their ego, which is tempted to compare, put down, brag or think we are done, to remember, we have two terms, and more work ahead, with each exhale, while crediting the accomplishments of first term, which certainly count, with each inhale. With each breath, I  reminded them it was about finding the balance and celebrating the moment.

Then we moved into the silence, which was more challenging because there was a lot of the noise in the halls. With classes getting ready for Student Leds, there was more hallway activity and noise than usual. I reminded my students that they had power, to stay with their breath and maintain the silence in the room, despite the noise in the hallway.

With a few moments left and my class already waiting to switch classes outside the door, my  switch class stayed with their breath and the silence through the track, a pleasant surprise to me as they are the more restless class. I hate to say that Student 1, my fidgeter, being absent may have contributed to the prolonged silence, and I certainly didn't say that to my students, but I did notice it.  I did tell my students that I was impressed by their choices, and by their power, and they did indeed have much to be proud of as they ended the term and met with their parents. I wished them the best at their meetings and told them I looked forward to seeing them too.

I let them go and my class came in and settled quickly. Student A had no interest into his report card and immediately logged onto Minecraft, with the understanding that he would stop to meditate when we did. The class went pretty much the same as the other class, only my class was quieter and more subdued. They were less excited by the sharing, though they still wanted to talk to their friends.

I gave them a little less time, as I wanted to meditate and then have a few minutes to clean up the classroom before I dismissed them. It didn't take nearly as long for them to settle as the other class, and as it was nearly the end of the morning, the hallway was a lot quieter too. As soon as I gave the cue and turned off the lights, the entire class was ready to go, even Student A. The five and a half minutes were just beautiful. The stillness and silence was a tribute to our first term together as we inhaled our pride for some great learning and exhaled the ego, the part that thinks we are done, making room for more pride over the work we have completed together with each inhale. I joined in the silence and felt the pride, for my students and their accomplishments. It was the perfect end to our first term together and a nice note to end the morning. I remain grateful for it and the ease with which Student Leds came and went. I can't quite believe it.

So first term is done, but as I said, we are not- there are two more terms to come. Yet the first big milestone has been reached.  And the next one- one of the best ones- winter break, is right around the corner. I know it will be here before I know it, and to get there, tomorrow is another Monday.

Happy day to you!

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