Thursday, November 3, 2016

Day 34- Thursday finishes the week, for students anyway

The day, like the week, was full, as we continue to delve into more involved learning in each subject, and new levels of engagement, all founded on the now 6 and a half minutes during which we come together to breathe.

This morning I began with my class for one period of French. The silence and stillness with which the week began remained with us today. as we took the time to breathe and prepared to make the most of the day ahead, especially as they had a long weekend awaiting them.

As is becoming the routine, just about everybody settled very quickly. Though he was jumpy in the morning, Student A put his head down pretty much as soon as we began and enjoyed the quiet time. Student B was looking at his buddy across the way, and today I also noted his buddy looking at him first, and quite persistently trying to call his attention, though he let it go and eventually put his head down, as I moved to stand directly in front of him for a few of the breath counts.

Everyone else was undisturbed and silent, most with their heads down, as I moved into the guided breath, encouraging them to inhale their positivity and patience, as we practice some grammar in French, a study of learning- what is it and involves- in ELA, and a creative representation of their understanding of Human Rights and all the other big concepts we have explored in Social Studies, and exhale the negative thoughts and impatience with themselves, those around them or the task in front of them.

We moved into the silence, and as I used the longer track yesterday I figured I might as well try it again today, so we had an extra minute or so of silence together. I sat down and joined in, closing my eyes and breathing in my own patience for my students and the day ahead, to give them my best, as best I could, exhaling my impatience, with them and myself, making more room for the patience to give them my presence.

The three minutes went quickly and I had my eyes closed breathing with my students. Again today, if the were distracted it wasn't enough to disturb me. There was no noise and little movement. As the track ended, before I said anything, I lingered in the silence for a breath or two, just enjoying it. Then I broke it as I always to, telling them to take a deep breath in and commenting that I wished we could have stayed with it for longer, and perhaps one day the province will recognize its value and we can spend more time daily, but for today the 6 and a half minutes would have to do, as we moved into our French. It was a smooth start to the day for everyone.

My switch class came to me in fourth period after gym and settled pretty quickly, but just as we were about to get started one of the boys stated aloud that Student 1, Student 2 and another boy were making hand gestures making fun of him for dropping the frisbee during a game in gym and requested that I ask them to stop.

With the longer track to give us more time, I thanked him for telling me, and told them their gestures had better stop as I turned off the lights and started the music. As we began, I reminded them that these moments are exactly when we decide who we want to be and where we gain our power.I asked everyone if they want to be the kind, compassionate person, who supports their peers even if they are disappointed, remembering that everyone drops the ball sometimes, or if they wanted to be the jerk who has to make themself feel better by putting someone else down and makes fun of people. I also reminded them that standing up to those people safely is important, and that we can be mindful of the power we give others even when their words are hurtful.We always have the power to choose our responses and we practice meditating to help us be more aware of our responses.

I used the time I usually take for posture prompts, but we still planted our feet flat, connecting with Treaty 1 Territory Land as we do every day, I encouraged them to connect with their breath, and bring their attention to each inhale and each exhale. Then we moved into the breath count, and the guided breathing, where I returned to my theme of patience, inhaling patience for themselves and each other and exhaling their impatience, especially when things don't go their way.

They were all pretty settled by the time we moved into the silence, my breathers breathing, only a couple looking around, the rest with their heads down, including my fidgeter, some of the time, the rest, looking around fidgeting. Quiet overall, and peaceful, but not the stillness of the other class. It is interesting to note the differences.

Even with the prolonged intro, as we moved into the silence, we still had a couple of minutes left. I joined them for the first part, closing my eyes, but felt more of a pull to keep my eyes open, not because I don't trust them, but because I feel they need me more. I looked around the quiet room and appreciated it, and my students in the silence. I smiled as I looked at them catching a few eyes as I did, to which they smiled back and put their heads down. It was a lovely couple of minutes and a nice start to the last class of the morning.

The afternoon flew by, with 2 periods of ELA, one with each class, where we began to examine our experiences with learning, so I can help them begin to understand how they learn, and how their learning is connected to their work habits and efforts. It was another good start with each.

For the last two periods of the day we got together in Mr. Y's room. As they came in and got settled there was music already playing, as Mr. Y often plays classical music while the kids are doing Math. He asked if we should turn it off and I suggested we just take a few breaths,

We dimmed the lights a little, and it didn't take more than a few seconds, and very little instruction, before everyone was quiet. We spent a few moments in silence just listening to the music and then we took three deep breaths together. As we finished I commented that at MTS PD Day, the speaker gave everyone a break to stretch, then he suggested three deep breaths and I had only finished the first when everyone around me sat down.

I told them our deep breaths, with full inhales and exhales, should last at least 6 seconds and most people don't use their full lung capacity. Somehow I got to the story about my breathing backwards, which I told, including that it was something I didn't even know was possible, until I was in my 20's and learning to meditate. A reflexologist friend pointed out that as I inhaled I was contracting my belly instead of expanding it, not allowing my lungs to fill completely. I had never learned any differently and often tell this story in presentations, and at some point in the year, which turned out to be today. The students were as surprised as I was about the breathing backwards, and some thought it was pretty funny.

Then we got to our projects.We had started an introduction yesterday, but wanted to clarify to criteria and the expectations, as well as encourage the potential and creativity. They had the last 45 minutes of the day to get started and they did. The level of engagement was remarkable, especially for the end of the week.

November is generally a dreary month, and this year I am greatly encouraged by its start.  I am also grateful to have PD tomorrow, a break from the kids, a break from the writing, and since I cannot breathe through my nose at all right now, I guess I am taking a break from that too.

I hope everyone has a happy Friday and a joyous and relaxing weekend.

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