Friday, November 11, 2016

Day 38- Thursday- Five Minutes to Go and a Minute of Silent Remembrance

It was lovely to have a short week and even better that we had our monthly trip to the Millennium Library to end it. As it happened, and it looks like it will again, our trip was scheduled for the same day as a couple of our grade 8 classes, as our timetables correspond, and the grade 8 teacher picked up on the idea from our experience together last year. It was a different dynamic and brought different challenges, but as always,it was a great experience together. It also meant that some 80 students and 7 adults would commemorate Remembrance Day together in the outdoor space at the library.

The day was busy from the start. Before it even began Student B had done something to provoke one of his friends, the same boy who reported the fart, and one who has a tendency to be the one to gets hurt, who did so again today, as he chased Student B around the room and somehow fell and injured his shoulder. I walked in on the end of the event, to find the boy on the floor crying and Student B looking pretty guilty, clearly remorseful for the pain he had caused.

The boy got up and insisted he was okay, though I was close to calling his mom to take him to be checked out, but figured if it was dislocated the pain would be a lot more severe, and so the day began with the warnings to him, Student B, and everyone, to make good choices as we took our learning into the world, and then some brief conversations with the boys, all before 9:00 a.m.

Then after announcements and before we joined Mr. Y's class to meditate, I had to check their plans for the day, or as I call it their bus tickets to the library, do the "how you got to school today" survey in which we have been taking part this week, and distribute poppies (they have stickers for kids now) and collect money. We did it all in under 10 minutes and got settled in Mr. Y's room to meditate.

Mr. Y had been talking to the students about Remembrance Day over the course of the week, and set the tone for the day in the morning, by continuing to share its importance to him. He talked about the poppy, its meaning and how it has changed over the years and then he talked about his dad, a Ukrainian immigrant and veteran, who was injured, shot across the knees by machine gun fire in World War II. Mr. Y had the students captivated as he told his father's story, and described how his dad would tell it and then drop his trousers to show off his wounds. The power of the story and the meaning of the day carried us into our meditation.

Just after 9:15 we began our five and a half minute meditation, Nobody needed any behaviour prompts, though Student A and Student 1, my fidgeter, were sitting together and had started to play around with each others things. But as I looked at them, and started moving in their direction, Student A noticed me, opened his eyes and mouth as if to show his shock or horror, and then put his head down, where it stayed. If I didn't want the room to stay quiet, I would have laughed out loud. It was hilarious.

I didn't have to stand beside them the whole time, but I did linger, now and then, as I walked around the room, going through the usual prompts, breath counts and focused breathing. Student 1 was fidgety, as usual, but when he started tapping his fingers and I placed my hands over his, he stopped and was quieter, likely because he didn't want me coming around to him again. Everyone else was still and quiet, and there was a peace in the room, similar to the peace I have been feeling in my classroom, but this time with both classes together.

For the first part of the focused breath, I suggested they visualize the library, inhaling whatever they needed to make the day positive and productive, imagining themselves in the space, seeing where they would be sitting, and what they wanted to accomplish according to the plan they had set out, while exhaling all of the negativity, the temptation to make poor choices, to waste time, or to be distracted. I encouraged them to inhale their respect, for the people and place around them, as well as the day, especially when we commemorate Remembrance Day, and to exhale their carelessness, the distraction that causes them to lose attention and make disrespectful choices, coming back to inhaling their best, awesome selves.

As we moved into the silence, I also suggested that they take a moment to give thanks, though we would do that more formally later, to the soldiers, who came before us and who live on today, who fought so that we can all enjoy the very Rights and Freedoms we have been learning about and all enjoy today. Then the silence in the music was all that remained,

I took a spot at the front on one of the tables, as there was space and no extra chairs. As I took a few deep breaths, I looked at the group, the heads down where they could, but many with no choice but to sit up, eyes closed, everyone calm, relaxed and peaceful, I felt very grateful and took a moment to give thanks for the day and a few breaths, inhaling the positivity and exhaling the worry that it would be a hassle with the grade 8s and the trouble they could cause, especially as a couple of their students make Students A and B look like angels. I let go of the fear and worry, and was looking forward to a fantastic day, as I ended the meditation.Then we got our stuff together and got outside just before 9:30, to meet the bus, on what was a beautifully warm, and sunny day in November. Then we were on our way to the library.

We arrived as it opened at ten, and within a couple of minutes, everyone was off to find their space to work- the beauty of learning at the library.As I walked around, I found them set up in different areas on all four floors and the carousels along the stairs. At 11:00 a.m. all four classes met in the lobby and we all headed to the outside area in the back, where there is a huge grassy circle. We assembled a circle within, and first took a few moments, connecting with Treaty 1 Territory land, breathing in the fresh air, feeling the sunshine and wind, and listening to the sounds of the city. We had prepared four students with readings to mark the day, and it wasn't ideal, as they aren't very loud and the city is, but as I reminded the students it was more about the idea and the feeling, and they were very respectful, listening the best they could, even the players, with the help of their teachers standing behind them.

We moved into one minute of silence remembering the soldiers who sacrificed their lives, many without any choice, and the veterans who served, and  continue to serve, our country, so we can enjoy the freedoms and privileges we have today, including commemorating the day at the library. The minute passed in silence, without the need to remind anyone to be respectful. Everyone realized the importance of the time, which made it even more powerful. When it ended, I shared a favourite of mine, a translated version of the Hebrew "Song of Peace" by Yaakov Rotblit, which is a call for peace I hope will come in the world.

We ended our service, and all filed out again, to the front of the library, across the street, into the mall, up the escalator, gathering together in the front of the food court, pretty seamlessly considering we were 80 plus students. Everyone went for lunch, met again, and went back to the library for the afternoon, where except for a small incident involving Student 2, one of the grade 8's and a balloon, everything went very smoothly.

When we got back to school and everyone was reflecting on the day, even Student A did some writing, an usual event, further confirming how important these learning experiences can be. It was a nice end to a short week, and a good way to commemorate a day of great importance, and on which I am just a little more grateful for my life in Canada.

I hope you all enjoy the weekend. Shabbat Shalom. May you be happy, May you be healthy, May you be safe.

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