Sunday, December 18, 2016

Some Fridays Once Just Isn't Enough

The last Friday of the 2016 school year, and I can't quite capture the level of craziness that escalates over the course of the day among middle school students in words, and even if I could, unless one has experienced it, it is hard to believe. Students who begin the morning fairly calm and rational get wound up over the day with excitement and the buzz of energy. Student A's constant movement, and his in-your-face poking and prodding, also impact the energy level and the volume in the classroom too.

The morning started calmly enough, pretty peacefully actually. Just about everyone was back and with only 1st period with my class, I chose a short 5 and a half minute track. Student A had arrived with a lot of energy, but as the morning began we managed to sit down and plan out the day, which included working on some of the projects in the Minecraft Crafts book we had found at the library the day before. He was pretty happy about that and working on the game design project in Exploratory and so I convinced him he could stay for the first class of LA, in which we would be discussing "Life in the Warsaw Ghetto" after we meditated.

He agreed, and if I knew why we could make real progress, but I wasn't and am still not complaining, and after a couple of final pokes at the person behind him, he put his head down and kept it there. Student B needed a reminder about the choices he makes and his ability to control himself, after emitting a few random noises as I turned out the lights. He calmed and was quiet, and so was everybody else, as I started our meditation on the final Friday of 2016.

I went through the usual prompts and breath count, and then moved into the focused breath, encouraging them to inhale what they need and exhale what they don't to bring a successful end to the last full week of 2016. I kept my words brief as it was a short track and I wanted to maximize the quiet breathing. I was glad I did, because the room was still and silent. The 2 minutes passed quickly and I breathed in my gratitude for the peaceful start, and for Friday. the last Friday of 2016.

The class which followed, and the introduction to Life in the Ghetto, went quickly, as did the rest of the morning. My switch class came for the same LA class as earlier in the last period of the morning, after gym, and their energy, and the general level of craziness was already starting to rise. I didn't waste any time getting into the meditation, and again with the short period I chose the short track.

It took a moment, and a gentle reminder, to help them settle, but everybody calmed pretty quickly, except Student A. Student B once again left the room just as we were starting, reminding me that I had forgotten to talk to him about it, a pretty common occurrence in my teaching life. I noted that I would try to remember, but until I did, I would have to keep letting it go. So I started as he left the room, turning off the lights behind him.

As I began the usual prompts, Student 1 decided to take them to heart, but rather than relaxing each part of his body, he tensed it. When I approached him, encouraging him to relax, he tensed even more and played innocent, as if he had no idea what I meant. I told him to soften his shoulders and whatever he did, to be quiet. I walked away, letting him be, and went on with the breath count.

He relaxed a little and settled into the quiet as did everyone else. I moved to the focused breath, pretty much as I had first thing in the morning, and then sat down in my spot to join in the silence. Student 2 had returned without calling any attention, taking his sit beside the other boy who likes to read and fidget, who had come back to that spot with the return of another student. The boy didn't bother Student 2, who had closed his eyes and was breathing, but caught the attention of Student 1, who noticed me looking at the boy playing with his pencil.

Student 1 started sshing the boy, putting his finger to his lips, and then did the same to his tablemate, by whom he continues to be bothered, though the other boy doesn't really do anything, or at least anything I have noticed. I gave Student 1 a look, but he continued his attempts to direct the other boys, and so I looked at him, and quietly but firmed said his name, and "Stop It," which he finally did.

I try to avoid directing behaviour aloud as much as possible, but I was glad I did on Friday. Though my voice momentarily distracted some students, who lifted their heads or opened their eyes, they remained undisturbed, and Student 1 finally put his head down, letting everyone else enjoy the last minutes of the meditation as well. It was annoying, but ended nicely, so overall, a good start to the last class of the morning.

After lunch, I continued my learning with my switch class and my class went to Mr. Y for Science. They are learning about Energy and were doing some sort of experiment that involved baggies of water at various temperatures, including ice. Everyone was engaged in the work, and as our classrooms are next door to each other, I could see the general action and hear the volume at times.

As their work wrapped up, and my switch class was working on their tasks, Student A made his way into my classroom. He had done some of the experimental work, but was reaching his limit and starting to disturb everyone. We managed to connect, and he conveyed his desire to explore his MInecraft craft. Luckily, the space was available, and the awesome teacher in charge of the classroom and equipment he needed is exceptionally accommodating and understanding, and so she allowed him to get to work, which he was happy to do.

It is really quite amazing because once he began he was engaged for the rest of the afternoon, a good 90 minutes. He was working with beads and patterns and the work was intricate, but he was focused and undisturbed by others in the room. He just wanted to do the project. Equally interesting is the project he chose from the Minecraft Crafts had nothing to do with the swords, weapons or even the treasure chest, but instead he chose the flowers in pots. So it was patterns of flowers that engrossed all of his energy and attention. In the end, Student A is just a kind, little boy who still wants to create flowers. He is quite a kid.

I was happy he was engaged and taken care of, as when everyone else came back after break it was clear they needed my attention as well. The Science experiment caused quite the stir, and they were pumped and tired. I had already decided we would meditate again, and as we began and it took a few moments for everyone to get seated and settled, it was clear to me everyone needed it. More out of curiosity, than planning to change my mind, I half stated, half questioned, "We are going to meditate again now, okay?"

Most responded with a "yes" that reflected their relief to have a few moments to relax and breath as we went into the last hour of the day. Student B was among those who weren't thrilled about the second meditation, and displayed his disinterest with a few more random noises. I asked him if he needed to take a break, or if he would be able to control himself, and he indicated he prefered to stay and could control his behaviour. His buddy across the room thought that was funny, but quieted after I gave him a look, as did Student B, though he was a little sulky.

It was clear everyone else was happy to have a few minutes to rest, because they all put their heads down within moments. I went through the prompts, emphasizing that we still connect with Treaty 1 Territory land and note the connection each time, then the breath count, and finally the focused breath, suggesting they inhale calm and exhale their excess energy, as we came into the last hour of the day. They had work to do and the time in which to accomplish it, so I encouraged them to visualize what they needed to do and how they intended to do it with each inhale, and exhale the fear and distraction that blocks them from getting it done.

We moved into the silence and though Student B wasn't completely silent, he was only mildly annoying and did not succeed in distracting his friends or calling too much attention. I managed to close my eyes and take a few breaths with my students, giving thanks that Student A was taken care of and we all had a few minutes to breath.

The minutes went quickly, and though it was tempting to maintain the silence and let them rest, I ended the meditation and everyone got to work. Considering the mood of the day, and that it was the last hour of the last Friday of the year, it was pretty calm and productive, and it too flew by.

Often in middle school, the morning has nothing to do with the afternoon and sometimes it is worth it to take the extra six minutes to breathe once more. I sure as glad we did on Friday.

And now the real countdown begins....the final week, and it's a short one...only 4 more get-ups to go

Hope everyone has a peaceful and productive Monday!

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