Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Stormy Tuesday

The first blizzard of the year, and only a Winnipegger would say it wasn't that bad, because it wasn't as cold at -3 as it will be at -40, but still blizzard conditions. I had no choice but to get to school, and I began the day grateful for the close proximity of my home to my school, and the Jeep, my ex insisted we had to buy, which has now twice outlived the length of the relationship and I often credit as one of his few good choices, that brought me there, but I wasn't at all surprised that the majority of students had made it to school too.

Among those absent happened to be Students A and B in my class, and Student 2 in my switch class, which made for a quiet and relaxing day. This isn't easy for teachers to admit, or at least for me and the teachers I know, because we work really hard and actually like these students- they are great kids and their challenges are not their fault- but they are also very demanding. They are needy and their need is for constant attention in one form or another, which requires so much energy, that when they are away, it is an entirely different feeling- a weight is lifted. So today, though it was stormy and the wind was blowing outside, it was peaceful and significantly quieter in the classroom. It made for quite a lovely day.

Despite the conditions, not only did most of my students make it to school, but most of the school did as well, and the day began with a short assembly celebrating the victories of the Divisional Boys and Girls Volleyball teams in a big provincial tournament over the weekend. It is not something that happens very often at our school and it was a great celebration to start a gloomy day.

Then we went back to the class to start our day with a meditation. I had my class for two periods in the morning, though we were half way into the first when we sat down, and they asked again if we could meditate for a long time. I once again promised them that that day would come, and mentioned that during our work period at the end of the day, if they wanted to put their heads down and rest they could, but for this morning we would do a regular one track meditation. I also mentioned I had already chosen the longest track of the album at 6 minutes and 47 seconds, so they could enjoy that.

Then we began as we always do, by acknowledging that we are planting our feet flat on Treaty 1 Territory Land, and that today as we connect with Treaty 1 Territory land we connect with the storm, the wind and the snow, which reminds us that we are strong, we are resilient and that like every day, we just keep breathing.

Then I continued through the rest of the prompts, the breath count and into the focused breath, encouraging them to find what they need on the inhale, and let go of their blocks on the inhale. They didn't need much guidance. They were  quiet and still, enjoying the silence from the start, and it didn't take long before I did as well. I found a chair in one of the empty seats and sat down and joined in the silence. I breathed in the moment, the gratitude for the peace in contrast to the craziness outside. Even though my eyes were closed, on days like these, it is not so bad having an interior classroom.

Though it was the longest track, the six and a half minutes went by quickly. The track ended and I lingered in the silence before I suggested a few slow, deep breaths and a few stretches to gently bring their awareness back to the classroom. It was the perfect start to some small group discussion, sharing and question forming about the learning we have begun about The Holocaust and it was very interesting to facilitate, without having to manage any behaviour- a real treat.

Break came quickly, then they were off to TAA, and it was after lunch when I saw my switch class. We had only one period together and so I chose a short five and a half minute track. We got straight to the meditation, as everyone settled quickly, especially as there were 5 or 6 kids away in this class, including Student 2. His absence is subtler than the two in my class, but noticeable nonetheless- the room was calmer.

Student 1, my fidgeter, was fidgety as usual. He required my attention from the first prompts through the end, first playing with a bottle which he eventually put down, and then bothered by the elbows of his tablemate, which were spread slightly beyond the halfway point of the table. He was calmed when I went to stand beside him, and put his head down, especially in the silence towards the end of the meditation, when I had to get up and stand beside him. I didn't mind. I looked around as I breathed in the silence and tried to wish him the same calm and peace I was experiencing.

In the beginning of the meditation, as earlier in the morning and every day, we connected with Treaty 1 Territory land and all of the weather it brings, including the winter days, as a part of the four seasons and the resilience and strength it brings. We moved through the prompts and breath count, to the guide breath, through which I encouraged them to inhale the positivity and whatever they needed, and exhale the negative, the fear and the other blocks. We moved into the silence, and though I had to get up to stand by my fidgeter, the minutes again passed quickly and peacefully. We took a few breaths to bring our awareness back and then moved into preparing their French interviews.

By the end of the afternoon, after both classes met to prepare for the field trip we will hopefully get to take tomorrow, Mr. Y and I gave them the opportunity for quiet time to work or rest, with an emphasis on quiet. They had lots of choices as to what to work on which they could do in Mr. Y's room, and because they remembered and asked, we gave them the option to rest and breath in my room. I turned down the lights, set the music on play, and let kids either work or rest. A few went straight to the computers and worked quietly, where I was also able to help a couple with things they had to do. A few students worked quietly at their seats, and four or five others sat down and put their heads down.

Over the last half hour of the day, while I helped some kids on the computers, I was also in and out of the classroom, helping students find computers or those working in the other room, and each time I came back to my room I was surprised by the sustained peace and silence. It really was an extremely pleasant afternoon, especially considering there was a blizzard raging outside.

It ended very quickly and as I brought those students with their heads down gently back to get ready to go home, most admitted that they had fallen asleep. I asked if they were ill, but they said they felt fine overall, not sick, just tired, and were happy to have had the time to rest. I guess there are days we all need that, with the lessons about spending too much time on their phones late at night to come later, in Health.

For today, I am grateful for the quiet flow of the day, that I got home quickly after, and then didn't have to go out again tonight. I don't know what we will be tomorrow, with the wind and snow, but I do know that after 14 years of teaching in Winnipeg winters, school has never been closed for a snow day, so I don't expect it will be tomorrow either, though there may not be buses for our field trip, or for kids to get to school. But I do know if schools are open, I will be there, and whoever is there will meditate, and we will breathe our way through the day, and as long as that keeps happening, I will continue to be grateful.

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