Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday- lundi, nos entretiens en français

Today, or at least this morning, was all about the French interviews they had been preparing for the last couple of weeks. It was time to share with the class, or at least I thought it was. The first part of the morning, with my class, went better than I expected or imagined it would. Students don't realize that they know a lot more than they realize when it comes to language, so when they actually challenge themselves and present, they start to show themselves what they can do. It is exciting learning, and how the morning began.

Starting with groups of students who volunteered to go first, and were actually ready, helped facilitate the smooth success of the morning. Our meditation, with a focus on confidence and a willingness to put in an effort and do their best, also helped support the experience. Student B was tired, and Student A arrived late today, so the classroom was quiet from the start. There was also an added feeling of relief when I told them they would have a few minutes to practice after we meditated but before the presentations began.

So once I started the music, the longest 6 minute and 47 second track, and turned off the lights, everyone relaxed into the silence. I went through the prompts and the breath count, and into the focused breathing, bringing attention to the nerves they might have as they prepare to present their interviews in French, and their ability to note their presence and continue past them, by inhaling their confidence and exhaling their worries, fears and doubts. While visualizing their presentation, and the questions and answers with their partners, I encouraged them to inhale their willingness to try, to speak to the best of their ability, and exhale their need to worry about how they sound or wanting to pronounce everything perfectly.

Then we moved into the silence, and I found a chair on the corner near the computer, opposite from where I usually sit. I chose the seat because there was no chair in my usual spot, and today when I sat between two girls, they were undisturbed by my presence. I noted how comfortable just about everybody has become in the silence, especially on a quiet morning like today. I closed my eyes and breathed, happy and grateful, and as usual the minutes passed quickly. As the track ended and silence filled the room, it was more tempting than ever to keep the quiet for longer, but with presentations ahead and work to be done,  an extra breath or two would have to suffice. I ended the meditation, and after a little time to practice, about half of the class presented their interviews, their 9 everyday questions, and it was clear they had practiced and were well prepared. It was quite impressive.

Which was partly why, when my switch class came to me in fourth period after gym for the same presentations, I was caught off guard by their lack of preparedness. We had put together the interview questions as a class from a grid of questions we use for conversations, and I had provided a framework to help them build their answers, together with the criteria for the interview. While they present, they also need to provide a written version of the interview that can be seen while they are presenting, either on paper or the computer, otherwise it is too challenging to understand what they are trying to say and support proper pronunciation. It was an essential part of the criteria, and I had clearly demonstrated options to the class for the interview, or so I thought.

As we started the class, before we meditated, I mentioned the assessment and reflection for the interview, and when no one took out any interview pages, I began to get suspicious. I asked who had a written version to share and not one person did. I was a little flabbergasted, and perhaps years ago I might have been angry, but today I realized clearly something had been missed.

I showed them some of the work my class had handed earlier that morning, and told them I wasn't sure how it had happened that they didn't know they needed a written version to share, when everyone in my class had, and also pointed out where it was outlined in the criteria. Then I told them it didn't matter how it had happened and we would move forward. I gave them the classes scheduled for presentations today to complete the written version, and told them we would begin the presentations tomorrow.  I also told them that I hoped they would learn to read the instructions, but there is no point worrying about what is done- we just keep learning and moving, and it was on that note that we meditated.

Once again a fourth period meditation meant a track that was under 6 minutes, and as we had already spent some time talking, we got straight to it. As earlier in the morning, I moved through the prompts and the breath count, but the focused breath preparing for the interview presentation would wait until tomorrow. Today I encouraged them to inhale what they need to get the interview down on paper, and exhale the distraction and blocks.

We moved into the silence and everyone settled, except Student 1. He still seems unable to stop moving and today, shortly after we began, he stated shaking his head from side to side, looking one way and then the other, but nowhere in particular, without stopping. At one point during the breath count, I went over to him and gently put my hands on his shoulders, trying to encourage him to relax. But as soon as I did, he starting moving his hand and shaking his pencil, so I figured I should just let him be, and I did.

As we moved into the silence, and I sat down to join, Student A was still moving his head back and forth. I closed my eyes, took a couple of breaths, opened them again and he still hadn't stopped. I watched him for a few more breaths, equally out of concern and fascination, and at some point he noticed me watching and looked at me. We smiled at each other, and then he put his head down, where it stayed for the rest of the meditation. I don't know if it was that smile, and if it was, why was it different than the encouragement I had offered earlier, but I was happy he could rest, even if it was just for a moment.

In the end, it wasn't much more, as the track ended a few breaths later, but it was a peaceful moment and another nice start to the end of the morning. As soon as it ended, everyone got to work and while they did, I marvelled again at the fact that not one person had done a written version, even the strongest, hardest working students, who always get everything done. After my remarks, one of the girls finally confessed they had thought the written part was optional, which was the consensus around the class, to which I responded, "No such luck," and they got back to work.

I am looking forward to their presentations tomorrow.....with only 3 more get-ups to go!

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