Monday, December 5, 2016

Winter Mondays

Last week got away from me. Between a misplaced computer cord, our school wide United Way campaign, busy evenings, and a prolonged midweek headache, writing was not my priority. My students and I still meditated, every day except for Thursday, when I stayed home sick, and I even had a first time meditation with my staff at our staff meeting last Tuesday, but I just couldn't write. It was a crazy week, and a weekend in which I needed a break, and so I took one. Maybe at some point, I will reflect on the week that was, from November 28 through December 2, but for now I will move forward, to today.

Another Monday, the start to December and three short, though they may not feel that way, weeks until winter break. The snow has fallen, the temperature has dropped and winter is here, and as the day went on that middle school feeling, that slow but steady rise in energy and volume, could certainly be felt through the rooms. On the outside, it doesn't really look different than any other day, but every middle school teacher knows that special kind of crazy that begins right about the beginning of December and peaks in about 10 or 11 more get-ups, when there are 14 more to go. It's a good thing we also have a lot of great learning, and some fun activities, planned for the next few weeks.

Just like we did today. Without having the experience of December in grade 7, the craziness of the afternoon, the energy, excitement, and especially the noise, might be surprising to anyone who had experienced the peace with which the day began. 

As we head toward the end of the year, we have lots on the go and this morning I had time in the library for both classes to work on their next writing piece. Having finished the last one just before Student Led Conferences, I felt it wise to build on the momentum and start our next piece right away. Plus I managed to get some time in the library last week and this, which is where our day began.

After announcements and attendance, my class and I went to the library, where they logged on and as the computers loaded, we took five and a half minutes to breathe. There was nobody in the library when we got there and it was very quiet before we began. Everyone settled very quickly, some flicking off their monitors, but none moving their chairs away as I suggested, instead just getting comfortable in their seats.

I turned off the lights, started the music and began with the usual prompts and breath counts. As I was counting, everyone was still and silent, and through the window I noted the arrival of Student A, who had arrived late. We didn't make eye contact, but I observed that he saw us in the library and I was curious to see when and how he would join us after he put his things away.

In the meantime, I continued through the count and into the focused breathing, inhaling the start of the new week and everything it brings with it, and exhaling the start of the new week and everything it brings with it. As we prepared to write, I encouraged them to inhale to confidence to find their words and exhale the fear that blocks them.

As I was coming to the end of the guided breath, Student A arrived at the door. He wasn't completely silent, banging on the door as he opened it to announce his arrival. But as soon as we made eye contact and I smiled at him, and he knew that I had noticed him, he calmed and came in quietly. He walked over to the computers to log in, and when he saw that the one he wanted was momentarily blocked with someone's binder, he didn't react. Instead, he picked up on my gesture that he join the meditation in the beanbag chair he likes, and then log in later. He sat down and got comfortable for the last half of the meditation, and so did I, after I gave a moment of thanks for his chosen response, already a victory for the day.

I reminded everyone that they could find what they need in their breath, encouraging them to keep their focus and attention on their breath, as we moved into the final minutes of silence. The library was still and I took a few breaths marveling at my students and their willingness, whether they are actually deep in meditation, merely indulging me because they feel obligated to comply, or somewhere in between. Whatever the reason, I appreciate my students, our relationships, and our quiet moments in meditation, especially when the afternoons get so crazy.

After we meditated, my class wrote for the period, and those who were done worked on other things, and before long, it was time to switch with the other class. I had told them earlier to meet me in the library and be prepared to write, and it was evident they were happy to be there as they came in. A few quickly logged into their computers, and then got comfortable on the beanbag chairs, while the rest settled in their seats.

It didn't take long before the library was again very quiet. I once again turned down all the lights and started the music. Everyone was silent and pretty still, though my fidgeter was as fidgety as always, moving his head around in between lifting it up and putting it down again. I moved through the same meditation as I had about 40 minutes before, focusing on a positive start to the week and the confidence to write, while letting go of the negativity and fear. 

The five and a half minutes passed quickly as we enjoyed the silence together. I took a few breaths, looking around, appreciating this group and our time and work together, and the peaceful start to the day and the week. As the track ended, I wrapped up the meditation, and they too got into their writing, which made for a quick start to the morning.

The day that followed was busy and full, and when my class came back to me for French during the last period of the day, a few asked if we could meditate again, others indicating what they really wanted was a nap. I told them that for today we had lots to do, but promised that in the future, in the heart of winter, when they came after break one day, I would invite them to meditate for as long as they could, and if they fell asleep, I wouldn't wake them up, but for today, we had some work to do. And so they started preparing their interviews, and they were loud and crazy, and I kind of wished we could have been meditating instead too.

Alas. I am confident that one day, the value of meditation will be more strongly appreciated and prioritized, and maybe I will be able to choose it over French, of other areas of curriculum, but for now I will take what I can get, especially as it was such a good start to the week.  

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