Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bliss before I fly

Inhale, two, three, four,

It was a blissful
five and a half minutes
first thing in the morning
with my homeroom

Hold, two

The music played
and the room
was completely
and totally

Exhale, two, three, four

When we were done
I told them
how brilliant it was
and how much
they are
this year,
both my newbies
and my veterans,
some of whom
are like different kids,
especially Student 1,
though that was
in a private message.

Inhale, two, three, four

I also spoke briefly
about the word
and the nature of
which allows us
to connect with
our inner selves,
a spiritual practice.
Then we got to
and writing
our 6 word memoirs.

Hold, two,

My switch class came
after break.
Though not as
or silent
as the class before,
they were improved,

Exhale, two, three, four

Student B was excited
he was leaving
for a concert
in the afternoon.
In the morning
he was bursting
with energy
and had trouble
containing himself.

Inhale, two, three, four

Before we began
I spoke again of power
and the power
we have
to control
and how
in the end,
that is really
all the power
we have.

Hold, two

I told a story
of a student,
with various challenges,
both physical
and intellectual,
and his inability
to control himself,
and the sounds
he made.

Exhale, two, three, four,

For two years,
he was in my classroom,
and participated in
meditations daily,
rocking in his chair,
often bouncing his head
against my belly.
sometimes making noise,
sometime being quiet.
He had no power.

Inhale, two, three, four

I reminded Student B,
and everyone else,
they have the power
to make choices
for themselves,
even if someone else
is making noise.

Hold, two

And so we began,
and he was quiet
for awhile,
but was overcome
with the need
to make noise
near the end.

Exhale, two, three, four

He quieted again
when I stood
beside him,
and I reminded him again
of his power
when we were done.

Inhale, two, three, four

As demanding as
he is,
and annoying as
the noise and
are to me,
and others,
it will help
the other students
for others,
as they will
they can feel
and yet
as the noise
and distration
bother them
less and less.

Hold, two

Big thoughts,
too late at night,
on the eve of
the conference
I am attending

Exhale, two, three, four

Getting ready to fly
but feeling the need
to document
the feeling
of the day.
How strange,
and quick,
and for now,

I'll be away from my classroom until Tuesday, but will write about the conference (I have to do it anyway) and my presentation and the meditations we do.

All the best and thanks for reading 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

One for Tuesday

The first Day 6
of the cycle.
My kids go to TAA,
and I finally have some
prep time,
to get stuff done.
And the computers are down.

I can't do
I need to get done,
so I do
a bunch of other stuff.

But it throws
the whole day off.

My switch class comes,
settling relatively quickly,
considering they just had
TAA in the morning
for the first time.

Student A sits down,
ready to go.
He is a different kid
than last year,
even if it might
not last.
I'll take
what I can get.
And keep reminding him
how awesome he is
and what good choices
he is making.

Student B gets comfortable
in his seat
beside me,
and asks
if we will
meditate again

I tell him we will
today and
every day.

I take the opportunity
to invite my students,
especially my experienced ones,
to consider
leading meditations,
while I am away at
my conference
later this week.

I have a few
conferences and
coming up,
and with the High Holidays,
I will be away
quite a bit in
and early October.
I remind them
they will have
many chances
and encourage them
to take them.

On that note,
we begin,
lights dimmed,
music on,
inhale, two, three, four,
hold, two,
exhale, two, three, four.
They are getting
used to it.

Most put their
heads down,
including Student A,
happy to relax,
and breathe,
for a minute,
or five.

Student B started out
or calm,
less restless,
more settled.

But a blip
in the music
from a glitch
on the Ipad
distracted him,
and caused him
to bleep,
that was the noise
he made,
a few times,
before I reached
his side,
and asked him,
he would give
a machine
such power
over him?

I reminded him,
and everyone,
that they held
their power
in their breath,
and no one,
or nothing,
could take it away,
unless they
allowed it.
And that they
deserved better.

As I spoke,
I lost the count,
but it didn't matter.
I told them that,
and reminded them
to breathe naturally,
and a few moments later,
the track was done.

I closed
the meditation
and started
the class.

It, and the rest
of the day
flew by.

Exploratory outside
with all the grade 8's,
a walk to the park
on a beautiful day,
and with the computers down,
what else could we do?

After lunch,
my switch class
came back
for our first
French class.

About 20 minutes in
Student B said
he wanted to
meditate again.
Almost half
indicated they'd
but it didn't seem
to flow
in the moment.
But definitely
next time,
I told him.

After break,
was French again.
But this year
is different.
I still have
my homeroom,
but I am also
with the third
grade 8 teacher
in the row
of portables.

He has been
teaching for
over 15 years,
but was never
to teach
French before.

Though it is
to teach,
and work with,
large groups,
it is different
to have
two classes
for French.
It will be
but interesting,
and strange,
and different.

it was so
and different
I didn't even
my homeroom hadn't
that day.

I knew
was off,
but I thought
it was the whole

none of my students
said anything.
I wonder
if they
and will
ask them

The class
went okay,
for a first
French class,
with 48 kids
in a room,
more than half
of whom
have no
in learning
and a third,
who are still

An old story,
part of the
of education.

At least next time,
I will know
what is off
and be sure
we meditate
at the end of the day,
before French
with both classes
on Day 6.

At least,
we spent the
last 15 minutes

And, once again,
is another day.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Off and Running- Friday, Monday

First Friday morning
time already flying by. 
Week one nearly done.

My homeroom settles,
getting used to the routine.
Finding what they need.

Lights dim, music on,
nearly all their heads go down,
straight backs didn't last long.

But the silence stays,
peace washes over the room
everyone is still.

Inhale, two, three, four,
Hold, two. Exhale, two, three, four,
again and again.

Five minutes and change
goes by quickly, leaving me
grateful and at peace.

Slowly they come back
their awareness returning
ready for the day.

In class, some sharing
easing into our learning
practicing our skills.

My switch class comes next
settling into their seats
getting used to things.

Student B sits down,
arranging his pad and pens,
preparing himself.

Student A gets set
his buddy at his table,
and Pringles to eat.

Again, I prepare,
lights off, music on. "Be still,
if you can," I say.

Student B improves
drawing, but not bothering
others. I can move.

Student A needs me
to remind him, food can wait. 
He knows that I'm right.

Both calm, with the rest,
more or less. It still feels weird
for some new students.

Inhale, two, three, four,
Hold, two. Exhale, two, three, four,
again and again.

Five minutes and change,
not as smooth as the first class,
but still over fast.

Then we start writing
first pieces- Six Word Memoirs
something all can write 


Just like that, Monday
arrives. First up, my switch class,
calmer in the morn.

Student B moves spots,
where he has more space, and the
support he requires.

He settles quickly, 
with Student A and the rest.
Everyone is calm.

Still the first Monday
most happy to lay their heads,
they are still tired.

Inhale, two, three, four,
Hold, two. Exhale, two, three, four,
again and again.

Five minutes and change,
this morning it goes better,
which I let them know.

Then the day begins
continuing our writing
picking up our pace.

My homeroom returns,
second nature already,
they settle quickly.

Inhale, two, three, four,
Hold, two. Exhale, two, three, four,
again and again.

Five minutes and change,
I appreciate the peace,
relax in the calm.

Then we get a start
writing, before the "Welcome 
Back" assembly starts.

The afternoon brings
the two classes together.
Time to mark today

It was not perfect 
the METTA meditation 
in the afternoon

But it's important,
it's September Eleventh,
and experience.

Twelve minutes or so,
extending our compassion
and kindness beyond

It is challenging
for some, especially those
who are new to it

Student B goes out,
it is all too much for him.
He spends time outside

Two boys keep talking
I stand behind them, or else,
they just keep talking.

Last year's giggly boy
needs a reminder, as do
a couple others.

they still, like Student A has
been the entire time.

The meditation 
ends with a minute of thanks
and almost silence.

I am not quite sure
it was worth it. But I don't
tell my students that.

Instead, I speak of
power, and what they give up
without noticing.

And that, for the first,
long meditation, they did
fairly well that day.

So another day 
came to an end. Tomorrow,
we'll do it again.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Return Again Day 1

Inhale, two, three, four,

Here we go again,
another year,
another first day of school,
another new beginning.
but the same.

Hold, two,

The jump to grade 8,
with many of the same
beautiful faces,
most happy to be back,
to see their friends,
and even me,
a little.
To begin
the continuation
of  our learning

Exhale, two, three, four

The same,
but different.
Familiar students,
in a new classroom,
out in the portables.
A bigger room,
with space to move,
and lots of storage,
but literally a portable classroom,
one in a row of six,
in back of the school,
with an outdoor hallway,
and a giant field,
out the back door,
as the extension of our classroom

Only three classrooms
all by grade 8 classes,
a huge advantage in the
spring and fall,
but a real bitch,
in the winter,
especially when I have to
go to the bathroom.

Inhale, two, three, four

The day begins,
my new homeroom
a mix of kids
from last year's classes,
peppered with a few from across
the hall
and one new arrival,
a transfer from another school
with a friend in the room.

I am happy
to see them all,
and catch up with those
who didn't make it
to orientation meetings.

Hold, two

Students are excited
as they settle
into their chosen seats,
in their new classroom,
but also nervous,
about the day
and the year
to come,
and tired,
from going to bed late,
not used to getting up
so early
after the summer months.
I can relate.

Exhale, two, three, four

After O Canada and announcements,
but before anything else,
before organizing
supplies and lockers,
even before
we pause
and take five and a half minutes
to meditate.

Inhale, two, three, four

They know what to expect,
even those
who weren't in my class
last year.
But we review
for the experienced,
and the new arrivals,
because it is a practice,
the very nature,
of meditation.

Hold, two

They are more willing
to answer my questions.
Why do we meditate?
To relax,
to focus,
to breathe.
To bring our attention
to a single
I remind them.

Exhale two, three, four

I encourage them
to sit up
in their chairs,
even if they didn't
last year,
or only do it,
for a few days.

Inhale, two, three, four

I challenge them
to open themselves
to going deeper
into their
and really try
to follow
the breath count,
I will use,
for at least
the first couple of weeks.

Hold, two

And so we are ready
to begin.
I turn off the lights
but the room
is not dark,
just dimmed,
with the natural light,
from the big windows.
I start the music,
the students are quiet
and still,
even Student 1,
who has returned to me,
this time in my homeroom.
The same,
but different.

Exhale, two, three, four

The five and a half minutes
pass quickly,
as I speak through it,
first welcoming them to
Grade 8,
a new year,
a new space,
a fresh start.

Inhale, two, three, four

I guide them through
the prompts,
familiar to many,
first planting our feet flat,
on Treaty 1 Territory Land,
connecting with
the land,
those who came before us,
and the Treaty we honour

Hold, two

Then straightening our backs,
while relaxing our bodies,
and finally,
closing our eyes.
About half,
in different parts of the room,
sitting straight in their seats,
the rest
putting their heads down,
all settling.
Silent, beyond the sound of my voice,
and the quiet music
in the background.

Exhale, two, three, four

Silent as I walk
around the room,
Inhale, two, three, four,
Hold, two,
Exhale, two, three, four,
over and over,
for the length
of the track.
Enjoying the familiar feeling,
the quiet,
the peace,
and the comfort of the classroom.
but the same.

Inhale, two, three, four

As the track ends,
I turn off the music,
and gently bring their awareness
back to the classroom.
I remind them
to notice how they feel,
and that their feelings,
or sensations,
during their practice,
are natural,
as are having none at all.
I encourage them
to simply pay attention
to how they feel.

Hold, two

I also invite them
to share
any feelings, ideas
or their experience,
but as is the norm,
they say nothing.
I pause to give them
the chance
to respond,
just long enough
so the silence is
and it is clear
I really want
a response.
Then I laugh,
because I am not surprised,
and their silence
is funny,
and we continue
with the business
of the day.
It is the first day,
and it already feels,
as though we never left.

Exhale, two, three, four

After break,
my switch class arrives,
as once again,
I share my class
with a teaching partner, Mr. E,
I am lucky,
to have two great partners.
His homeroom,
my switch class,
is also made up,
of many of my grade 7 students
from both classes,
with whom I am very happy
to be working again
including Student A,
who has grown so much,
and a few other boys,
whose letters' I don't remember
from last year,
and so we will see
how they appear this year.

Inhale, two, three, four,

This class has a few
random students,
one from another school,
another, one lone student,
a girl,
the only from one of the grade 7 classrooms,
who I imagine was the
casualty of a switch
that had to made to support
another student,
and who I also imagine,
will do fine in the end.

Hold, two

Among the boys
from another grade 7 class,
is also a boy
with high needs,
and many challenges,
academic, social
and behaviour issues,
through no fault of his own,
simply no impulse control.
We have a relationship,
this student, Student B,
in my switch class,
a good rapport
from last year,
though this is the first time
he is in my class.

Exhale, two, three, four

I knew what I was getting into,
as much as that's possible,
with students like Student B,
but it was evident within moments
of his arrival,
and the beginning of the class,
that he is very needy,
and will be extremely demanding,
even more than Student A,
who had an excellent start.

Inhale, two, three, four

I went through the same introduction
and explanation
as I had
earlier that morning.
Student A,
and his buddy,
who was in the other class last year,
settled quickly,
participated in the discussion,
and only needed a shh or two
to stay  focused.
But Student B,
had a harder time,
ripping up paper,
poking the people around him,
and fidgeting in his chair.
In the other class,
he has a rocking chair,
and a stool,
which we brought
to my room.

Hold, two

It helped a little,
but not enough,
to help him be quiet,
as I turned off the lights
and started the music.
I immediately stood behind him
as I welcomed the class
to grade 8
and their first meditation of the year.
Employing the
rule of proximity,
I didn't move for the rest
of the meditation.

Exhale, two, three, four

Standing behind Student B,
I guided them through the prompts,
as I had earlier that morning,
and noted Student A,
sitting up straight,
hands fold on the desk in front of him,
with his eyes closed.
I he remained that way,
focused on his breath
throughout the meditation.
The EA,
who is working with them both
again this year- bless his soul-
and I caught eyes,
and took delight,
in his focus,
and growth.
Even if it doesn't
last long,
the intention is there,
and he will keep growing.

Inhale, two, three, four

I was also very grateful,
as Student B clearly needed me.
A few minutes in,
I tried to move away from him,
and began to circle the room,
but within seconds,
he was poking the boy
beside him.
And so I stood behind him,
encouraging him to relax,
and allowing him to be
I think it worked
a little,
for the first day.
At least,
he didn't bother
everybody else.

Hold, two

And so the five and a half minutes
passed much more slowly
than in the previous class,
but in the end,
it is only five and a half minutes.
No big surprise,
that no one in my switch class
took me up on the invitation
to share
anything either,
but it was good start,
good enough anyway.

Exhale, two, three, four

The first meditations
of the year,
on another first day
in grade 8,
are not a first.
But this is
the first time,
I have ever
written a poem
about them.

The same, but different.
Different, but the same.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Calm Monday, Crazy Tuesday

The last week in April, and as I reminded my students as it began, the only week in the next five in which we don't have a school event, holiday, PD day or field trip. One of the last full weeks of regular classroom learning, and so as we started the week, we determined to make the most of it, beginning with our breath.

I began the morning with my class and I couldn't have asked for a more peaceful start to the day and the week. As on previous Mondays, I know that much of the quietness comes from their utter exhaustion, as the days get longer, and my grade 7 students grow into that phase of adolescence which entails endless hours of communication on their devices, often late into the night. But I also know they are happy for the minutes to breathe, and this Monday was no different.

The six and a half minutes of silence were a blessing to start the day. They were also what has become pretty much routine when we meditate in the classroom. On Monday morning the hallway was also quiet and so the stillness prevailed from inside and out.

My switch class came for fourth period and with only one period it was a slightly shorter meditation, and as is generally the case with my switch class, it was quiet enough, but not quite still or silent. Student 2 was annoying, trying to call the attention of his friends, but was silenced with a look. And, as is also the case with my switch class, we have a routine and on Monday it brought another mostly peaceful start to our day and week together.

Tuesday, April 25

Another Day 2 and another crazy Tuesday. This morning we welcomed our first of two high school volunteers in my classroom, a grade 12 student, who I taught when he was in grade 7, and has grown into a smart, strong, young man, learning that the consequences to the choices we make in life get more serious as we grow older. He spent the first two periods getting to know students as they worked on their Exploratory projects, and then played games while the others were in choir.

After break, during period 3, Mr. Y offered an opportunity to rewrite one Math test from the previous unit if they were unhappy with their marks. About half of the students from both classes chose to do the rewrite, while the rest gathered in my room. It was an unusual event and strange for both classes, many sitting with their friends, others thrown off a little when they didn't have their usual seats. As break ended, everyone was pretty excited and loud.

Though they settled pretty quickly the room was still loud, and while I had intended to wait until the afternoon to meditate in the library, I decided we should take the time right away. As I told them, even though we would do it again later, it certainly wouldn't hurt to take the time in the moment. As soon as I said it, my volunteer, who had been in grade 7 five years ago, stated how he missed meditating. He was surprised I was still using the same music and that my old music player still works. He was happy to settle into my chair and join in the meditation.

With the different mix of students, and especially the displacement of Student A from his seat to the one beside his "buddy," the boy he likes to bother, I was a little concerned about how it would go, but as I turned off the lights and started the music, quiet washed over the room, and I was instantly grateful I had made the choice to take the time to breathe.

I moved through the prompts, breath count and focused breath, encouraging them to inhale their calm and exhale their excess, hyper energy, and just about everyone relaxed into the quiet. Student A had the Minecraft figures he had crafted and was playing with them, attempting to poke his buddy, but stopped when I moved to stand behind him. He settled for a few moments, but not long enough to allow me to sit down and join in the silence. Instead I stood behind him, and closed my eyes as I took a few breaths before the track ended.

Once again it was not a perfect meditation, but it was quiet enough, and it set the tone for a mostly peaceful period to follow. I was glad I made the choice to take the time to breathe. It is amazing how easy is it to forget that it is always the best choice.

Immediately after lunch, I got the call from my grade 8 immersion class inviting me to join them and I was very happy to oblige. They were chatting as I arrived, but it only took a moment before they quieted, with no prompts beyond setting the lights and music. As we began the meditation, I commented on how much I appreciated being there, especially as they were so ready whenever I arrived.

We began as we always do, connecting with Treaty 1 Territory land and those who came before us, and I remarked that I hoped after our Treaty Day Celebrations next week that they would gain an even deeper understanding as to what that means and why we do it every time. Then I moved through the rest of the prompts, breath count and focused breath, encouraging them to find what they need as they breathed.

We moved into the silence and I sat down and joined them, marvelling at the absolute stillness and quiet in the room. I was grateful for the peace and the opportunity to both facilitate it, and be a part of it. It's different when they are not my students, and it a way it is even sweeter.

As the track ended I lingered in the silence for a couple of breaths before I broke it and encouraged them to return to the room gently. I opened the blinds to let in the light, another benefit of a different classroom. It was very quiet as they came back, and very peaceful. The room felt different than it had when I arrived just 10 minutes earlier.

Before I left I reminded them any bodily sensations may be natural, as are none at all. I asked them if anyone had anything they wanted to share with me, and reassured their blank faces that it was okay if they didn't, and maybe one day they would. Then I thanked them for having me, noting that this was probably the most peaceful 7 minutes of my day. They thanked me as I left them to continue their day and I went on with my afternoon.

After break, both classes came to the library, and has become the norm there, everyone got comfortable at the tables, computers, and a bunch of students, boys and girls from both classes, piled together some beanbag chairs and piled on them. Before we began I reminded them I expected silence even if they chose to sit in what could not be comfortable positions, and once again they lived up to their assurances they could do it.

We had a lot left to do, half had already meditated in the morning, and I still don't have good speakers for the library, so I chose a quick, five minute track. It was another good choice for meditating. It was short and sweet. I moved through the usual prompts and encouraged them to take the time to breathe and make the most of the last hour of the day.

The last minutes went quickly, as I took a seat in the middle of the library and joined in the silence, as did the rest of the afternoon, to end another crazy Tuesday- our last crazy Tuesday in April.

Here's to looking forward to what Wednesday will bring....and to getting some sleep before it comes.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Time Getting Away From Me- The Third Week in April

I can't let another week get away from me, though much like my students, as the days get longer and activities ramp up, at the end of the day, I don't feel much like writing. It is easy to get off the writing track and lose motivation. But as I say to my students, "Suck it up Buttercup," and so I have committed to one hour of writing to get back in the swing and capture highlights of the week's meditations, because time is going very quickly, and soon there will be no more year left to capture.

It was a short week, the week of April 17th to April 20th, with only four days and several large groups, there were fewer meditations and none during PD on Friday. Here are some highlights.

Monday, April 17th

The week began with a Day 2 and I decided to wait until the library in the afternoon to meditate as the morning was already hectic, with one short period for each class to read our novel. I wanted to make the most of all of our time, and the morning reading went smoothly as just about everyone is really engaged in our novel.

Before I met both classes in the library after break in the afternoon, I was invited back to the grade 8 immersion class immediately after lunch, when I have my prep time. I have been told that the students like my guidance and the way I talk through the first part of the meditation. I am always honoured to be asked back.

When I arrived they were a bit chatty, even as I set up the music and dimmed the lights. Even though I hadn't been there is a few weeks, I didn't offer much instruction, but asked if they had any questions, and when there were none, I started the music and the meditation.

As the six minute track began, I wasn't sure if they would need more direction to be quiet as there were a few final whispers here and there. But within a few seconds of beginning the prompts and welcoming them to their time to breathe, there was a stillness that washed over the room and silence filled the air. The room was very peaceful as I guided them through the prompts, breath counts and focused breathing, inviting them to find when what they need and grow it as they inhale, and then exhale the blocks that get in their way.

We moved into the silence and I sat down and joined, marveling in the quiet in the room, and how it had taken a moment in the beginning, but ultimately prevailed with no real action on my part, except for making room for the space. I breathed in my gratitude for the time and the invitation to be there.

The minutes passed quickly as they do and I ended the meditation, thanking them for their silence and sharing some of my observations, including how I felt unsure in the beginning as it was a little noisier than usual, which is perhaps because they are more comfortable with my presence, and how grateful I was to feel the silence roll across the room like a wave. It was remarkable and I let them know I was grateful for the opportunity and always happy to be invited to their classroom. When no one had any further comments to share, I wished them continued peace for the rest of the afternoon and went off to the rest of mine.

Both of my classes came to the library after break and it didn't take long for everyone to get comfortable, with groups of kids in corners on the floor and piled on the beanbag chairs. I debated whether they needed to move aloud, and they assured me they were all fine and could enjoy the stillness and silence, even if they were practically piled on top of each other in some cases.

I took them at their word, turned off the lights, set the music and started the meditation as always. I guess everyone needed the break on that Monday afternoon as the library was quiet from beginning to end. Reflecting their comfort with each other, and their respect and appreciation for the time, even the kids piled on the beanbags were still and silent.

As I moved through all the usual prompts, breath count and focused breathing, there was no need to redirect behaviour, or stand in any particular place, as everyone was still and silent. As I finished the guided part of the meditation, I took a chair in the middle of the library and sat down to breathe. Before I closed my eyes, I looked around at everyone, heads down where they could be and eyes closed in other places, relaxed and enjoying the moment, and I smiled. It was a good start to the week. I closed my eyes and enjoyed a few moments of peace before they too passed, the track ended, and I closed the meditation so we could finish the day.

Tuesday April 18th

We meditated once on Tuesday, when both classes came together for Social Studies for the last two periods of the morning. As we got settled, students got into the groups they had been working in based on the different parts of the world of the countries of their research projects. We have been continuing our discussions of standards of living, by exploring their perceptions of happiness and everything that entails, in different parts of the world.

Throughout the study we had spent time watching different videos which illustrate life, perspectives and perceptions of happiness and freedoms in different parts of the world. As we started Tuesday, we watched a video which highlighted the connection between our perspectives and attitudes, gratitude, and happiness in our lives, so it was with that focus that we meditated.

Despite the different groups and seating arrangement, it didn't take long for everyone to settle as we began the meditation. I moved through the prompts and breath count, and then I encouraged them to inhale their gratitude for all they have, while exhaling the fears that make us want to focus on what we don't have. I challenged them to breathe and find happiness, health and safety in their breath.

The silence was not perfect, there was some movement, chairs shuffling, a cough or sniffle, but it was quiet and peaceful. It was nice. And as usual, it was quick. Before long the music ended and it was time to end the meditation and continue with the group sharing and the rest of the day.

Wednesday, April 19th

Wednesday was the only day of the week I saw both classes individually in my classroom. I began the day with my class for 1 period of ELA, reading and working with the novel. With a short period, it was a short 5 and a half minute meditation, and it was still and silent from beginning to end.

It took no time for everyone to settle, as first thing in the morning my class is always happy to put their heads down, which they did with little prompting. As we planted our feet flat on Treaty 1 Territory Land I noted this act is becoming even more significant as we continue to read our novel and broaden our understanding of the Treaties and the importance of the land, Then I continued through the usual prompts, breath count, and focused breath, encouraging them to find what they needed for the day ahead.

As we moved into the silence, the room was even quieter than usual. There was no movement at all and it seemed that even the hallway was still. I joined in, noting my gratitude for the peace. The track ended and I lingered in the silence for a few breaths more, sad to break it, but sensing it was time. Time to read and move on with the day. But before I did, I thanked my students for the lovely start and remarked on their growing ability to be still, which is no small feat, and never ceases to amaze me.

It spoils me a little too. My switch class came in the period that followed, and while I used more or less the same words, the feeling can't be replicated and it different with the other group. They are not bad at meditating, and still quiet and pleasant enough, but do not achieve the same level of peace and still my homeroom reaches. It really is something special.

But it doesn't diminish the time with my switch class, which for those 5 and a half minutes was just fine. Not completely still and silent, but quiet enough and just fine. The discussions that followed around the novel were also lively, with many students engaging in the themes and sharing their ideas and opinions willingly, which is also different than my homeroom, from which I often need to prod and pry responses. So there are pros and cons to both rooms and I appreciate them both in very different ways.

Thursday April 20

Thursday was our 7th monthly visit to the Millennium Library, marking the passage of time and the growth of our students from the meditation in the morning, to their behaviour and learning throughout the day. It was a brilliant meditation and a brilliant day.

As usual both classes came together to meditate before we got ready to go. It didn't take long for everyone to settle and I started the 6 and a half minute track, using my iPod because I forgot my iPad at home.

I moved through the usual prompts breath count and focused breath. I encouraged them to inhale what they need and exhale what they do not, as they visualized their day at the library, from the morning, through lunch, and into the afternoon. I invited them to picture the day, time, space and the goals they intended to accomplish as they breathed.

As we moved into the silence, I noted the timer on the iPod read we had exactly three minutes of deep breathing ahead. I also noted the room was particularly still and silent. As I breathed, inhaling my own good energy and releasing my fears for the day, I noticed the room remained very quiet. The peace lasted for the entire 3 minutes and a few breaths beyond as the track ended.

As I closed the meditation, I congratulated them on the exceptional meditation and the new silence I felt we had experienced for the full three minutes. I told them that I didn't know if they felt it was different, but I sure did, and I thought it was a great sign for the day ahead.

Whether it was or not, it was indeed a wonderfully relaxed and enjoyable day at the library and a great way to end a short week.

Now we have another big one ahead as we come to the last week in April. Hard to believe that summer will be here before we know it. But until it arrives, I will try to keep on writing and keep on breathing.

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead. Remember to breathe.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ninety-Something Grade 7 Kids in the Gym on Treaty 1 Territory Land

I am working on several pieces to catch up on the last weeks before the break and since, but in the meantime, I need to capture today and the five minutes of meditation I experienced in the gym, with about 100 other people, including the four grade 7 classes in our pod (what we call the different sections of our school), their teachers, the 5 volunteers from the big-vision high school housed at our neighbourhood high school, and their teacher-advisor, who was a former colleague of ours, as part of our experience this morning.

We gathered first thing in the morning to share in the experience of The Blanket Exercise Workshop, (, which is a simulation designed to help participants understand Canada's history from an Indigenous perspective, including the impact of the Canadian government on Indigenous communities past and present.

Using the shorter version, designed for grades 4-8, in about an hour and a half, The Blanket Exercise covered about 500 years of history, from early contact with the settlers through modern history, as a step towards reconciliation, as our participants experienced the devastating events of Indigenous history, including the extermination of half the population by smallpox and other diseases, the loss of land and ways of life, loss of family, culture and language to 150 years of Residential Schools, and loss of rights and freedoms in modern day Canada. They also gained insight into some recent steps towards Reconciliation, like The Apology and other initiatives, as well as the work yet to be done. The experience  is a small part of our greater classroom learning, and will connect to our Treaty Days celebrations at the beginning of May.

When we finished the simulation, we came back together briefly in the big circle, before we split into our classes for smaller sharing circles, as the group was too large to accommodate everyone. Grade 7 students only have so much patience, and we can only ask so much of them, and their teachers. The group, who had been prepped before we began, but could not know what the experience would be like, was amazing in every way. They were willing, cooperative, and exceptionally respectful to each other, and to the process, which had some sitting on the sides for a long period of time, and others standing for the duration. Though there were a few moments of sshing, or redirecting focus and minor behaviour, overall our students gave themselves to the experience.

While many passed as we went around the sharing circle after, several spoke of gaining a deeper understanding the events of history, as rather than just being told, they were led to feel. The reflected on the feelings they had experienced, including shock, fear and anger. I am looking forward to learning more about their experiences when I read their written reflections.

It was a very powerful experience and it began with a very powerful, though not easy, meditation. I chose one of the shorter tracks, but at just under 5 minutes, it was one of those days when the minutes passed slowly, and the time seemed long, probably because in the unfamiliar setting, with so many people, there was more behaviour to manage.

There were four classes of grade 7's, about 95 kids, sitting on chairs in a big circle around the blankets, which had been set up to resemble Turtle Island, or North America prior to European contact. My two classes might meditate regularly, but usually in the comfort of the classroom, with desks on which to lay their heads. I have never meditated with the other two classes, and so it was certainly a new experience for them, one to which I gave little explanation. I just reminded everyone that the only way to meditate wrong was to bother someone else, and with that we began.

We dimmed the gym lights, but it was not as dark as my classroom, and kids felt noticeably awkward as they shifted in their seats and I encouraged them to relax in their chairs, and into their breath, as they allowed themselves to forget about everyone else in the room. The speakers I have been using for the last 5 years broke, and so with just the IPad the music was very quiet in the background, adding to the awkward silence. But at the same time it was quiet and peaceful enough. I continued as usual, with extra attention to the introduction and the prompts.

As we started, I encouraged everyone to plant their feet flat on Treaty 1 Territory Land, the traditional home of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the M├ętis Nation, noting that it was in the spirit of acknowledging and honouring these connections that we were all there today. It was our purpose in meeting, and as we make these connections with the land, the treaties, and the people who came before us, we make steps towards reconciliation. 

I moved through the posturing, encouraging them to sit up straight, and still relax all parts of their bodies, and ultimately close their eyes. I reminded them that it is natural to feel awkward or a little uncomfortable, and to be wondering if everyone else was also closing their eyes or looking at them instead, and challenged them to let those feelings go, trust themselves and close their eyes. Quite a few did.

I led them through the breath count, but kept it shorter than usual taking only four or five breaths, in part due to the short time we had, but also because so many of them were unfamiliar with the count and I didn't want them to get too hung up or distracted by it. I then encouraged them to bring their focus and attention to each inhale and each exhale as they breathed naturally.

As I brought their attention to their breath, I encouraged them to find what they need, inhaling the focus and patience to listen and participate, while exhaling the impatience and distraction that gets in the way. As some fidgeted, as there are students like Students A and Students 1 and 2 in every class, and we had 4 classes, I reminded them to inhale the respect they bring to the experience, for themselves and the people around them, and then exhale the fear that causes them to make the choices that bring them negative attention. I challenged them to look within and give their respect and best selves to the experience. At the same time I applied the old rule of proximity and moved where I was needed, spending the bulk of the minutes near Student 2 and his buddies from the other classes.

We moved into the silence and they managed to keep it together, and though there were a few smirks and glances passed between them, they were quiet, as was everyone else. As I looked around the circle, there was a certain amount of stillness, though some, like Student A, were still a little fidgety, everyone was quiet and no one disturbed the peace.

I closed my eyes where I stood and took a few deep breaths, giving thanks for the quiet and the positive start to the morning. Then I said a little prayer for the rest of the morning, asking for a positive and meaningful experience for my students and colleagues and that the intention and purpose be understood. 

I was standing near the boys and so it was hard to hear the music, but after a few breaths I sensed that it was time to close. I walked over to the IPad as I ended the meditation, and thought that it didn't really matter if the track was actually over, as it felt long enough, only to see the next track had just started. The five minutes was well timed, and like the rest of the morning, it was not easy, but it was certainly worthwhile. It was the beginning of a powerful learning experience and I am grateful for it.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Week to get Stuff Done

This week was do or die, both for students and teachers. Report cards go live Wednesday, and while the actual deadline was last Thursday, teachers know that as long as they are in over the weekend, everything will be okay. Teachers have to assess the work to write reports, and in order to do that, students have to get their projects and assignments in to their teachers. Though many students consistently adhere to deadlines, a few of which were early last week, if not before, many of our students procrastinate and straggle, and a few struggle, to get their work done. As middle school teachers, we are aware of how students work and learn, and are also aware that during the last week of the term, we sometimes have to light a fire underfoot, push a little, nag a little and threaten some, so students follow through and finish their work and hand it in. This is very true of some of the students in my class, and more so of the students in my switch class.

In my class. most were done their assignments, and working diligently to prepare the presentations on the country they had researched, which they would be delivering, started at the end of last week, in front of the students in both classes. The conscientious and motivated students in both my classes worked on their presentations all week, double-checking their slides for common errors and practicing their delivery. Over the years, I have seen some kids practice their presentations, and it is why we provide the time for it, but I have never seen anything like the students I have this year. It is really remarkable, as were the six presentations we saw to start things off on Friday afternoon.

But before that, the week was devoted to getting things done as were each of our meditations. And somehow, get things done we did. At the end of the week, just about everyone had submitted almost everything, if not all of their assignments. Last week, I assessed some 20 Social Studies Research Countries Projects, and this weekend I added 40 ELA letters, essays and articles about Hana's Suitcase. I then went on to write 134 comments in four different subjects to start and finish my report cards. Somehow it always gets done....even if it means sitting on the couch for the entire weekend.

I don't have much energy left for writing, and with daylight savings time. I lost an hour and it is getting late, so I don't have much time for writing either. But I don't want the week to get lost, and I don't want to have to come back to it next week, when I will have more meditations about which ti write, and so I am just going to make some notes and highlight the key events of the week.

Monday, March 6

  • A Day 2, but nothing out of the ordinary
  • My class period 3, my switch class period 4
  • A regular Monday, get-ready-for-the-week-and-get-stuff-done meditation
  • The grade 8 French Immersion class invited me back in the afternoon, with a call first thing in the morning
  • I learned that they enjoyed the guidance and the way I talked them through it
  • I was honoured to be invited back and happy to oblige
  • It was a peaceful and quiet six and a half minutes
  • I gave little instruction and I enjoyed the time
  • I thanked them before I left 
  • I told them if they wanted me to come back next Day 2 we could try a Metta Meditation
  • They said they would be happy to have me back 
  • I am looking forward to it
Tuesday, March 7

  • The first 2 periods in the library, first my class and then my switch class
  • Pretty quiet as usual, especially first thing in the morning
  • Student A was with his EA, pretty quiet
  • Student B's buddies were a little giggly and unsettled, for the first time in awhile
  • They have been more rambunctious lately, perhaps in compensation for Student B's absence, or perhaps they always were, and their behaviour is only noticeable now that he is gone
  • Regardless I spent some time standing behind them as we meditated and they eventually settled
  • I would never let them know, but they were kind of cute, pretty funny
  • My switch class came and they were pretty quiet
  • Student 1 didn't get a beanbag chair and so he lay down on the floor
  • He tried to call attention as he crawled under a table, but eventually quieted
  • Everyone else was quiet and undisturbed even though a few people came in and out of the library
Wednesday, March 8

  • I was lucky to get the library again as my students needs computers, and each class had a period, first my students, then my switch class
  • Each period was a short 5 minute, focus and get lots done, meditation
  • Both periods were very quiet and the 5 minutes flew by, as did the morning
  • As I started the week with my class, it was the stillest and quietest meditation of the week
  • Both classes were undisturbed by the door opening and closing
  • In the meditation with my switch class, at one point the door opened, and two teachers proceeded to have a conversation outside the door
  • As their voices carried through the library, I moved to the door and gestured to try to gain their attention and indicate that they should close the door
  • Still oblivious, one asked if I wanted to talk to them, to which I requested they close the door, and they finally understood their conversation was impacting the space and the silence
  • I was proud and grateful that my students didn't let the noise bother them, but I was a little annoyed and disheartened by their lack of awareness
  • Later one of the teachers apologized and said they saw that the library was dark and thought it was closed- we were so quiet he didn't even know we were there, which I appreciated hearing

    Thursday, March 9

    • Our monthly visit to the library and the usual meditation to prepare for the day
    • As usual it was a quick 5 minute meditation, visualizing the space at the library and what they hoped to accomplish, as the breathed in what they needed to make that happen
    • Student 1 was sitting near his friends
    • As we started, he took out his music device, which he listens to on the bus, and put the headphones in his ears
    • He turned it on and at first I didn't mind, but when he turned the music up to the point that I could hear it across the room, beyond it being extremely annoying behaviour that was disrupting the meditation, it is harmful to his hearing and could damage his eardrums 
    • This was what I told him as I went over and insisted he either turn them down or I would take them away
    • He complied, but was restless for the rest of the meditation, and as I stood beside him, I took a few breaths and hoped he would be okay for the rest of the day at the library
    • It turned out he was, as was everybody else, and we all enjoyed the day
    Friday, March 10

    • Presentation day had finally arrived and kids were excited, especially the six who knew they were presenting that afternoon
    • They had time in the morning to practice and with only one period with each class, I decided to save the meditation until the afternoon
    • Both classes met in Mr. Y's room after lunch for what would be an entire afternoon of presentations
    • I put on a 6 and a half minute track to prepare for the afternoon
    • I told them they think the work is in presenting, but it is actually in listening, especially when you know your presentation is coming
    • The meditation was regular with a focus for both presenters and audience
    • I encouraged presenters inhale the confidence and exhale nerves fears and doubts, while visualizing the presentation- recognizing their nerves, but doing it anyway
    • I encouraged the audience to inhale the focus, patience and respect to listen to their peers' presentations, while exhaling the distractions, impatience and desire to call attention to the self and take away from someone else's presentation. That is the real work and I reminded them they were all capable
    • It was a very quiet silence, and I know there were quite a few kids who were nervous, but there was also quite a few who took the time to relax
    • At least that is what the afternoon indicated- the six presenters were prepared, with a clear understanding of their topics and the ability to answer questions, even though they were nervous
    • The behaviour of the audience was brilliant- quiet, respectful and engaged, listening and asking questions- and we only had to threaten them with an, "You interrupt, you go next" threat once
    • It was hard to believe it was Friday afternoon
    • Our intention was to choose student who we know would set the bar high and we were successful, as were they
    • It was awesome seeing their learning and letting them know
    And now it is hard to believe another weekend has passed, report cards are written, Student Led Conferences are this week,as are more presentations, which we need to finish before Spring Break, which is around the corner. 

    All one day at a time, one breath at a time. Wishing you a good week.

    May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe.

    Saturday, March 4, 2017

    Another Crazy, Short Week

    The first week in March began with a short week for kids, and PD on Friday, with time to assess and theoretically start writing report cards, though I am not quite there yet. This led to a busy, productive and short week, with an unexpected turn, or rather cut.

    Monday, February 27, 2017

    The week started with both classes in the library, where they had time to finish up and reflect on, or in more cases continue with,  their Social Studies research projects, with the notes due that day, and continued work to prepare their presentations, which begin next week.

    Both classes met in the library right after announcements and settled pretty quickly. As has become the library norm, everyone got comfortable at the tables, computers, or on the beanbag chairs, with a few on the floor. Student A was sitting at a table with his EA, and now that they are teamed up, there is a lot less for me to worry about- he is a lot better supported.

    Students 1 and 2 happened to sit beside each other, at computers at the end of the library. Mr. Y was away and his substitute was a retired teacher, very familiar with me and the school, but not to Student 2, who was in top form, pushing the limits and showing attitude and rude behaviour from the get-go.

    As I turned off the lights and we prepared to meditate, I told students at computers to turn off their monitors so they wouldn't be distracted as they loaded, and the boys waited until I came up behind them before they flicked theirs off. As I started the meditation, I moved beside them, as they were tapping the keyboards and pretending to type, Student 1 following Student 2's lead, and making enough noise to annoy me, even if the others didn't let it bother them. I put one hand on each of theirs, as I gave a shh and a stern look, as I continued guiding the meditation, and they both stopped, at least for the moment.

    With their heads down, I moved away and circled around the library, as I continued through the breath count and focused breath, encouraging them to inhale the strength and focus they would need for the day, to finish our projects, writing and all the rest of the work that comes with the end of second term. I encouraged them to visualize whatever they were working on, and the steps they would take to accomplish it, as they inhaled the focus and determination to see it through, and exhaled the distractions and fears, which stop them from following through.

    As I was speaking I noticed Mr. Sub go over to Students 1 and 2 to address some behavior, which I learned later was Student 2 trying to play games on his device, and as we moved into the silence, I walked to the far end of the library and stood behind them. They noted my presence, and Student 1 looked up at me. I smiled at him and then looked away, not giving him any more attention, but not moving anywhere either. They both remained  quiet for the rest of the meditation, and I noted that it was the first time in quite a while that I needed to monitor behaviour for the whole meditation.  Standing there at one end of the library, I took the time to look out over everyone else who appeared comfortable and quiet in their breath, as we prepared to start the day. It was a pleasure to see everyone so relaxed and peaceful.

    As they generally do, no matter where I sit or stand, the silent minutes passed quickly and it was time to close the meditation, which is what I did, as we started the morning, which also passed smoothly and quickly, especially for a morning with no preps.

    After lunch, it was my switch class that came back to me and asked if they could meditate again to start the afternoon. I was happy to comply, and turned off the lights and started some music, as I told them that the second meditation of the day required less instruction, as we have already been here today and they know what to do. I encouraged them to get comfortable, bring their focus and attention to their breath, and find what they need as they relaxed for a few minutes and got ready for the afternoon.

    Just about everyone settled quickly, but I immediately noticed the simultaneous restlessness, not unusual for this class, even more pronounced with the unfamiliarity of the second meditation in the afternoon. Student 1 was his usual fidgety self, and it seemed to spread to his tablemates on both sides, who shuffled and fidgeted as well.

    The three or four minutes of silence needed a few more shhs than I like, and for a fleeting moment  I wondered if it was worth it, and then I remembered that the practice is the reason it is worth it, and with time, it will improve, and some days will always be better than others. It was as good a start to the afternoon as any other, and though it seemed long at the time, another afternoon was over before I knew it.

    Tuesday, February 28, 2017

    The end of the sixth month of the school year brings that downward shift in time, when more time has passed than there is remaining and the homestretch is near. Every day is full, there are just a lot less of them left, and there is still so much to do. At the same time, there is the routine, the familiarity in time and space, that brings that peaceful comfort, just a regular Tuesday.

    I began the morning with my class in our classroom, and it was a beautifully quiet start to the day. Though it may sound harsh, there has been a huge shift in the dynamic in the room since the departure of Student B that has led to a new level of peace, which is especially evident on days like Tuesday.

    It was a completely quiet six and a half minutes that passed in stillness and silence. Student A is settling into his new spot and new routines with support, and after a little fidgeting and getting everything just so, he put his head down and enjoyed the quiet with everyone else.

    The meditation was a completely ordinary, get-ready-for-the-day-by-taking-the-time-to-breathe meditation, and it was a beautiful start to the day.

    My switch class came to my room right after lunch, and while not quite as quiet and peaceful as the morning, they were more settled than the afternoon before. Once again, it was a routine, get-ready-for-the-afternoon meditation, and the majority relaxed into it and enjoyed the time to breathe. A few were fidgety, including Student 1, but Student 2 seemed calmer and not as angry as the day before.

    As the many Tuesdays before the six minutes went by quickly and peacefully, and though not perfect, it was a pretty good start to the afternoon.

    Wednesday, March 1, 2017

    As the week continued to roll, and the deadline for research passed, kids were scrambling to finish their projects, writing pieces, and study for a Math test, as we wrap up the term. I was lucky to find the library free to start the day, and ended up spending the majority of the morning there, so both classes had time to get work done- and they did.

    I started the morning with my switch class, which was nice, because as it happened the library was a lot quieter early in the morning than later, making it easier for them and me. With just one class there was a lot of space, and most sat down at computers and logged in, as they had writing to do. A few settled at the tables, and some boys grabbed the beanbag chairs, including Student 1, who stretched out over the chair on his back, hanging his head back over the end. When I walked in his direction, he looked at me and smiled, as if he was certain I was going to tell him to sit up and move. I smiled back at him and kept walking, figuring that as long as he was quiet, I didn't mind. I imagine he was surprised I didn't say anything, but I wanted to give him the chance, as I knew that there was certainly no hope if I didn't.

    The six and  a half minutes that followed were quieter than I had experienced with my switch class in quite some time. It was a typical focus on the day and work ahead meditation, and the stillness and silence went undisturbed in the library throughout the time. I sat down and joined them in the silence, enjoying the peace and my breath. As I closed the meditation, I commented on the silence and what a nice start it was, and suggested to Student 1 that he might what to stretch out like that more often.

    It was a peaceful and pleasant start to what turned out to be two productive periods as the teacher on the schedule wasn't using the space. Everyone was happy to learn we didn't have to leave the library and made the most of their time.

    After break, my class came to meet me in the library, and I was pretty happy that I didn't have to go back to the room and remind them, and they all showed up promptly after break, another reflection of their growth and the responsibility they are taking for their learning.

    They settled quickly into the library space, where they remained undisturbed for the next six minutes, despite the noise in the usually quiet environment. During the first part of the the meditation, as I moved through the prompts, breath count and focused breathing, encouraging them to inhale the attention and confidence to write, while they visualized the words on the screen, and then exhale their worries, doubts and distractions, the library door opened and closed five or six times.

    Students came by, looking to use computers or the space, some came to the door, saw the quiet and turned around and left, but just as we were starting, a group of grade 8's had come in, and I had let them know that they were welcome as long as they were quiet. They were, for the most part, but not still or silent. At different times a couple of teachers came in to pick up papers off the printer, which had also made noise as they printed, foreshadowing the disruption to come.

    I continued to guide the meditation and moved into the silence, as I noted the comings and goings in and out of the library, and the different responses people seemed to have. As they looked around, one teacher seemed sorry to be disturbing the space, while another seemed to be puzzled and a little perturbed by the quiet. I also wondered how much I would have noticed the noise and happenings had I not been facilitating the meditation, and if I would be as undisturbed as my students appeared to be. They didn't seem to notice any of the people coming in and out, or the noise they brought with them. Instead, they stayed with their breath and relaxed with the music.

    I joined them for the last minute or two, giving thanks for their quiet, which also gives me the moments to be quiet, despite whatever else is happening in the library, which in the end wasn't as much, as the traffic in and out seemed to have ceased as the silence began. We all took the time to breathe and enjoyed a few moments before the track ended, and I closed the meditation and we got to work.

    Thursday, March 2, 2017

    With PD the next day, Thursday was a fake Friday for our students and what was supposed to be a busy and productive day, with time to get their projects finished and submitted, as it is crunch time, when teachers have to assess and write report cards. It was supposed to be a big day, with a lot of work, and it started off strongly, and then, with the opening of a package, and swipe of a blade, the day changed.

    The day began with my class and everyone was pretty pumped, as along with the projects and writing, they were also writing their Math test to end the term. They had been using their time over the last couple of days to study, many in groups solving problems on the board, and most were ready. As we settled to meditate and start the day, I reminded them of that and carried the theme into the focus of our meditation that morning,

    As I started the meditation. Student A was a little restless and I went to stand beside him, encouraging him to relax and settle into the quiet, and then I walked away and gave him a moment to do that, which he did. Everyone else was already settled and the room was completely silent for the six and a half minute track. I moved through the prompts, breath count and focused breath, inhaling the positivity and confidence for the Math test later that day, while exhaling the doubts that make them rush or second guess themselves, and then joined them, breathing in the peace and silence in the room.

    The only word I wrote down in my notes about the Thursday morning meditation was, "Perfect," and it really was- one of those rare, perfect meditations. Unfortunately, the rest of the day was anything but, though it could have been a whole lot worse.

    In second period we had Exploratory, and students have started new projects, building crash cars out of milk cartons, in which an egg must survive a ride down a ramp into a cinderblock.  They were beginning their plans and projects, and we, their teachers, were getting some of their supplies together. including Exacto blades. With about five minutes left in the period, I was taking one out a package, when the blade slid open and sliced the top of my pointer finger as it did. I ended up with an inch long cut on the top of the finger which was bleeding quite a bit.

    Our first aid responder patched me up at school, but when it kept bleeding, my admin didn't want to take any chances and took me to our nearby hospital. My mom met me there, and then got me into my doctor's office in the same building, which cut my waiting time by a few hours, and a short while later I went home with three stitches in my finger.

    The next day, during our PD, I had to fill out a "Serious Incident Report," as the event took me to the hospital. It seemed a bit extreme, but I am just grateful it was nothing more serious, and also that I am protected in the event of injury on the job. I have a lot for which to feel grateful.

    And I will feel even more grateful next week, when the pile of marking that sits waiting is gone, and report cards are written. For today, I will keep working, happy I can still type with one less finger and the knowledge that second term is almost behind us, and spring is on the way.

    Enjoy your weekend wherever you may be.  

    Sunday, February 26, 2017

    A Short Week in February

    The long weekend in February passed and suddenly report card season is upon us, but before I can start writing, we have to get through the writing process pieces, and all the other projects, that I then have to assess. With that in mind, I took some notes during the week, because I knew I wouldn't have much time to write, and yet it still doesn't seem like my pile of marking is getting any smaller. At the same time I know I still have some time, and everything will get done somehow, as it always does. Just like the writing will now.

    Tuesday. February 21, 2017

    Coming back after a long weekend, Tuesday felt like Monday, with that quiet-tired feeling, perhaps augmented by the French test on the last section of regular verbs, to which they returned. Hoping to instill some study skills, with practice tests and time built into class for studying, and confidence while writing tests, while simultaneously building a foundation in the French language, the nature of "the test," which is supported according to their needs, and is in essence just another in-class assignment, has become as routine, as the meditation which precedes it and helps prepare them to write.

    Tuesday began with my switch class writing their test first thing in the morning. It was unusual that both Students 1 and 2 were away, and it made for an exceptionally quiet six minutes, as we began the week and prepared for the day ahead, and the test they were about to write.

    It took no time for everyone to settle, and I moved through the prompts, breath count, and then into the focused breath, reminding them that they were prepared to write, and to inhale the confidence as they visualized their success and ability, and exhale the worries, fears and doubts, which blocked them and caused them to doubt their knowledge. I encouraged them to visualize the process of writing, slowly and carefully, checking their work, using the review sheet if they needed it, while resisting the urge to rush through or second guess what they know.

    We moved into the silence and the room was stiller than it usually is with my switch class. I sat down and joined them, closing my eyes to breathe and prepare for the day ahead. The minutes passed quickly and before long the track ended and it was time to close the meditation and begin the day. Everyone got to work on their test and the class passed quickly once again. Everyone was done with enough time to finish the test and reflect upon it, and then it was time for break.

    On a typical Day 5, I would have seen my class after break, but the library was free in the morning. and I had booked the time, so we rearranged our schedule to take advantage and work on the SS research projects. Many had finished their tests and gone straight to their projects, so we didn't need to take time to regroup, everyone just got to work. It was a very smooth, quick and productive morning.

    I saw my class in the afternoon. They wrote their test right after lunch, and of course, we meditated before they did. Student A had started the morning with a bit of a shaky start, but had turned things around, and continued to keep the day positive as we got ready to meditate. He had chosen computer time while the others were writing the test, and was logging in as we started the meditation. I turned off the monitor and he didn't object. Instead he went and sat down in his new spot to meditate. I started the track, and as I moved through the same meditation I had earlier this morning, Student A settled a little, but was never completely quiet, continuing to fidget, tapping his fingers and toes and inching his hands over to the person beside him.

    He wasn't terribly disruptive, and my class, both experienced in their ability to maintain their focus and breath, and used to Student A's quirky behaviour, remained undisturbed, even the boy right beside him. As we moved into the silence, I didn't sit down, but hovered in the vicinity of Student A, occasionally reminding him to relax, and encouraging him to let himself and the people around him be, as I redirected his hands before they poked the boy beside him again. Student A eventually stopped, and put his head down before the end of the track, but it was clearly as struggle, as a lot of the day had been. I think we were both equally grateful that he had extra gym that afternoon after his regular gym class. It made for an easier and pretty successful day to the end.

    As was the class, and test, that followed the meditation. The French tests were one of the pieces I did get marked and my students' efforts were evident in their results. There were a few 100s and many 90s, and several marked improvements from previous tests. The habits, and their benefits, are beginning to stick.....a very rewarding part of learning, for them and for me.

    Wednesday, February 22

    Wednesday started with my class and it was pretty much a regular Wednesday. We had rearranged our seats sometime last week, and Student A finally chose to move to a new seat, and perhaps he is still adjusting to the new point of view. I didn't force him to move seats, though I did encourage him to try the new spot, and was really happy when he did, but now it dawns on me that it might have had a greater impact than I realized. It might require a greater adjustment and be part of the reason Student A has been a little off.

    As I started the 5 and a half minute track, it took Student A a little longer to get settled than usual, as he was again tapping his fingers as he inched them closer to the boy next to him. I stood next to him, acting as a barrier between him and the boy beside him, causing him to quickly give up and resign to putting his head down, where it stayed for the rest of the meditation.

    The meditation itself was an everyday, find what you need for the day, meditation. With a lot of time for independent work, and all of our projects, and a new French presentation, there was a lot to focus on and I encouraged them to take the time to do that, take a few moments to breathe, and find what they need to make the most of the day and get through it all.

    The two to three minutes of silence at the end was quiet, still and peaceful. It was a nice start to the day.

    It was a little less quiet and peaceful when my switch class came after gym for fourth period. At the same time as everyone was getting settled, Student A came back to the room and decided he wanted to stay and work on his project there. I told him he was welcome as long as he didn't disturb everyone, especially while we were meditating.

    He agreed and took a seat on one of the corners, beside his buddy. I moved through the same five and half minute meditation I had earlier that morning, encouraging them to inhale what they need and exhale the fears and blocks. As I spoke, I couldn't move far from Student A and his friend, as Student A was persistent in his desire to disturb his buddy, and kept trying to poke him to get a response. Eventually, Student A tired a put his head down, but not for long enough for me to move away from him. As soon as I tried, he went right back to poking his friend, and so I spent the silent time standing beside him, encouraging him to relax.

    Everyone else was quiet and undisturbed by student A, and seemed to enjoy the peace and quiet, and whether I am part of it, or ensuring its continuation, the minutes passed quickly. I managed to take a few breaths as I was standing there, to gather my strength and patience, before the track ended and I closed the meditation and went on to introduce the next French project. Just another day in middle school.

    Thursday, February 23

    Earlier in the week I had booked two library periods for our Social Studies classes in the afternoon, but when the library was still free first thing in the morning when I got to school, I put my name down on the schedule, and right after attendance, we all went to the library.

    It didn't take long for everyone to get settled with most sitting down by a computer and logging in, so their computers would be loaded when we were done, and the others getting comfortable at the tables. Student A was getting ready to work on his project with his support aide, and so he was more settled than he had been for a few days, and didn't require the attention he had needed in the days before. He got comfortable and put his head down for the meditation, seeming to enjoy and appreciate the time.

    The library was pretty quiet as I turned off the lights and started the music, a track just under six minutes. I moved through the usual prompts and breath counts, and then brought their attention to each inhale and each exhale, encouraging them to inhale what they need, the focus, patience and calm, while they exhale what gets in the way, their distractions, impatience, nerves and doubts.

    At one point a group of students came to the library door and opened it, I looked at them with my finger on my lips, and they turned and left the library. My students didn't seem to notice the doors opening and closing and remained undisturbed and silent.

    As we moved into the silence, I took a chair and sat down in the middle of the library, looking around at my students, who were still and comfortable, despite the windows that surround the library, and the fishbowl feeling it fosters. I am amazed and grateful for how easily my students adapt to their surroundings, and let themselves breathe wherever they may be, without worrying about others around them. It is this feeling, and ability, that I hope they will carry with them as they continue to grow, and it was with this thought that I closed my eyes and took a few breaths of my own, appreciating my students and the time to breathe.

    I saw my switch class just before lunch and the meditation was a little less eventful than the other day, when Student A was visiting, but still not as quiet, as Student 1 had returned to fill the void, and after missing a couple of days of school was a fidgety as ever. He eventually settled somewhat as I made my way to stand beside him, encouraging him to relax and enjoy the silence. He remained fidgety, but was quiet enough and didn't disturb anyone else. I took a seat in the circle and joined in the moments of silence, which again went by quickly, and before I knew it, another morning was done.

    The afternoon came and it was a little crazy. It was one of those busy, chaotic, loud, productive but nutty afternoons. Students had the first three periods to work, with periods 6 and 7 in the library, but in between our Exploratory students were going to a grade 8 classroom to play the boardgames they had created. There was a bit of confusion around the scheduling, which all worked out in the end, but led to a bit of a crazy afternoon.

    For the final period of the day we had Band/Exploratory and our Exploratory kids went back to their games and assessments and Band kids went to Band. I didn't realize the impact the afternoon had had on them until they came back at the end of the day and a few students asked if they could talk with me. We sat down and they asked me why we meditated in the morning and not in the afternoon. One of the boys went on to explain that they were already tired in the morning, so they didn't need to relax, but they had come to realize they needed it more in the afternoon. Or at least it seems that is what the band teacher conveyed to them that day, when they had trouble focusing in the last period of the day, and felt the need to talk to me about it right away.

    I responded that I really appreciated the conversation and explained that the morning meditation set the tone for the day and gave us time to prepare and set our intention for the day ahead. I emphasized how important I felt it was to meditate in the morning, but let them know there was a very simple solution to their concerns, and that we could also meditate in the afternoons. They were very excited by this prospect, and as we ended the conversation, I could hear them reporting back to others in the hallway that their requests had been successful, and "She said we could meditate twice a day."

    It was a surprising and gratifying end to a Thursday.

    Friday, February 24th

    The last Friday in February, a lot of work to accomplish, and the end of a busy and productive, short week. Also a Day 2, the best of day and the worst of days. It began with Mr. Y taking all the Exploratory students for one of the last round of play of the board games, and I went to visit a grade 8 French immersion class and join them in a meditation.

    Their teacher has been meditating with her students after lunch for a little while, and a few weeks ago asked me if I would come and facilitate a meditation with them. I was honoured and planned to come on a Day 2 after lunch during my prep time, but one week a meeting came up, then I got sick, and on Friday I learned a parent was coming to meet with Mr. Y and me. As soon as I found out, I asked if coming first thing in the morning would work, and was very happy to learn it would.

    I got to her classroom at about 9:10 and everyone was waiting quietly for me. We talked briefly about meditating, its purpose and benefits. We spoke of the many different ways of meditating, and the method I was introducing being just one, all with the common intention of bringing all of our attention and focus to our breath.

    I let them know what to expect over the 6 and a half minutes that would follow, once I turned off the lights and started the music, explaining the process of the prompts, breath count, and inhaling the positive quality they wish to grow, while exhaling the negative quality they want to get rid of. It was just a few minutes later, with a silent response to my query for questions, we were ready to begin.

    I turned off the lights and began the music and a regular meditation. As we planted our feet flat on the ground, I emphasized the importance of our connection to Treaty 1 Territory land, noting the people who came before us, and the Treaty which allows us to live here today. I moved through the prompts, and while I had mentioned that I didn't mind if they put their heads down in the introduction, most sat up straight and closed their eyes as I invited them to do so. I continued with the breath count and then the focused breath, encouraging them to find what they need, inhaling focus while exhaling distraction, inhaling confidence while exhaling fear, or inhaling calm while exhaling nervous energy.

    The room was quiet and still from the beginning, and remained so as we moved into the silence. I took a seat on a chair and closed my eyes and breathed, appreciating the opportunity to join another class and the students who were so kind and willing. The two minutes or so was over before I knew it and the track ended, leaving a silence in the room.

    I let it linger as I encouraged them to come back slowly, taking full breaths, and bringing gentle movements back on the exhales. After a few breaths I lifted the blinds, letting the natural light back into the room, something I don't have everyday in my interior classroom. After I closed the meditation, I thanked them for a lovely and peaceful start to the day, and invited them to share any thoughts or feelings.

    It wasn't unusual when no one did, and so I told them that before I left I had one final thing to share and that was the writing in this blog. I wrote the url on the board, and told them I had been writing about all of my meditations this year and was going to write about them too. I invited them to check it out and told them I welcomed their comments, either in person on here on the blog.

    I told them my writing mentioned no names or specifics, and that I just share my experiences about meditating, which is what I would do. I told them I would likely say that I wasn't sure if they were an exceptionally mature grade 8 French immersion class, or super kind and polite individuals, or really into the meditation, and likely it was a combination of all of the above, but regardless, I very much appreciated the experience and was grateful they had invited me to join them. I wished them continued peace and a happy Friday as I left at about 9:30 a.m.

    I went back to my classroom and the morning continued as some students worked while others were at choir. After break, my class went to Math and my switch class came to my classroom. The night before the Ipad from which I play the music had failed to charge, and as I started the music I noticed it was really low. It was enough to make it through the five and a half minutes with my switch class.

    I started the music and it was a quick Friday meditation, focusing on making the most of the day and closing the week in a positive and productive way. Student 1 was fidgety as usual, but a gentle reminder, and then hovering in his general vicinity, helped him to settle. Everyone else was pretty quiet, though still never completely still. Another meditation and good enough for a Friday.

    My class came back to close the morning during fourth period, and it was a different meditation- one that actually surprised me. I started the music and the usual prompts and everyone was pretty settled, even Student A, who was sitting in at the table in the centre of the room. As I moved into the breath count, the Ipad died and with it the music.

    I continued the count, simultaneously fishing my Ipod out of my bag, hoping to pick up the music from there. As I closed the breath count and focused breath, again encouraging a positive, strong and productive end to the week, it was clear that the Ipod, which wasn't loading properly, wasn't going to work either, and there would be no music.

    I let them know and encouraged them to keep breathing, and not to break the silence. At one point, when I was trying to get the Ipod to work, a blast of music came out of the device, and it was a fine opportunity to veer off track, but no one did, except Student A, who gave a whoop and tried to distract, but was unsuccessful, which he quickly realized, putting his head down again. I continued to encourage everyone to stay silent, to stay with their breath, and to listen to the noises they heard, from their breath, to my voice, to the sounds from the hallway, and notice them, but to stay with their breath and maintain the silence in the room.

    Even though I really expected nothing less, I was also amazed when they did exactly as I suggested, staying with the silence and maintaining the peace and stillness in the room. I am not sure how long it lasted exactly, two minutes, maybe three, but it was lovely. Then, as they started to get restless, I invited them to take five more full, deep breaths, through which I guided each inhale and each exhale.

    As I closed the meditation, I once again congratulated them for their choice to maintain their power and keep the silence and peace in the room and I thanked them for it.

    We got to work and another morning ended. After lunch they went to TAA and then we all met in the library for the last two periods of the day. As Mr. Y and I gave the recap of work, priorities and expectations, one of the boys with whom I had chatted at the end of the day yesterday asked if we were going to meditate again. When I asked if they wanted to, the response was a pretty even ratio of cheers to groans, but I think the cheers were just a little louder.

    I told them we would compromise with an informal meditation and few deep breaths, because the devices weren't working and there was no music anyway. The librarian turned off the lights, and I encouraged everyone to sit up straight, get comfortable in their chairs and close their eyes, which most did, sitting up straight for a change. I guided them through 4 or 5 full, deep inhales and exhales, and then encouraged them to visualize the next 60 minutes- where they would work and what they intended to accomplish as we closed the week. The library was silent for about a minute as everyone breathed.

    I closed the meditation, encouraging everyone to come back gently, stretch, open their eyes, and then get to work, which is what everyone seemed to do, as the hour that followed was peaceful and productive and a very nice end to the week.

    I hope the week that is to begin, which is also a short one with PD on Friday, is as peaceful as this week was, because I know it is going to be just as busy, especially because I still have a big pile of marking that didn't get any smaller this weekend, and even more to come.

    I hope everyone has a peaceful and productive week.