Sunday, January 15, 2017

Back Again...Like We Never Left

Monday, January 9th

Coming back from a break is another experience in paradox, having enjoyed the time away and feeling more rested and refreshed, and simultaneously feeling like we never left. And yet, as I pointed out to my students this morning, there is always a certain comfort in coming back to school, a feeling of familiarity on which we can count and enjoy. Coming back to our home away from home feels pretty good for most of us, even in the middle of January.

It was with that feeling that we started the day and it lasted throughout, at least for me. The morning began slowly, with kids needing forgotten locker combinations, and other supplies, and then we took the time to rearrange the seats. I again allowed students to choose their own seats, encouraging them to sit in different sections of the room, with different people, in order to gain new perspectives. It only took a few minutes, which in middle school life is not very long, and soon everyone was settled in their new seats.

Before we began the process, I ask Student 1 if he would be willing to switch tables, offering various choices, both near and far from his current location, where he has sat since September. He refused to move, and though I tried to press him to express his reasoning, when he couldn't, I didn't push it further. It is more important that he feel comfortable and a sense of belonging in the room, than he change tables. Everyone else in the class is empathetic enough to understand, or at least act like they do, and so when the other students chose their new seats, he remained in his, and stayed there as we began the meditation shortly after.

As we turned off the lights and started the music, I welcomed everyone back to the new year, the heart of the school year, when we move into even deeper learning. I also reminded them that even as we do this, we would ease our way in, and their return would involve a little bit of sharing and a lot of listening, and so the meditation would put us in the right place.

Then I reminded them they knew what to do and began the usual prompts, noting our continuing connection with Treaty 1 Territory Land, and the breath count. As we moved into the focused breath, I encouraged them to find what they need as we return to our learning, whether it be energy, positivity or patience, and exhale the blocks, their tiredness, negativity and impatience with themselves, each other and school as they came back to the classroom. I reminded them to bring their focus and attention to each inhale and each exhale, whatever they were focusing on, just taking the time to breathe.

We moved into the silence and the room was still and quiet. Student 1 had put his head down at the beginning, as had just about everyone else. There was no need for any reminders, or to manage any behaviour. However they may have felt about coming back to school, everyone was happy to take a few minutes to close their eyes and relax.

Before I closed mine and joined in with the students, I looked around the room, at my students and the classroom and felt that comfort in familiarity, and even though I could certainly handle a prolonged break, I felt happy to be back in the classroom. I enjoyed those moments of silence and a few deep breaths, and lingered in the silence as the track ended. I was tempted to hold it for longer, and felt they wouldn't have minded, but didn't want to push my luck, and so I slowly brought their awareness and movement back to the classroom, commenting on the comfort I had found in returning to school and meditating with them, and that I hoped they had felt it too.

As we started the class, and everyone did some sharing of the highlights and lowlights of their holidays, among other activities and family celebrations, I learnt that many of them had spent a lot of time sleeping, mostly during the days, as they spent their nights on their phones, gaming, or watching Netflix until 3, 4, or 5 in the morning. Coming back to school was quite the shock, and I understood why the meditation had been so smooth and quiet. I guess it is a good thing we did it, as they needed it all the more.

My switch class came after break and I was less surprised, though no less happy, with their equally exhausted demeanours. Though slightly more alive and involved in our sharing and discussion,  they were equally quiet during the meditation.

As with the class before, we started by rearranging the seating plan and the process flowed pretty seamlessly. Everyone got settled quickly, and this class didn't need any behaviour reminders either. Student 2 was back beside my breather, which should help him strive to be more focused. The boy who annoys him and Student 1, my fidgeter, were all spread around the room and everyone seemed comfortable. I noticed that feeling of familiarity again, and brought it to this class' attention as we began the meditation. I reminded them of their comfort and belonging, and I didn't need to remind them of anything else.

They meditation was very much the same as the class before, moving through the prompts, breath count and focused breath. Like the class before, everyone was still and silent, which I observed as I looked around the room before I joined myself. I looked at everyone and was happy for their return, noting that even Student 1 had his head down. It was a nice return for the second time in the morning, and I closed my eyes, breathed in the silence and my gratitude. It isn't easy to come back, but it is good- and some parts are very good.

As the track ended, I again lingered in the silence, looking around the room for a couple of breaths. As I did a few people began to stir, and one was looking at me quite expectantly, which took me by surprise. I wasn't sure if she was just impatient, or anxious, but I didn't want her to worry, and so I broke the silence, slowing bringing everyone's awareness back to their bodies and the room.

Before we moved into our sharing I let them know how happy I was that we are all back learning and meditating together.

I said the words to both my classes today, and I meant them, but their impact didn't really hit me until right now. I am grateful to have had such a great start to this part of the year and really looking forward to all the learning- and meditating- we will do together.

Tuesday- January 10th

I wrote Monday on Monday and then I woke up with a headache on Tuesday that threw off my writing for the rest of the week. I did take some notes, as I knew I was getting behind, and it would take some time to catch up. It all started with a headache on Tuesday morning.

I had taken pills the night before and again in the morning, and so the headache I went to school with was bad, but not severe. I was happy to begin the morning with my class, a quiet start, and a few minutes to try to breathe the headache away.

I went through the usual prompts, breath counts and focus with as few words as possible, reminding my students that they know what to do to find what they need through their breath, before we quickly moved into the silence. Whether they were still shocked and adjusting to coming back to school, or just happy to have a few minutes to put their heads down, everyone was still and silent from beginning to end, and I was grateful. I think those minutes were enough to stave off the headache for the rest of the class, and help me make it through the morning.

The headache continued to escalate through my prep time, and by the time I got to period 4, I wasn't sure how I would make it through the day, let alone the next period, and all I wanted to do was close my eyes. Again, whether my switch class was still tired upon their return, were just happy for the break after gym, or sensed my pain, I don't know, I was just grateful they were still and silent from begin to end.

I moved quickly through the prompts, breath count and focus, reminding them what they know, so I could say as little as possible. I closed my eyes as soon as I welcomed them into the silence, and at one point had the thought that it didn't really matter to me what they were or weren't doing, all I wanted to do was hold my head, which is what I did through the 5 minutes. It was enough to help get me through the class.

Then I went to my mom's and lied down during lunch, which, with some toast, was somehow enough to get me through the day.

Wednesday January 11th

I felt much better when I woke up on Wednesday, and was very grateful not to have to miss a day of school so early in the new year. I started with my class, and like the days before, it was a quiet start to the day, for which I was also grateful, especially because I felt so much better. Student A also eased into the morning and the meditation, putting his head down as we began and leaving it down for the entire time, something I don't take for granted.

Student B, was a little jittery as we started. He has been dealing with some heavy stuff at home, which has made the return to school even more challenging. He needed support to help him settle, a gentle reminder to be still and bring his attention to his breath instead of calling attention to himself, after which he did, and relaxed into the stillness and silence in the room, as did everyone else.

The meditations followed the same prompts and breath counts as the days before, with the same encouragement to bring their attention to their breath and find what they need, inhaling what they want to grow- the strength, positivity or patience- while exhaling their blocks- the fear, negativity or impatience.

The minutes of quiet we enjoyed together were lovely, and as the track ended and silence filled the room, nobody moved. I was certain if I didn't break it, it would continue for a long time, and I was sad to have to bring it to an end. But after a couple of breaths, I felt the pressure to get to work and get stuff done, and so I encouraged everyone to move slowly as I brought their awareness and attention back to the class, and we made the transition to our work.

My switch class came to me after gym for period 4. They settled quickly, and with a short period and a 5 and a half minute track, I encouraged them to make the most of their time, use their knowledge and breath, and not hesitate to get into a meditative state as quickly as possible. Everyone was calm and relaxed, even Student 1, who has been somewhat less fidgety throughout the week.

I also tried to make the most of our time, moving quickly through the same prompts, breath count and focused breathing, as earlier this morning and then into the silent breathing. As it began, two students who had been out of the room, one girl and Student 2, came into the room within about a minute of each other. Both came into the room silently, mindful of the door behind closing behind them and their movements in the room as they took their seats. No one was disturbed as each of them came in and joined the silence of the meditation.

As it ended and I brought everyone back, I commented on their quiet return, stating that while I prefered that they wouldn't leave at all, if they had to go, then that was the way to come back. I emphasized that I really prefer they not leave and be there for the entire meditation, but appreciated the mindfulness and respect they had shown returning to the class.

Thursday January 12th- The Blizzard

I knew the weather was bad when I left the house Thursday morning, but when there was no visibility driving down Main Street, |I wondered about the brainiac who was putting my life and the lives of students, other teachers and staff at risk, all for a day of school. In 14 years of teaching public school in Winnipeg, I have never had a snow day, but Thursday was the worst I have ever seen. On one stretch of road, all I could see was white flatness and I imagined George Lucas probably had Manitoba in mind when he created Planet Hoth.

Like me, Mr. Y, most of my colleagues and many of our students made it to school. When Student A walked in, I commented how much he must love school having made it in the blizzard. However, not everyone made it past the weather, and between both classes more than a third of our students were absent. With Band/Exploratory and then choir, we didn't have classes until later in the morning, which was when we brought both classes together to meditate.

Student A and Student 1 had both made it to school, but with so many others away, there was a lot of space in Mr. Y's classroom and everyone spread out and relaxed around the room. Though it was the first time both classes came together to meditate since the holidays, the sparse population and relaxed setting meant I didn't need to manage any behaviour. Student A was near the computer and turned the monitor off as we started, and put his head down, and everyone else settled in quickly, happy to relax in the quiet.

As we began I noted our connection with Treaty 1 Territory Land, and the wind, and snow, and cold weather, which we had all withstood in order to arrive, and our strength and toughness in making it there. Then I moved through the prompts, breath count and focus, encouraging everyone to notice how they feel and find what they need, as they bring their attention to each inhale and each exhale.

Moving into the silence, I found a chair in an empty row, noting how strange it was to have been able to move so freely around Mr. Y's room and sit in an empty row, with all the students away. Then I noted those who were there, their stillness, silence and positivity, and gave thanks for these kind of days, and the fact that we had all made it safely. I said a prayer that we would all make it home again too after making the most of such a day, before I joined in the silence.

It was the perfect meditation for a blizzard.

Friday January 13th

The blizzard passed, though the wind continued to blow and it was still freaking cold, at least it was Friday. I started the day with my switch class and many were still away, with one on vacation, a few who were ill, and some caught up due to weather, over a third of the class was still away. Once again it made for a nice start to the morning and a very quiet meditation.

It was a happy-we-had-made-it-through-the-first-week-in-a-blizzard kind of meditation, and it was a wonderful way to start a Friday. Student 1 was calm, putting his head down, as did everyone else and the six and a half minutes went very quickly and quietly. I moved through the usual prompts, breath count and focused breathing, helping them to find the positivity, focus or strength they need in each inhale, while releasing the negativity, distraction or fear in each exhale. It was a beautiful start to the morning and a productive two periods for those who were there.

I didn't see my class until the last period of the day. A few students were nearby in Exploratory and others were coming back from band. Before the class began, I turned off the lights and started the music. As students came in, I pointed out the setting, sshing their voices and gesturing they put their stuff down and join in the silence. As more students came in, what to do became more obvious and they joined in more smoothly and quietly.

It wasn't long before everyone was settled, most with their heads down, and I moved into the usual prompts, breath count and focused breath, encouraging them to find whatever they needed to end the day on a strong and positive note. It didn't take long until we moved into the silence and enjoyed a nice beginning to the end of the day.

The track ended and though I was tempted to let them rest, I gently brought awareness and movement back to the classroom. Had any of them asked for a longer meditation, I likely would have continued it, but since they didn't I figured I would motivate productivity and wait for the time they did ask for that long meditation. I have faith it will come.

In the meantime, the Friday of the first week back came to an end, as did this weekend at followed, all too quickly, as it usually passes. I am sure this week will be just as busy and quick, but thankfully with much warmer temperatures and a field trip too. Not bad for January.

Wishing you warmth, joy, strength and that you find what you need one breath at a time!

1 comment:

  1. I love reading Cari's blog late at night before I go to bed. Each entry is a reminder to reflect, to breath, and to be grateful for our time together. I am so proud of her work with her students and her ability to make each one feel so special. Wishing all of us love, joy, peace.