Sunday, January 29, 2017

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday- Another Week Flies By

Tuesday, January 24

I started the morning with a double period with my class and a couple of students mentioned a house fire in a nearby neighbourhood the night before. We spoke briefly about house fires in the winter time, some safety precautions, and then I mentioned that if they wanted, they could bring their thoughts and concerns into their meditations.

I told them that if they were thinking of that family, or any person who needed some extra help, then as we meditated, they could inhale their strength and positivity, and on their exhale, imagine sending those qualities, and that energy- strength and positivity- to that family, or whoever needed it.
I pointed out that it was very similar to our METTA meditations, extending our caring and compassion to others, just in a less formal manner.

It was on that note that I started the meditation with a longer six and a half minute track for the double period. I moved through the usual prompts, breath count and focused breathing, encouraging them to find what they need, or alternately, inhale their positivity and strength, and exhale those feelings to the family whose house burnt down, or whoever else may need it.

We moved into the silence, and I sat in the corner by the door and looked over my class. Like in the days that have come before, almost everyone had their heads down, with a few sitting upright, and all were still and silent, comfortable with their breath and the music. I breathed in the room before I closed my eyes and joined in the silence. I breathed in my gratitude and exhaled positivity into the room. I noted the voices coming from the hallway, and was further awed by my students, who remained undisturbed.

The track ended and I lingered in the silence for a moment before I broke it, noting how powerful the silence was, and that they didn't need to move too quickly. Before we moved into our day, I also told them how much I enjoyed the silence and our starts to the day. I shared that as I have continued to write this blog, it has gotten to the point that every day is pretty much the same. I wasn't complaining, and I am still not- quite the opposite, I am very grateful and I wanted them to know. I closed on that note and the forewarning that when they came back in the afternoon we would take a few moments to meditate again.

My switch class came after lunch and we also enjoyed a longer meditation at the beginning of a double period, and started after we had a conversation about some of the challenging behaviours we are facing in the classrooms and how they can handle them. As we closed the discussion and got into the meditation,a couple of girls who had been giggling as they came into the room, started laughing again. Their laughter was funny and we all enjoyed it for a moment and then I challenged them to bring their focus back and be quiet again, and they rose to it and relaxed into the quiet.

Everyone else settled as well, as I commented on the health benefits of laughter and the release of endorphins, as well as the power of being able to control their responses, as we had talked about in the earlier conversation, and come back to the calm and bring their focus to their breath, just as they were doing.

Then we moved through the meditation, more or less the same as the morning, and the room was just about as quiet for the six and a half minutes. As the track ended, and I closed the meditation, I decided to bring back some of the energy and laughter they had demonstrated earlier. As always, I told them to take a deep breath in, but with the exhale I encouraged them to breathe out with energy, through their mouths, with an audible Haa. Then after another deep breath in, I told them to exhale their laughter and gave a hearty, HAHAHAHA. With that there was some laughter, a different kind of release, which came to a natural end, as I turned on the lights, and we got to work.

During the course of the class, my breather came and asked if he could talk to me. He shared that some of his meditations have been very deep, and his experience has led him to see different sorts of visions as he meditates. It is a fine line, to determine how much to share in public, of a student's private experiences, and I am hoping in the future he will do some writing with me, but for now I will remain purposefully vague. We talked at length about what he sees while he is sitting and breathing, many possible interpretations depending on his beliefs, some brain science, and his feelings about his experiences, which were my main concern, and I was surprised to learn, were quite neutral.

He expressed that he was neither positively nor negatively affected, but was more curious about his experience and what I thought it meant. He seemed both reassured, and a bit mystified, by our conversation and that the possible interpretations and meanings lie mostly with him, his understandings and his beliefs. He also seemed okay with the idea of monitoring his experiences, drawing and writing about what he was seeing and feeling, paying attention to his dreams, and having an ongoing conversation, as well as possibly interacting with the figures, and having conversations with them, as they appear in his meditations.

My breather also let me know he had spoken with the guidance counselor about his experiences and I encouraged him to continue to talk to both of us as he felt he needed, as I always do. Later in the week I chatted with the guidance counselor about my breather, what a unique and interesting individual he is and how this is really unchartered territory for both of us. This student is certainly deep and insightful and has taken our meditations seriously from the beginning, opening a door to his inner-self. We talked about how lucky we are to be able to support him on this journey, and very mindful of the great responsibility that comes with it, which is the nature of teaching, this is just a little different. It will be very interesting to see where this goes.

After break in the afternoon, my class came back and as I told them we would, we meditated again. I put on the music and everyone settled pretty quickly, including Students A and B, who relaxed and got comfortable in their seats. I told my class this was quiet time, a few moments to breathe and refresh and that they knew how to do that. I told them I wasn't going to go through the formalities and guidance of the morning, but they should do what they needed to bring their energy and attention to their breath, each inhale and exhale, and relax and let everything else go. After a few short reminders, I was quiet.

When we started, I chose a lesser-used, unfamiliar track, to bring a familiar but yet different feeling, and was uncertain if they would move into their usual silence, or if someone would take the opportunity to call attention and disturb the stillness. I was grateful to find that everyone was happy to take the time to be quiet and enjoy the moments to breathe. We took about 5 minutes in silence before I brought their attention to setting a goal or intention for the next 30 minutes of time which was to be devoted to studying for their French test the next day, before we would spend the last 30 minutes of the day playing class games, at the suggestion of Student A, who is a great participant when we play games like Murder Wink and Concentration. They seemed to take the opportunity because the next 30 minutes were quiet and focused as they studied, some in groups, others in pairs and a few getting help from me.

Then we had a few minutes to play and everyone did and got along pretty well as they did. It was a pretty good end to a Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 25

Bell's "Let's Talk" also coincided with the day of our French test, with each class writing for two periods in the morning with break in between. Both meditations, and the conversations that preceded them pretty much mirrored each other.

As I began with each of the classes, my switch class first thing in the morning, and then my class after break, I pointed out that it was Bell's "Let's Talk" day and we discussed what it meant, including some mental health challenges, like depression and anxiety, and the stigmas and stereotypes that accompany them, and why it is important to break them down. I spoke of the need for these kind of days and raising awareness in the world, and how it may seem a little strange, because in our classroom we talk about these things all the time, noticing how we feel, and how important it is to notice and to talk about our feelings daily. And of course, we meditate to help us recognize and manage our feelings, as well as our responses to them and the events in the world around us, especially on days when we are writing tests.

Then I moved into the usual meditation, once with each group, with a focus on their confidence and readiness to write, especially as many had taken the time to study for the test ahead and master their skills. For those who hadn't, there was the option to use the review sheet to support them in their knowledge, as everyone had demonstrated at least a basic understanding of the process in their work.

The meditation in both classes focused on inhaling confidence in their knowledge and ability, and exhaling their worries fears and doubts. I reminded both classes of their confidence in their ability and understanding of skills they had already practiced, and all they needed to do was inhale what they know and exhale the doubt that they don't know, as they visualized themselves writing the test, whether they planned to use the review sheet or not.

The minutes in silence passed quickly and quietly, and then both classes wrote their tests, which I managed to mark pretty quickly, which will please them, as will their results. With the test comes a reflection, and the first part asks them to predict their results and reflect on their understanding, process and effort when studying, with some follow up questions when they see how they did- the real purpose of the testing process, with the bonus of learning some French too.

Usually their reflections are honest and insightful, and help them to see the connections between their level of effort and practice, and the depth of their understanding and their final results. Their responses are sometimes simple, and often insightful, but it is rare that they mention meditation. This time, in response to a question about how they feel about their efforts and results, explaining why they are or are not satisfied, one boy responded,

            "I cannot believe it today. I never believed in meditation honestly, but today I was feeling so                nervous and after meditation, I don't know what happened, my nervousness was gone. I think              I did really good."

He did indeed, do well with an 88%, and it is also worth noting he is a recent immigrant from India, still learning English, and the test was on IR verbs in French, and not adjective and adverbs.

Thursday, January 26

With a grade 7 Winter Activity planned for Friday, Thursday was the last working day of the week and the focus of our meditations was making the most of it, as well as quelling the nerves and excitement of many of the students who would be performing in their band concert, with rehearsals changing our afternoon schedule and the concert in the evening. By the end of the day, kids were pretty excited, but the morning started with the usual feeling of calm and focus.

I started the morning with my class in period 1 and my switch class in period 2, and in both classes we have started reading the story Hana's Suitcase, by Karen Levine, as the second part of our Holocaust study. In my class, we had started reading on Tuesday, and Thursday I was just starting with the other class, but we had 3 periods to read over the course of the day.

First thing in the morning, I had intended to begin with a six minute meditation, not the longest, but not the shortest, but I accidentally hit the eight minute track. I didn't realize it until we were well into the silence, and it continued beyond the usual time. I was a little anxious as it was longer than I had intended, and I was worried they would find it too long, but when I looked around I realized it must have been my own projections, as everyone seemed unbothered by the length, even Students A and B.

When the meditation ended, I commented on its length, but no one really said anything. They either didn't notice or didn't mind, and at that point they just wanted to get back to reading the novel.

My switch class came shortly after, and immediately started examining the books they would be reading, which were waiting for them upon their arrival. They put them aside and everyone settled very quickly as we got into the meditation.

Student 1 was a little bit fidgety, more noticeable because he has been so much quieter lately, playing with a bottle until I looked at him once or twice, but everyone else seemed relaxed, even Student 2, who didn't get up to leave.

I paid closer attention to the track as I hit play, being sure to pick a six minute track, as I felt we needed the time to get into our novel. We moved through the meditation and the minutes passed quickly and uneventfully, though still not achieving the level of stillness of the class before. It was a nice meditation and it set the tone of calmness and respect for the learning ahead.

There was no chance to meditate in the afternoon with students away for band rehearsal, but it made for a quick afternoon, though a little bit crazy. The band did an amazing job that evening too.

It was a nice end to the week for me as I had a medical appointment and some tests on Friday that prevented me from attending the day of outdoor fun. I am sure they all had fun without me and didn't even notice I was gone. Monday we will be back to meditating, and learning, as usual.

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