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.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Tuesday-Friday and Sickness in Between

Tuesday, February 14

I switched our Day 3 library time to Day 1 because I knew we would be away on Day 3, and it was free first thing in the morning on Day 1, so both classes met again to take advantage of the space and computers, while they worked on their research for Social Studies. It didn't take long for everyone to get comfortable, especially the boys who sprawled out on the beanbag chairs and on the floor. Everyone else found a chair at a table or by a computer and settled quickly.

There was no one else in the library as I turned off the lights and started the music, the familiar under six minute track. We connected with our roots in Treaty 1 Territory Land, and moved through the prompts, breath counts, and focused breathing, inhaling the determination and focus to follow through on their research, while exhaling the distractions and fear.

As I spoke I walked around the library and as I invited my students to enjoy the silence, I found a chair and joined them. There was no need to monitor any behaviour, and so I closed my eyes and enjoyed a few minutes of the quiet of the library as I breathed with them. As the track ended, I brought everyone back and they got to their research. The periods were productive and the majority of the students were engaged in their projects. It was a good start to the day, and the smooth nature of our learning made the fact that I was getting sick again easier to manage.

After lunch on Tuesday I started to get the chills, and by 3 o'clock I was pretty sure I had a fever and was leaving my sub plan for the next day. There are a lot of people, both students and staff, sick at school, and so it would be no surprise if I got it there, but I also suspect I picked up at the gym. It took me a long time to return to a regular gym routine, and I am pretty sure it is the germs there, and the ironies of getting sick while trying to get healthy, that felled my immune system, at least for a couple of days.

Wednesday I stayed home and slept most of the day and the evening too. I was so sick, I didn't even turn on my computer. In the evening the fever was gone and I knew I was feeling well enough to manage our planned field trip the next morning, a visit to the Jewish Heritage Center of Western Canada where we would hear a Holocaust survivor speak.

On Thursday morning, feeling a little better, I booked a sub for the afternoon and went to school to go on our field trip. We had to be at the center in the south end of the city at 9:30, so we left at 9:00 a.m. For the first time this year, we didn't even have time to meditate. Leaving that early was well worth it, as the experience was powerful for all of our students, whose behaviour was respectful and compassionate throughout the morning.

We got back to school just in time for lunch, and on a regular day we would have meditated in the afternoon, but on this day I went home to rest.

Friday, February 17

I went back to school to close the week and though I wasn't feeling 100%, I was feeling somewhat better. As soon as I got there, I went to the library and was happy to discover it was free for the first 2 periods of the morning, and so I could bring each class for one period.

I began with my class, and once again upon our arrival the library was empty. With only my class, the space seemed empty and particularly quiet. Just about everyone sat down at the tables, with a few at the computers, logging in before we began.

With one period and having had a 2 day break, I chose a short 5 minute track. It was the first time I used it, and the music was unfamiliar, though no one said anything, at the time or after. I turned off the library lights and kept my words very brief, with the usual prompts and a focus on a strong close to the week with the productive use of time today. As I spoke, a couple of girls were communicating, talking without words, which I noticed and pointed out was just like talking, even if no one else saw or heard. They looked at me, and then put their heads down, knowing I was right and they shouldn't be taking the experience away from each other.

The didn't disturb the quiet, and though the track was shorter, I had spoken briefly, and the silence was longer. I sat down and breathed with my students for about 3 minutes, grateful I was feeling well enough to keep my head up and breathe. As the track ended, I noted that it may have felt a little shorter, because it was, though they also may not have noticed. Either way, no one said anything. They did get to work for a quiet and productive period and a nice start to the day.

The period ended and my switch class arrived. As we got ready to meditate, a group of boys piled onto the beanbag chairs again. With only one class there, I told them we had more space and they had to spread out and couldn't be piled on each other. I told them they needed their own space to breathe and couldn't be touching anyone else. They complied without complaint, spreading out on the beanbag chairs and the floor. Again, with only one class and everyone spread out the room felt sparse.

Student 1 took a chair and sat in one of the corner of the library, his face to the books. But he kept turning around, and then making noise, clearly in need of some attention. He looked at me and I looked back, smiling, but also stern and clear in my desire for him to be still, or at least quiet. Before he settled, he waved at me, as if to acknowledge my wishes and that he had gotten what he wanted as well. I didn't wave back, but smiled and he quieted for the rest of the meditation.

The five minutes felt different with the unfamiliar track. Time moved a little more slowly with a few extra moments in silence, as again I had kept my words short, like I had earlier in the morning.I repeated more or less the same meditation, focusing on a positive and productive Friday.

The peace of the five minutes carried over into the rest of the period and then the afternoon. It was a good end to a sick week, and hopefully next week I will be feeling much better.

At least I have a long weekend to recover. I hope you enjoy your weekend too!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday, Monday

Another week and another Monday, the same, yet different, than many Mondays before- the continuing evolution of our learning and my students' growth as learners. We are back to regular timetabling for most of the week and getting into the heart of our learning, through writing and research, together with the rest of our subjects. It takes focus and determination and I have no doubts our students will follow through.

I started the morning with my class for one period of French, so our Monday meditation was a quick track, just under six minutes. Everyone seemed more alert than last week, still tired, but not completely exhausted. It seemed everyone was happy to put their heads down and take a few minutes to breathe.

The just about six minutes were quiet and completely uneventful, which made for a lovely start to the morning. Student A was a little restless at first, lifting his head and banging his fingers, but once I stood beside him and gently encouraged him to relax, then he did. He put his head down where it stayed for the rest of the meditation.

It was a regular Monday, make the most of the day, meditation and as we all sat in silence, I took a few breathes and breathed in my positivity and energy for the day ahead. I felt refreshed and ready for the day as I closed the meditation and I hoped everyone else did too. Based on their focus in French it was good start.

My switch class came after gym in period 4 for their French class and the meditation I guided was pretty much the same as earlier in the morning, and as usual it was just a little less quiet than it had been earlier. Everyone settled quickly and no one got up to leave. I noticed Student 2 has started to give the breathing another chance, sitting up straight and following the breath count beside my breather.

Student 1 was fidgety, playing with a bottle first, and then looking around as I returned to stand beside him and tried to help him relax. Usually he settles when I stand beside him, but today my presence seemed to bother him more. So I gave him a look and walked away, and he quieted enough that he did not bother anyone else and I didn't have to go back. I took my spot in the circle.

As they had earlier in the morning, the minutes passed quickly and the track soon ended. I closed the meditation and we finished up the last class of the morning.

Then when I managed to get some time in the library for our writing in the afternoon, I was elated. It made for a very smooth and productive start to the week and our writing. I hope the rest of the week goes as well and I can get more time in the library. I know we are starting our day there tomorrow so it is a good start.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Two Classes, One Community of Learners- TWTF

Another week has flown by and this week was busy, exciting and full of many changes, which led to both classes beginning the day together from Tuesday through Friday, and meant one meditation each day in the large group. It wasn't entirely by design, it just worked out that way, and I am glad that it did, because it worked out really well in the end. It was quite an amazing week.

Tuesday, February 7th

Another Day 2 and I decided to be proactive and design a less taxing day for everyone. Both classes had finished reading Hana's Suitcase, and I had a video of the making of the story, with interviews of the characters and backstory. After Band/Exploratory and then choir, showing the video was a good way to end the morning, and a good time to bring both classes together as we would have time to finish it in the afternoon after TAA. Watching a video also brought a calmer feeling to a usually crazy day.

We all came together in Mr. Y's room, where we would watch the movie and meditated before we began. The season has brought its usual bugs and a few kids were away, but not many. It was a pretty full room as usual. Everyone settled, and to maximize the time I chose a shorter track, just under six minutes, and encouraged them to allow themselves to get into the meditative state quickly.

The meditation was nothing out of the ordinary. I guided them through the prompts, breath count and then the focused breathing, reminding them to inhale what they need to focus on the movie, gain different understandings, and maybe take some notes, and exhale their distractions and fears.

We moved into the silence and the room was pretty quiet for the two to three minutes. I was leaning on a desk on the side of the room, looking over the group as they breathed, most with their heads down, some resting on the counter at the back of the room. It was a very peaceful few minutes as we prepared to watch the movie.

The room remained quiet for the rest of the morning as they were engaged in the video, and the peaceful feeling carried over into the afternoon, when we finished it. It was a good use of the time and made for a pleasant day.  I was very glad I thought of it.

Wednesday, February 8th

In Social Studies we finished our mapping study, and on Wednesday we started our big research project of the year. Each student explores life in a different country and then presents their learning to the class. As it happens the library is free on Day 3's first thing in the morning for 2 periods and so I booked Day 3's for the duration of the study- about a month. We began Wednesday morning in the library by introducing the project, criteria and expectations, including using the books in the library. By the end of the periods just about everyone had chosen a country, had a book in hand, and had started their research,

But before we did all that we took a few moments to meditate and prepare for the day ahead and new project to come. There was nobody in the library when we all arrived and it didn't take long for everyone to get settled. At first Student A took three beanbag chairs and piled them one on top of the other, and sat on top beside the table. It only took one reminder that he had to choose between sitting at the table on a chair, or on the side on one beanbag chair, for him to get up, give up two of the beanbags, which were quickly grabbed up by others, and get comfortable on one beanbag chair.

In another part of the library three boys got comfortable on one beanbag chair, which both Mr. Y and I noticed. They looked very happy together, and assured us they could meditate quietly, without bothering each other or anyone else, and proved true to their word.

They were settled and still throughout the meditation, as was everyone else. It was another peaceful six minutes, this time in the library, where the gurgle of the fish tank adds of the background music. On this morning no one came in to use the printer, computers or look for books, which allowed for a quiet meditation.

The focus was on the determination, focus, and attention that would be required to accomplish the work ahead, and our confidence in their abilities to follow through, and learn a lot about their country, but more so, to learn about their abilities in learning. I reminded them to let go of the fears that block them from believing in their abilities, and the distractions they create that stop them from following through, making room for their confidence in their ability to read the information, take notes and learn about their country. Before I allowed them to enjoy the silence, I tried to impress upon them that Mr. Y and I know they are capable of great learning, and that while our expectations are high, we are also here to support them as we go on this journey around the world together. I imparted how much I was looking forward to these projects, and how great they are going to be, before I left them in silence with their breath.

We enjoyed the silence together and I noted how much I enjoyed being in the library, and everyone else seemed to as well. I appreciated the quiet as I looked around the library, at Student A on his beanbag chair, and the other boys on theirs, eyes closed and comfortable, even the three who were sharing one chair. Everyone else sitting at table or computers relaxed in their seats.

The minutes again passed quickly, and when the track ended, I closed the meditation, and we moved into introducing the project and beginning the research. Those periods were also done in a flash and the afternoon was no different.

Our Exploratory students had spent a significant period of time developing board games and we devoted the afternoon to play, feedback, and assessment of the games, with gym in between. The games were varied, detailed, and well thought out, and it turned out that the process required more time than the afternoon. We decided that we would return to the games the next morning in the first two periods before TAA.

The day ended and everyone went on their way, but as I was cleaning up my classroom, two boys came back as one was looking for his cellphone. He said it had been by his binder in the afternoon and then it was gone. It was possible it was stolen, but I felt it was more likely "misplaced" as the result of a bad joke. We reported its disappearance to the office and I told him we would address it in class first thing in the morning.

Thursday, February 9th

As we had decided to continue the work with the games, both classes came together in Mr. Y's room for the third time in a row after attendance and announcements. Everyone settled quickly, and I told them we were beginning the day on a serious note as I addressed the cellphone issue. Mr. Y and I both spoke to our concern and disappointment at what we hoped was a poor choice that someone thought would be funny but wasn't, rather than considering that we might have a thief amongst us. We encouraged our students to do the right thing and come forward with any knowledge they might have, or at the least, anonymously return the phone, and reminded them that we would always forgive poor choices, as we move forward and learn from them, as that is what we are all here to do. We emphasized our concern over their health and well-being, the danger of living with lies and deceit, and challenged them all with the question we essentially face each day, "Who do you want to be?" "What kind of person are you growing into?"

It was on that note that I began the meditation, and as I did one boy indicated that he wanted to talk to me and was quite urgent in his demand. I suggested we talk after the meditation, but as I started he went to wait by the door, and so I indicated we could talk outside the door once I got the meditation going. With him waiting quite expectantly, I moved quickly through the prompts, breath count and focus, encouraging them to inhale what they needed that day, while exhaling their blocks and fears. It was one of the shortest introductions I have ever given, but I was more concerned about the boy who needed to talk to me, and trusted that everyone else knew what to do, which I reminded them as we left the room.

The boy who needed to talk sits beside the boy whose phone had gone missing and confessed that he found the phone in his binder. I believed him when he said he had no idea how it got there, as I suspected someone picked it up and put it there, and while I can't be 100% certain, this boy was on the bottom of my list of suspects. We spoke briefly and he didn't have much information, but was visibly uncomfortable with the whole situation and his involvement in it, so I let him go, happy to have the phone back.

We went back into the room, and I was hoping everyone would stay with the meditation and we would return to the same quiet we had left, and I was grateful when we did. Everyone was still and seemed comfortable in their seats and in the silence, There weren't many minutes left when we came back in, and whatever time was left moved quickly, as I sat perched on the desk on the side, looking at everyone in the room, again thankful for the peaceful start to the day, and the return of the cellphone.

As the track ended, I closed the meditation and before Mr. Y took over the games and assessment, I let them know the phone had been returned. I emphasized that what we assumed was supposed to be a joke wasn't at all funny, and encouraged the responsible person, or anyone who might know who that was, to come forward. I didn't really expect that anyone would, but I was hoping. At least I know something like that is unlikely to happen again.

Thursday was a busy and exciting day beyond the phone and games of the morning. In the afternoon, after the first two periods of regular classes and break, we spent time planning for our visit to the library the next day, and then to close the day, we had a little party to say goodbye and share our best wishes with Student B, who has moved to another school. We ate cake and kids shared stories and their well-wishes and it was a fun and touching end to the day, and to Student B's role in our classroom. Though his behaviours were often annoying, I will miss his presence and the colour he brought to the classroom.

Friday, February 10th

Friday finally arrived and we were off on our monthly trip to the Millennium Library. The painting of my classroom, which had begun the week before was scheduled to be finished while we were gone, and the painter was hard at work upon our arrival, which also meant my room was quite the mess. Furniture and stuff were moved everywhere and the room smelled like paint. I told my students to take their things and a chair next door to Mr. Y's room. We were going to go there anyway so I would just take attendance there.

Everyone got settled in the other room, but the chaos of the morning had a strong impact on Student A. He had chosen a seat beside his friends in the other room, his buddy and my breather, both of whom have known Student A for a very long time and are extremely patient with him. From the moment he sat down, he began poking his friends and grabbing for their things, particularly his buddy's bag. Warnings didn't deter him for long, and through attendance and announcements Student A was fidgety, poking and grabbing his friends' stuff.

As we got ready to meditate, I moved his buddy's bag out of reach and when his friend used it as a pillow, I asked Student A if that was what he wanted, providing my scarf when he indicated yes. He put his head down on it as we started the meditation, and as I moved through the prompts and the breath count he seemed to settle, but a few moments later his head was up and he was back to poking his buddy, and holding his finger in front of my breather's closed eyes, as close as he could come without actually touching him.

I moved beside him, putting his hand down and putting mine over his on the desk, as I rubbed his back and encouraged him to relax. I quietly reminded him that everything was okay, and all he had to do was rest and breath, and he did, putting his head down on the desk. I stood behind him for the rest of the meditation, looking over everyone else, who remained undisturbed as they pictured their time at the library, and what they hoped to accomplish in the day ahead, while exhaling the distractions and blocks. As I stood beside Student A, I also noted how long it had been since I had to do so and wondered if it was just the change in the morning and state of the classroom which had thrown him off. I took a few breaths as I hoped for the best for the day ahead.

The track ended and I closed the meditation, and as everyone started to get ready to go I had a conversation with Student A. I told him everything I had noticed during the meditation and asked him if he could articulate how he was feeling and what he needed to make the day successful. He managed to communicate that he was very tired and was aware he needed to make good choices and demonstrate good behaviour at the library. He reiterated his understanding as we had a similar conversation with the VP and his new EA support, whose arrival and hard work has been a miracle, as was Student A's ability to communicate and turn the day around.

It was our fifth library visit and the fifth time we started the day with a meditation visualizing a positive, productive and successful day at the library, and it was our best visit yet. The day flew by faster than ever before and many came home with the books they need for their research. It was a great end to the week.

I was told the other day that Spring Break is just six weeks away and with all the projects we have on the go, I am sure next week will be just as busy, and bring us that much closer. In the meantime, I am enjoying the weekend, and will try to cherish each day and remember to breathe.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Monday, Work Day

This is the time of year when we have a lot of work going on. We have new studies, and projects in just about every subject, and there is no time to waste. Working in class is essential to ensuring students stay on top of things and get everything done, with as little stress as possible. Or at least that is the message I tried to impart to my students first thing this morning as we began our day.

Everyone was back in school today, and while my students listened quietly while I spoke, as they almost always do, I can't say for sure they heard me. I am pretty certain the majority had different priorities, primarily getting over their fatigue, which this morning was visible in just about everyone. Once they got over the shock of the state of the room in the middle of being painted, and realized that we would continue to learn even though the painter was in the middle of the job and there were two different colours on one wall, they settled in, and there were a bunch of tired, blank faces looking up at me as we started the morning.

Within moments of turning off the lights, every head in the room was down and there was not a sound, from the beginning of the six and a half minute song until the end. I moved through the usual prompts, but it was clear I didn't have to say much today. What they needed was to rest and to breathe. And so I quieted pretty quickly, and closed my eyes and enjoyed the silence with everyone else.

As the track ended nobody moved and had I let the next track continue they would have been happy to keep resting, but I brought them back gently as we had a book to finish. Everyone seemed more refreshed as we opened our books, and just about everyone participated reading a little bit aloud. We finished the book just as break began. It was a nice start to the day and a good ending to the reading.

My switch class came for period 4 and it was a different story. They arrived after gym and I had been in the office photocopying, and since each clock in our building is its own time zone, I didn't realize how late it had gotten. When I got back to my room the clock read 5 minutes later, and everyone was waiting for me. With a short class together I was annoyed to lose the time, but there was nothing to be done, but get straight to things.

I gave an abridged version of the spiel I had given this morning, emphasizing the projects ahead, the new study in French, and the need to focus and work in class. Though this class was not as tired, I am pretty sure my words fell on mostly deaf ears, but it was on that note that we moved into the meditation.

With one period, it was a shorter, five and a half minute track, and as usual it was quiet but not silent. Once again, I didn't feel the need to talk a lot, this time to maximize the time spent in silence. At one point during the silence, Student 1 started tapping his fingers underneath the table. From where I was sitting I couldn't his hands, but it was still obvious it was coming from him. I let it go for a few seconds hoping he would stop on his own, but when he didn't, I gave him a stern look and the noise stopped. Though he tried to put an innocent look on his face, it was clear he knew he had been caught, and as I kept looking a him, he settled and didn't make any more noise. I was grateful and took a few more breaths with everyone else before the track ended and I closed the meditation.

We got to work and the class was over shortly after that. The focus carried into the work and learning in the afternoon, and just like that  another Monday was done.

Hopefully the rest of the week will go as smoothly. Hope your does too

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Thursday with the kids, Friday with Teachers

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I went for that MRI on Monday night, and while the experience was painless because I knew how to breathe through it, I am pretty sure what I was inhaling were a bunch of germs, because I woke up with a sore throat on Tuesday and continued feeling progressively worse throughout the day. Whether the machine was not well disinfected, or I picked up one of the various bugs going around at school, my cough got worse through the evening, and despite going to bed early, I woke up with a cough, cold and headache on Wednesday morning and decided to stay home.

After resting, I woke up feeling a little better on Thursday morning, but still not 100% when I went to school with a cough and cold. I knew the morning would be spent reading our novel, and the kids could do most of the reading and some of the talking, and they had projects to work on in the afternoon, so I figured the day wouldn't be too taxing. With PD Friday, it was also the last day of the school week for students, which usually makes it simultaneously easier and crazier, and Thursday was no different. And as always, I had my six minutes of quiet twice in the morning to help carry me through it.

The first two periods were with my switch class, who had done a lot of reading in my absence, leaving us with some time spent recapping before we finished reading the novel together, with them doing the reading. As we began, I noted that it was clear I was a little sick, and together with the reminder to use lots of hand sanitizer, I let them know everyone would share in the reading aloud that day. I acknowledged that it makes some students uncomfortable, but assured them that they didn't have to read a lot, just a paragraph or two, and I reminded them that I knew they could do it, and if they were nervous or afraid that was okay. I assured them that they could face their fear and do it anyway and perhaps even surprise themselves.

It was on that note that we started the meditation, a six and a half minute track, as we had the two periods together. It was an everyday meditation, the prompts, then breath count, then focused breath, encouraging them to find what they need, inhaling the patience to read together, the confidence to read aloud, the positivity to handle the subject matter and close the week, then exhaling the impatience, fear and negativity, making room for more of what they need on the next breath.

We moved into the silence, and it was another 3 or 4 minutes that went by  quickly and quietly, if not perfectly still and silent. I was grateful for the moments to breathe, even though it was hard to do without coughing. I took the minutes to gather my strength and energy for the day ahead, only having to ssh Student 1 once. I closed the meditation and we moved into the reading, in which everyone participated and appeared to feel successful. At least there were no outward protests or visible pain.

My class came to me after break and with three students away at a track meet, one student visiting family in Phillipines, and Student A out of the room for an alternate program, it made for a strangely sparse and extra-quiet classroom. Student B had had a tough time with the substitute the day before, and I spoke to him about the note she left first thing in the morning, so if he had thoughts of calling attention, he didn't act on them.

Our meditation was an especially quiet six and a half minutes, through which I went through the same steps as I had earlier in the morning. We prepared for the reading ahead and everything it would take to make the most of it and our learning. We moved into the silence and the quiet in the room was undisturbed by the wafting voices in the hallway after break. Once again I took the time to gather my strength and breathe as best I could, hoping not to disturb anyone with my coughing.

The minutes, the reading through the rest of the class, and the afternoon, with novel study, gym and map projects all went by, at times seeming to crawl, and in the end being over in the blink of an eye. A good end to the week, and an exciting time as we wrap up some projects and move into new learning.

Also an exciting end to the week on a "Fake Friday," because PD on Friday is the only PD day I actually look forward to for the day itself. #7OaksEdCamp. The "Unconference," where teachers and other school staff get to talk, about whatever they want to talk about, designing their own schedule for an awesome day. It would be our 2nd Annual EdCamp with 5 middle schools participating and I was looking forward to it.

Friday, February 3, 2017

On a different PD day I might have stayed home with my cold, but I wasn't going to let it stop me from going to EdCamp. I was looking forward to seeing lots of old friends and colleagues from other schools, the freedom of the day, the different conversations, lunch being provided, and meditating with teachers, as it turned out, twice.

The schedule for a day of EdCamp is determined at the beginning of day by participants, based on their suggestions and invitations for conversations, discussions, and activities, which come from their own needs. Last year I put out the invitation to join me in a meditation, mostly because I wanted to take some time and meditate myself. I was surprised by the turnout then and hoping people would be looking forward to joining me again.

But before the planning and sessions began, one of the organizers had asked me if I would lead a meditation as a start to the day. I was honoured by the request, and happy to comply, though it was the biggest group of adults I have ever meditated with and it was a little bit daunting, though in the end, not much different than the meditations I do in my classroom every day.

There were about 200 of us, teachers, EAs, administrators, sitting at long tables in one half of the gym. The lights were dimmed from the start and so I didn't have to worry about the lighting. If I hadn't had a cold, I wouldn't have needed to use a microphone, as I can easily project my voice to carry across the space. But because I woke up with less of a cough, but a stuffed head, it wouldn't have worked without the microphone, which was the weirdest part.

I didn't have a lot of time and so I kept the introduction short, basically stating that if they were unfamiliar with meditation it was okay, and I would provide guidance, and that as I tell my students, all they have to do is breathe, and the only way to do it wrong is to bother someone else. I invited discussion, conversations and questions later, and just asked that they maintain the quiet during the next six minutes or so. I also acknowledged that it is possible this could make some people uncomfortable, but if they had to leave it would be ideal to do it before we started. Otherwise, I reminded them, as I do my students, that sitting quietly for 6 minutes wouldn't hurt them and if they felt it was a waste I time, I hoped it was the best wasted 6 minutes of their day.

With that I set the music and began the meditation, pretty much the same meditation I do in my classroom everyday. I was a little more specific as we began by planting our feet on Treaty One Territory Land, acknowledging that is traditional territory of the Anishinabeeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dene and Dakota peoples and the homeland of the Metis Nation, and that we honour the land and the treaty which allows us to be here today. I used the words the division uses when opening meetings and events. though oddly not our school day in schools, because it was an divisional event.

Then I moved through rest of the body prompts, the breath count, and the focused breath, walking around the gym as I do in my classroom, but mindful of the microphone, both speaking into it and the cord, worrying that I would trip over it, or if I walked too far there would be feedback, which was a new and very weird experience. But I kept moving through the meditation, encouraging the participants to bring their attention to each breath, inhaling what they need for the day ahead, positivity, patience, energy, calm, while exhaling the negativity, impatience, fatigue, worry, fear and doubt, one breath at a time.

As I spoke I looked around the room and felt humbled and grateful. Most people were sitting up straight, their eyes closed, breathing deeply, some were sitting up straight with their eyes open, but engaged in the meditation, and a few others were just sitting there looking around. Only one or two people that I could see were visibly unimpressed, a little uncomfortable in their seats, one rolling their eyes, which was funny, and another who got up to walk around without making a sound.

It seemed to be going well as we moved into the silence and I took a chair and joined at the front of the room. I closed my eyes and took a few breaths, inhaling my gratitude for the moment, the opportunity to meditate with such a large group, and the power in the silence we were experiencing. With a keen awareness of my role as facilitator, and about a minute to go, I noticed my thoughts and my desire to look around the room, to observe what everyone else was doing. But I made myself stay with my breath for another half a minute, just because I felt it important to model the behaviour I was suggesting. For the last 30 seconds, I indulged my curiosity and looked around the room.

It was very cool to see so many people coming together for a few moments to set a positive tone and feeling for the day through our breath. It was especially gratifying because teachers are a tough bunch, and I have seen, and perhaps at times even participated, in some behaviour that would put some middle school students to shame, in both university classrooms and at PD events. It wouldn't have surprised me if there had been disruptions, like whispering, giggling or cell phone tones, but there were none. The gym was silent for nearly six minutes, when the track ended and I closed the meditation slowly bringing everyone's awareness back to the room.

Then I handed the mic back to the coordinator and we all went on to set the schedule for the day, which is done as teachers come up to the mic to suggest topics they wish to share or learn more about. I went up early and stated that in light of the state of the world, I would like to invite others to join me in a METTA meditation to foster caring and compassion, with some discussion and sharing to follow. Other went on to give their suggestions and ideas, and half an hour later the schedule, with four session blocks and about 10 choices for each session, was set.

The day was housed at my school, and I planned on using my classroom until I found out the painting I have been wishing would happen in my room was happening then, so I scheduled the session in Mr. Y's room, feeling as comfortable there as I do in my own- not that it would have mattered if I was in another school or classroom- it was just a nice feeling being at home. In between the end of the opening, and the beginning of the session, on my way to the classroom, quite a few people stopped to offer their thanks for the meditation. A few mentioned they felt positive, refreshed and relaxed afterward. The positive feedback warmed my heart, mostly because I felt so much gratitude for their thanks and willingness to participate. I could only respond by saying thank you back to each person who complimented me. It was a really awesome feeling.

I went to Mr. Y's room to get ready and a few teachers I used to work with joined me immediately. We chatted for a bit and the room started to fill, with the three back rows filling up very quickly. Four or five people picked up the beanbag chairs in the hallway and brought them to the room, where they set up in the back and got comfortable on the floor. More people came and sat at the tables along the side of the room, filling nearly all of the tables. In the end, there were about 25-30 people in the room. I found that very exciting.

I was the pseudo-leader, as I had made the invitation for the session, but these sessions don't really have leaders, or rules, people can come and go as they please. I suggested a METTA meditation, with a brief explanation of what it was and the intention I had, to spread some kindness and compassion in this increasingly crazy world where we have little power or control over big events that affect our lives. I explained the process, the visualization and affirmations, and the silent gratitude, which would last for about 5 minutes, after which I would end the meditation and we could do some sharing about it and meditation in the classroom in general.

The meditation itself was quiet and didn't hold any real surprises. The participants in the room were there by choice and had as much interest in making the most of their time and breath as I did. It was curious that one woman spent some time on her phone, but I have learned not to judge or jump to conclusions. There could be any number of explanations, including emergencies I cannot fathom. We were all there to get what we need and I cannot know what that was for her but I do hope she found it.

 I moved through the prompts, the breath count, and into the steps of the METTA meditations. As we started with the self, I reminded this group of very giving teachers and educators, that it is not selfish to take care of themselves, rather it is essential to their ability to give back to the world, and that it is okay to wish great things for ourselves. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be safe.

Then we moved through the rest of the meditation, extending our caring and compassion first to a loved one, then to an acquaintance, and then to anywhere we felt the need in the world, recognizing others as humans like we are, and wishing for them the same things we wish for ourselves. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe.

Then we moved into 5 minutes of silent gratitude for our relative safety and health, and the choice to be happy. I closed my eyes in silent gratitude for the day, the participants and their choice to join me, as well as spending a few breaths sending my own caring and compassion thoughts into the room and the world. I was concerned the five minutes felt long for some, but several participants later told me they felt it flew by. One confessed that when I announced the start of the 5 minutes she wasn't sure if she would make it through, and then suddenly it was over.

I closed the meditation slowly, encouraging awareness of breath and sensations, together with slow gentle movements as we came back to the room, as the meditation had lasted just over 20 minutes. The feedback that followed was that it was a positive experience, through which people felt relaxed and connected, though sometimes distracted by their thoughts.

The half hour discussion in the second half of the session was very rich. A few teachers shared their experiences with meditation, and a couple of meditation in their own classrooms, though none practice daily, and a few others spoke of their experiences working with me in their classrooms. I tried to answer some questions, noticing that my responses tend to return to one common theme, encouraging teachers to try and noting the foundation of our benefits comes from consistency, to meditate every day. Like the time in meditation, the time in discussion also passed quickly and soon it was time to end a move to the next session.

I didn't physically have to move as the next session I had chosen was in the same room, where three of us spent time discussing the production of school newsletters, another project close to my heart. Lunch was provided and it was great to hang out with friends I used to work with before the afternoon sessions.

I attended an amazing brainstorming session on a writing project the division is taking on in relation to Truth and Reconciliation, and then an interesting discussion on beautifying schools. Topics I would not have necessarily considered, but all conversations I really enjoyed. All in all, even though I had a cold, it was a really great day. I wish every PD day was EdCamp.