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.

No comments:

Post a Comment