Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Week to get Stuff Done

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 6

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

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

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

    Thursday, March 9

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

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

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

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

    Saturday, March 4, 2017

    Another Crazy, Short Week

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

    Monday, February 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tuesday, February 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Wednesday, March 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thursday, March 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Enjoy your weekend wherever you may be.