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.  

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