Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bliss before I fly


Inhale, two, three, four,

It was a blissful
five and a half minutes
first thing in the morning
with my homeroom

Hold, two

The music played
and the room
was completely
silent
and totally
still.

Exhale, two, three, four

When we were done
I told them
how brilliant it was
and how much
they are
growing
already
this year,
both my newbies
and my veterans,
some of whom
are like different kids,
especially Student 1,
though that was
conveyed
in a private message.

Inhale, two, three, four

I also spoke briefly
about the word
spiritual,
and the nature of
meditation,
which allows us
to connect with
our inner selves,
a spiritual practice.
Then we got to
workshopping
and writing
our 6 word memoirs.

Hold, two,

My switch class came
after break.
Though not as
still
or silent
as the class before,
they were improved,
mostly.

Exhale, two, three, four

Student B was excited
he was leaving
for a concert
in the afternoon.
In the morning
he was bursting
with energy
and had trouble
containing himself.

Inhale, two, three, four

Before we began
I spoke again of power
and the power
we have
to control
ourselves,
and how
in the end,
that is really
all the power
we have.

Hold, two

I told a story
of a student,
non--verbal
with various challenges,
both physical
and intellectual,
and his inability
to control himself,
and the sounds
he made.

Exhale, two, three, four,

For two years,
he was in my classroom,
and participated in
meditations daily,
rocking in his chair,
often bouncing his head
against my belly.
sometimes making noise,
sometime being quiet.
He had no power.

Inhale, two, three, four

I reminded Student B,
and everyone else,
they have the power
to make choices
for themselves,
even if someone else
is making noise.

Hold, two

And so we began,
and he was quiet
for awhile,
but was overcome
with the need
to make noise
near the end.

Exhale, two, three, four

He quieted again
when I stood
beside him,
and I reminded him again
of his power
when we were done.

Inhale, two, three, four

As demanding as
he is,
and annoying as
the noise and
distraction
are to me,
and others,
it will help
the other students
learn
tolerance
for others,
as they will
hopefully
realize
they can feel
compassion
and yet
remain
unaffected
simultaneously,
as the noise
and distration
bother them
less and less.

Hold, two

Big thoughts,
too late at night,
especially,
on the eve of
the conference
I am attending
tomorrow.

Exhale, two, three, four

Getting ready to fly
but feeling the need
to document
the feeling
of the day.
How strange,
and quick,
and for now,
done.

I'll be away from my classroom until Tuesday, but will write about the conference (I have to do it anyway) and my presentation and the meditations we do.

All the best and thanks for reading 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

One for Tuesday


The first Day 6
of the cycle.
My kids go to TAA,
and I finally have some
prep time,
to get stuff done.
And the computers are down.

I can't do
anything,
I need to get done,
so I do
a bunch of other stuff.

But it throws
the whole day off.

My switch class comes,
settling relatively quickly,
considering they just had
TAA in the morning
for the first time.

Student A sits down,
ready to go.
He is a different kid
than last year,
even if it might
not last.
I'll take
what I can get.
And keep reminding him
how awesome he is
and what good choices
he is making.

Student B gets comfortable
in his seat
beside me,
and asks
if we will
meditate again
today.

I tell him we will
today and
every day.

I take the opportunity
to invite my students,
especially my experienced ones,
to consider
leading meditations,
while I am away at
my conference
later this week.

I have a few
conferences and
presentations
coming up,
and with the High Holidays,
I will be away
quite a bit in
September
and early October.
I remind them
they will have
many chances
and encourage them
to take them.

On that note,
we begin,
lights dimmed,
music on,
inhale, two, three, four,
hold, two,
exhale, two, three, four.
They are getting
used to it.

Most put their
heads down,
including Student A,
happy to relax,
and breathe,
for a minute,
or five.

Student B started out
strong,
or calm,
less restless,
more settled.

But a blip
in the music
from a glitch
on the Ipad
distracted him,
and caused him
to bleep,
literally,
that was the noise
he made,
a few times,
before I reached
his side,
and asked him,
why
he would give
a machine
such power
over him?

I reminded him,
and everyone,
that they held
their power
in their breath,
and no one,
or nothing,
could take it away,
unless they
allowed it.
And that they
deserved better.

As I spoke,
I lost the count,
but it didn't matter.
I told them that,
and reminded them
to breathe naturally,
and a few moments later,
the track was done.

I closed
the meditation
and started
the class.

It, and the rest
of the day
flew by.

Exploratory outside
with all the grade 8's,
a walk to the park
on a beautiful day,
and with the computers down,
what else could we do?

After lunch,
my switch class
came back
for our first
French class.

About 20 minutes in
Student B said
he wanted to
meditate again.
Almost half
indicated they'd
agree,
but it didn't seem
to flow
in the moment.
But definitely
next time,
I told him.

After break,
was French again.
But this year
is different.
I still have
my homeroom,
but I am also
co-teaching,
with the third
grade 8 teacher
in the row
of portables.

He has been
teaching for
over 15 years,
but was never
required
to teach
French before.

Though it is
familiar
to teach,
and work with,
large groups,
it is different
to have
two classes
together
for French.
It will be
challenging,
but interesting,
and strange,
and different.

Today
it was so
strange
and different
I didn't even
realize
my homeroom hadn't
meditated
that day.

I knew
something
was off,
but I thought
it was the whole
situation.

Surprisingly,
none of my students
said anything.
I wonder
if they
noticed
and will
ask them
tomorrow.

The class
itself
went okay,
for a first
French class,
with 48 kids
in a room,
more than half
of whom
have no
interest
in learning
French,
and a third,
who are still
learning
English.

An old story,
part of the
institution
of education.

At least next time,
I will know
what is off
and be sure
we meditate
at the end of the day,
before French
with both classes
on Day 6.

At least,
we spent the
last 15 minutes
outside.

And, once again,
tomorrow
is another day.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Off and Running- Friday, Monday

First Friday morning
time already flying by. 
Week one nearly done.

My homeroom settles,
getting used to the routine.
Finding what they need.

Lights dim, music on,
nearly all their heads go down,
straight backs didn't last long.

But the silence stays,
peace washes over the room
everyone is still.

Inhale, two, three, four,
Hold, two. Exhale, two, three, four,
again and again.

Five minutes and change
goes by quickly, leaving me
grateful and at peace.

Slowly they come back
their awareness returning
ready for the day.

In class, some sharing
easing into our learning
practicing our skills.

My switch class comes next
settling into their seats
getting used to things.

Student B sits down,
arranging his pad and pens,
preparing himself.

Student A gets set
his buddy at his table,
and Pringles to eat.

Again, I prepare,
lights off, music on. "Be still,
if you can," I say.

Student B improves
drawing, but not bothering
others. I can move.

Student A needs me
to remind him, food can wait. 
He knows that I'm right.

Both calm, with the rest,
more or less. It still feels weird
for some new students.

Inhale, two, three, four,
Hold, two. Exhale, two, three, four,
again and again.

Five minutes and change,
not as smooth as the first class,
but still over fast.

Then we start writing
first pieces- Six Word Memoirs
something all can write 

******************************

Just like that, Monday
arrives. First up, my switch class,
calmer in the morn.

Student B moves spots,
where he has more space, and the
support he requires.

He settles quickly, 
with Student A and the rest.
Everyone is calm.

Still the first Monday
most happy to lay their heads,
they are still tired.

Inhale, two, three, four,
Hold, two. Exhale, two, three, four,
again and again.

Five minutes and change,
this morning it goes better,
which I let them know.

Then the day begins
continuing our writing
picking up our pace.

My homeroom returns,
second nature already,
they settle quickly.

Inhale, two, three, four,
Hold, two. Exhale, two, three, four,
again and again.

Five minutes and change,
I appreciate the peace,
relax in the calm.

Then we get a start
writing, before the "Welcome 
Back" assembly starts.

The afternoon brings
the two classes together.
Time to mark today

It was not perfect 
the METTA meditation 
in the afternoon

But it's important,
it's September Eleventh,
and experience.

Twelve minutes or so,
extending our compassion
and kindness beyond

It is challenging
for some, especially those
who are new to it

Student B goes out,
it is all too much for him.
He spends time outside

Two boys keep talking
I stand behind them, or else,
they just keep talking.

Last year's giggly boy
needs a reminder, as do
a couple others.

Eventually,
they still, like Student A has
been the entire time.

The meditation 
ends with a minute of thanks
and almost silence.

I am not quite sure
it was worth it. But I don't
tell my students that.

Instead, I speak of
power, and what they give up
without noticing.

And that, for the first,
long meditation, they did
fairly well that day.

So another day 
came to an end. Tomorrow,
we'll do it again.

 


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Return Again Day 1

Inhale, two, three, four,

Here we go again,
another year,
another first day of school,
another new beginning.
Different,
but the same.

Hold, two,

The jump to grade 8,
with many of the same
beautiful faces,
most happy to be back,
excited,
to see their friends,
and even me,
a little.
To begin
the continuation
of  our learning
together.

Exhale, two, three, four

The same,
but different.
Familiar students,
in a new classroom,
out in the portables.
A bigger room,
with space to move,
and lots of storage,
but literally a portable classroom,
one in a row of six,
in back of the school,
with an outdoor hallway,
and a giant field,
out the back door,
as the extension of our classroom
space.

Only three classrooms
occupied,
all by grade 8 classes,
a huge advantage in the
spring and fall,
but a real bitch,
in the winter,
especially when I have to
go to the bathroom.

Inhale, two, three, four

The day begins,
my new homeroom
arrives,
a mix of kids
from last year's classes,
peppered with a few from across
the hall
and one new arrival,
a transfer from another school
with a friend in the room.

I am happy
to see them all,
and catch up with those
who didn't make it
to orientation meetings.

Hold, two

Students are excited
as they settle
into their chosen seats,
in their new classroom,
but also nervous,
about the day
and the year
to come,
and tired,
from going to bed late,
not used to getting up
so early
after the summer months.
I can relate.

Exhale, two, three, four

After O Canada and announcements,
but before anything else,
before organizing
supplies and lockers,
even before
introductions,
we pause
and take five and a half minutes
to meditate.

Inhale, two, three, four

They know what to expect,
even those
who weren't in my class
last year.
But we review
for the experienced,
and the new arrivals,
because it is a practice,
the very nature,
of meditation.

Hold, two

They are more willing
to answer my questions.
Why do we meditate?
To relax,
to focus,
to breathe.
To bring our attention
to a single
focus,
I remind them.

Exhale two, three, four

I encourage them
to sit up
straight
in their chairs,
even if they didn't
last year,
or only do it,
for a few days.

Inhale, two, three, four

I challenge them
to open themselves
to going deeper
into their
practices,
and really try
to follow
the breath count,
I will use,
for at least
the first couple of weeks.

Hold, two

And so we are ready
to begin.
I turn off the lights
but the room
is not dark,
just dimmed,
with the natural light,
from the big windows.
I start the music,
the students are quiet
and still,
even Student 1,
who has returned to me,
this time in my homeroom.
The same,
but different.

Exhale, two, three, four

The five and a half minutes
pass quickly,
as I speak through it,
first welcoming them to
Grade 8,
a new year,
a new space,
a fresh start.

Inhale, two, three, four

I guide them through
the prompts,
familiar to many,
first planting our feet flat,
on Treaty 1 Territory Land,
connecting with
the land,
those who came before us,
and the Treaty we honour
today.

Hold, two

Then straightening our backs,
while relaxing our bodies,
and finally,
closing our eyes.
About half,
in different parts of the room,
sitting straight in their seats,
the rest
putting their heads down,
all settling.
Silent, beyond the sound of my voice,
and the quiet music
in the background.

Exhale, two, three, four

Silent as I walk
around the room,
counting,
Inhale, two, three, four,
Hold, two,
Exhale, two, three, four,
over and over,
for the length
of the track.
Enjoying the familiar feeling,
the quiet,
the peace,
and the comfort of the classroom.
Different,
but the same.

Inhale, two, three, four

As the track ends,
I turn off the music,
and gently bring their awareness
back to the classroom.
I remind them
to notice how they feel,
and that their feelings,
or sensations,
during their practice,
are natural,
as are having none at all.
I encourage them
to simply pay attention
to how they feel.

Hold, two

I also invite them
to share
any feelings, ideas
or their experience,
but as is the norm,
they say nothing.
I pause to give them
the chance
to respond,
just long enough
so the silence is
awkward,
and it is clear
I really want
a response.
Then I laugh,
because I am not surprised,
and their silence
is funny,
and we continue
with the business
of the day.
It is the first day,
and it already feels,
as though we never left.

Exhale, two, three, four

After break,
my switch class arrives,
as once again,
I share my class
with a teaching partner, Mr. E,
I am lucky,
to have two great partners.
His homeroom,
my switch class,
is also made up,
of many of my grade 7 students
from both classes,
with whom I am very happy
to be working again
including Student A,
who has grown so much,
and a few other boys,
whose letters' I don't remember
from last year,
and so we will see
how they appear this year.

Inhale, two, three, four,

This class has a few
random students,
one from another school,
another, one lone student,
a girl,
the only from one of the grade 7 classrooms,
who I imagine was the
casualty of a switch
that had to made to support
another student,
and who I also imagine,
will do fine in the end.

Hold, two

Among the boys
from another grade 7 class,
is also a boy
with high needs,
and many challenges,
academic, social
and behaviour issues,
through no fault of his own,
simply no impulse control.
We have a relationship,
this student, Student B,
in my switch class,
a good rapport
from last year,
though this is the first time
he is in my class.

Exhale, two, three, four

I knew what I was getting into,
as much as that's possible,
with students like Student B,
but it was evident within moments
of his arrival,
and the beginning of the class,
that he is very needy,
and will be extremely demanding,
even more than Student A,
who had an excellent start.

Inhale, two, three, four

I went through the same introduction
and explanation
as I had
earlier that morning.
Student A,
and his buddy,
who was in the other class last year,
settled quickly,
participated in the discussion,
and only needed a shh or two
to stay  focused.
But Student B,
had a harder time,
ripping up paper,
poking the people around him,
and fidgeting in his chair.
In the other class,
he has a rocking chair,
and a stool,
which we brought
to my room.

Hold, two

It helped a little,
but not enough,
to help him be quiet,
as I turned off the lights
and started the music.
I immediately stood behind him
as I welcomed the class
to grade 8
and their first meditation of the year.
Employing the
rule of proximity,
I didn't move for the rest
of the meditation.

Exhale, two, three, four

Standing behind Student B,
I guided them through the prompts,
as I had earlier that morning,
and noted Student A,
sitting up straight,
hands fold on the desk in front of him,
with his eyes closed.
I he remained that way,
focused on his breath
throughout the meditation.
The EA,
who is working with them both
again this year- bless his soul-
and I caught eyes,
and took delight,
in his focus,
attitude
and growth.
Even if it doesn't
last long,
the intention is there,
and he will keep growing.

Inhale, two, three, four

I was also very grateful,
as Student B clearly needed me.
A few minutes in,
I tried to move away from him,
and began to circle the room,
but within seconds,
he was poking the boy
beside him.
And so I stood behind him,
encouraging him to relax,
and allowing him to be
quiet.
I think it worked
a little,
enough
for the first day.
At least,
he didn't bother
everybody else.

Hold, two

And so the five and a half minutes
passed much more slowly
than in the previous class,
but in the end,
it is only five and a half minutes.
No big surprise,
that no one in my switch class
took me up on the invitation
to share
anything either,
but it was good start,
good enough anyway.

Exhale, two, three, four

The first meditations
of the year,
on another first day
in grade 8,
are not a first.
But this is
the first time,
I have ever
written a poem
about them.

The same, but different.
Different, but the same.





Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Calm Monday, Crazy Tuesday

The last week in April, and as I reminded my students as it began, the only week in the next five in which we don't have a school event, holiday, PD day or field trip. One of the last full weeks of regular classroom learning, and so as we started the week, we determined to make the most of it, beginning with our breath.

I began the morning with my class and I couldn't have asked for a more peaceful start to the day and the week. As on previous Mondays, I know that much of the quietness comes from their utter exhaustion, as the days get longer, and my grade 7 students grow into that phase of adolescence which entails endless hours of communication on their devices, often late into the night. But I also know they are happy for the minutes to breathe, and this Monday was no different.

The six and a half minutes of silence were a blessing to start the day. They were also what has become pretty much routine when we meditate in the classroom. On Monday morning the hallway was also quiet and so the stillness prevailed from inside and out.

My switch class came for fourth period and with only one period it was a slightly shorter meditation, and as is generally the case with my switch class, it was quiet enough, but not quite still or silent. Student 2 was annoying, trying to call the attention of his friends, but was silenced with a look. And, as is also the case with my switch class, we have a routine and on Monday it brought another mostly peaceful start to our day and week together.

Tuesday, April 25

Another Day 2 and another crazy Tuesday. This morning we welcomed our first of two high school volunteers in my classroom, a grade 12 student, who I taught when he was in grade 7, and has grown into a smart, strong, young man, learning that the consequences to the choices we make in life get more serious as we grow older. He spent the first two periods getting to know students as they worked on their Exploratory projects, and then played games while the others were in choir.

After break, during period 3, Mr. Y offered an opportunity to rewrite one Math test from the previous unit if they were unhappy with their marks. About half of the students from both classes chose to do the rewrite, while the rest gathered in my room. It was an unusual event and strange for both classes, many sitting with their friends, others thrown off a little when they didn't have their usual seats. As break ended, everyone was pretty excited and loud.

Though they settled pretty quickly the room was still loud, and while I had intended to wait until the afternoon to meditate in the library, I decided we should take the time right away. As I told them, even though we would do it again later, it certainly wouldn't hurt to take the time in the moment. As soon as I said it, my volunteer, who had been in grade 7 five years ago, stated how he missed meditating. He was surprised I was still using the same music and that my old music player still works. He was happy to settle into my chair and join in the meditation.

With the different mix of students, and especially the displacement of Student A from his seat to the one beside his "buddy," the boy he likes to bother, I was a little concerned about how it would go, but as I turned off the lights and started the music, quiet washed over the room, and I was instantly grateful I had made the choice to take the time to breathe.

I moved through the prompts, breath count and focused breath, encouraging them to inhale their calm and exhale their excess, hyper energy, and just about everyone relaxed into the quiet. Student A had the Minecraft figures he had crafted and was playing with them, attempting to poke his buddy, but stopped when I moved to stand behind him. He settled for a few moments, but not long enough to allow me to sit down and join in the silence. Instead I stood behind him, and closed my eyes as I took a few breaths before the track ended.

Once again it was not a perfect meditation, but it was quiet enough, and it set the tone for a mostly peaceful period to follow. I was glad I made the choice to take the time to breathe. It is amazing how easy is it to forget that it is always the best choice.

Immediately after lunch, I got the call from my grade 8 immersion class inviting me to join them and I was very happy to oblige. They were chatting as I arrived, but it only took a moment before they quieted, with no prompts beyond setting the lights and music. As we began the meditation, I commented on how much I appreciated being there, especially as they were so ready whenever I arrived.

We began as we always do, connecting with Treaty 1 Territory land and those who came before us, and I remarked that I hoped after our Treaty Day Celebrations next week that they would gain an even deeper understanding as to what that means and why we do it every time. Then I moved through the rest of the prompts, breath count and focused breath, encouraging them to find what they need as they breathed.

We moved into the silence and I sat down and joined them, marvelling at the absolute stillness and quiet in the room. I was grateful for the peace and the opportunity to both facilitate it, and be a part of it. It's different when they are not my students, and it a way it is even sweeter.

As the track ended I lingered in the silence for a couple of breaths before I broke it and encouraged them to return to the room gently. I opened the blinds to let in the light, another benefit of a different classroom. It was very quiet as they came back, and very peaceful. The room felt different than it had when I arrived just 10 minutes earlier.

Before I left I reminded them any bodily sensations may be natural, as are none at all. I asked them if anyone had anything they wanted to share with me, and reassured their blank faces that it was okay if they didn't, and maybe one day they would. Then I thanked them for having me, noting that this was probably the most peaceful 7 minutes of my day. They thanked me as I left them to continue their day and I went on with my afternoon.

After break, both classes came to the library, and has become the norm there, everyone got comfortable at the tables, computers, and a bunch of students, boys and girls from both classes, piled together some beanbag chairs and piled on them. Before we began I reminded them I expected silence even if they chose to sit in what could not be comfortable positions, and once again they lived up to their assurances they could do it.

We had a lot left to do, half had already meditated in the morning, and I still don't have good speakers for the library, so I chose a quick, five minute track. It was another good choice for meditating. It was short and sweet. I moved through the usual prompts and encouraged them to take the time to breathe and make the most of the last hour of the day.

The last minutes went quickly, as I took a seat in the middle of the library and joined in the silence, as did the rest of the afternoon, to end another crazy Tuesday- our last crazy Tuesday in April.

Here's to looking forward to what Wednesday will bring....and to getting some sleep before it comes.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Time Getting Away From Me- The Third Week in April

I can't let another week get away from me, though much like my students, as the days get longer and activities ramp up, at the end of the day, I don't feel much like writing. It is easy to get off the writing track and lose motivation. But as I say to my students, "Suck it up Buttercup," and so I have committed to one hour of writing to get back in the swing and capture highlights of the week's meditations, because time is going very quickly, and soon there will be no more year left to capture.

It was a short week, the week of April 17th to April 20th, with only four days and several large groups, there were fewer meditations and none during PD on Friday. Here are some highlights.

Monday, April 17th

The week began with a Day 2 and I decided to wait until the library in the afternoon to meditate as the morning was already hectic, with one short period for each class to read our novel. I wanted to make the most of all of our time, and the morning reading went smoothly as just about everyone is really engaged in our novel.

Before I met both classes in the library after break in the afternoon, I was invited back to the grade 8 immersion class immediately after lunch, when I have my prep time. I have been told that the students like my guidance and the way I talk through the first part of the meditation. I am always honoured to be asked back.

When I arrived they were a bit chatty, even as I set up the music and dimmed the lights. Even though I hadn't been there is a few weeks, I didn't offer much instruction, but asked if they had any questions, and when there were none, I started the music and the meditation.

As the six minute track began, I wasn't sure if they would need more direction to be quiet as there were a few final whispers here and there. But within a few seconds of beginning the prompts and welcoming them to their time to breathe, there was a stillness that washed over the room and silence filled the air. The room was very peaceful as I guided them through the prompts, breath counts and focused breathing, inviting them to find when what they need and grow it as they inhale, and then exhale the blocks that get in their way.

We moved into the silence and I sat down and joined, marveling in the quiet in the room, and how it had taken a moment in the beginning, but ultimately prevailed with no real action on my part, except for making room for the space. I breathed in my gratitude for the time and the invitation to be there.

The minutes passed quickly as they do and I ended the meditation, thanking them for their silence and sharing some of my observations, including how I felt unsure in the beginning as it was a little noisier than usual, which is perhaps because they are more comfortable with my presence, and how grateful I was to feel the silence roll across the room like a wave. It was remarkable and I let them know I was grateful for the opportunity and always happy to be invited to their classroom. When no one had any further comments to share, I wished them continued peace for the rest of the afternoon and went off to the rest of mine.

Both of my classes came to the library after break and it didn't take long for everyone to get comfortable, with groups of kids in corners on the floor and piled on the beanbag chairs. I debated whether they needed to move aloud, and they assured me they were all fine and could enjoy the stillness and silence, even if they were practically piled on top of each other in some cases.

I took them at their word, turned off the lights, set the music and started the meditation as always. I guess everyone needed the break on that Monday afternoon as the library was quiet from beginning to end. Reflecting their comfort with each other, and their respect and appreciation for the time, even the kids piled on the beanbags were still and silent.

As I moved through all the usual prompts, breath count and focused breathing, there was no need to redirect behaviour, or stand in any particular place, as everyone was still and silent. As I finished the guided part of the meditation, I took a chair in the middle of the library and sat down to breathe. Before I closed my eyes, I looked around at everyone, heads down where they could be and eyes closed in other places, relaxed and enjoying the moment, and I smiled. It was a good start to the week. I closed my eyes and enjoyed a few moments of peace before they too passed, the track ended, and I closed the meditation so we could finish the day.

Tuesday April 18th

We meditated once on Tuesday, when both classes came together for Social Studies for the last two periods of the morning. As we got settled, students got into the groups they had been working in based on the different parts of the world of the countries of their research projects. We have been continuing our discussions of standards of living, by exploring their perceptions of happiness and everything that entails, in different parts of the world.

Throughout the study we had spent time watching different videos which illustrate life, perspectives and perceptions of happiness and freedoms in different parts of the world. As we started Tuesday, we watched a video which highlighted the connection between our perspectives and attitudes, gratitude, and happiness in our lives, so it was with that focus that we meditated.

Despite the different groups and seating arrangement, it didn't take long for everyone to settle as we began the meditation. I moved through the prompts and breath count, and then I encouraged them to inhale their gratitude for all they have, while exhaling the fears that make us want to focus on what we don't have. I challenged them to breathe and find happiness, health and safety in their breath.

The silence was not perfect, there was some movement, chairs shuffling, a cough or sniffle, but it was quiet and peaceful. It was nice. And as usual, it was quick. Before long the music ended and it was time to end the meditation and continue with the group sharing and the rest of the day.

Wednesday, April 19th

Wednesday was the only day of the week I saw both classes individually in my classroom. I began the day with my class for 1 period of ELA, reading and working with the novel. With a short period, it was a short 5 and a half minute meditation, and it was still and silent from beginning to end.

It took no time for everyone to settle, as first thing in the morning my class is always happy to put their heads down, which they did with little prompting. As we planted our feet flat on Treaty 1 Territory Land I noted this act is becoming even more significant as we continue to read our novel and broaden our understanding of the Treaties and the importance of the land, Then I continued through the usual prompts, breath count, and focused breath, encouraging them to find what they needed for the day ahead.

As we moved into the silence, the room was even quieter than usual. There was no movement at all and it seemed that even the hallway was still. I joined in, noting my gratitude for the peace. The track ended and I lingered in the silence for a few breaths more, sad to break it, but sensing it was time. Time to read and move on with the day. But before I did, I thanked my students for the lovely start and remarked on their growing ability to be still, which is no small feat, and never ceases to amaze me.

It spoils me a little too. My switch class came in the period that followed, and while I used more or less the same words, the feeling can't be replicated and it different with the other group. They are not bad at meditating, and still quiet and pleasant enough, but do not achieve the same level of peace and still my homeroom reaches. It really is something special.

But it doesn't diminish the time with my switch class, which for those 5 and a half minutes was just fine. Not completely still and silent, but quiet enough and just fine. The discussions that followed around the novel were also lively, with many students engaging in the themes and sharing their ideas and opinions willingly, which is also different than my homeroom, from which I often need to prod and pry responses. So there are pros and cons to both rooms and I appreciate them both in very different ways.

Thursday April 20

Thursday was our 7th monthly visit to the Millennium Library, marking the passage of time and the growth of our students from the meditation in the morning, to their behaviour and learning throughout the day. It was a brilliant meditation and a brilliant day.

As usual both classes came together to meditate before we got ready to go. It didn't take long for everyone to settle and I started the 6 and a half minute track, using my iPod because I forgot my iPad at home.

I moved through the usual prompts breath count and focused breath. I encouraged them to inhale what they need and exhale what they do not, as they visualized their day at the library, from the morning, through lunch, and into the afternoon. I invited them to picture the day, time, space and the goals they intended to accomplish as they breathed.

As we moved into the silence, I noted the timer on the iPod read we had exactly three minutes of deep breathing ahead. I also noted the room was particularly still and silent. As I breathed, inhaling my own good energy and releasing my fears for the day, I noticed the room remained very quiet. The peace lasted for the entire 3 minutes and a few breaths beyond as the track ended.

As I closed the meditation, I congratulated them on the exceptional meditation and the new silence I felt we had experienced for the full three minutes. I told them that I didn't know if they felt it was different, but I sure did, and I thought it was a great sign for the day ahead.

Whether it was or not, it was indeed a wonderfully relaxed and enjoyable day at the library and a great way to end a short week.

Now we have another big one ahead as we come to the last week in April. Hard to believe that summer will be here before we know it. But until it arrives, I will try to keep on writing and keep on breathing.

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead. Remember to breathe.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ninety-Something Grade 7 Kids in the Gym on Treaty 1 Territory Land

I am working on several pieces to catch up on the last weeks before the break and since, but in the meantime, I need to capture today and the five minutes of meditation I experienced in the gym, with about 100 other people, including the four grade 7 classes in our pod (what we call the different sections of our school), their teachers, the 5 volunteers from the big-vision high school housed at our neighbourhood high school, and their teacher-advisor, who was a former colleague of ours, as part of our experience this morning.

We gathered first thing in the morning to share in the experience of The Blanket Exercise Workshop, (http://www.kairoscanada.org/what-we-do/indigenous-rights/blanket-exercise), which is a simulation designed to help participants understand Canada's history from an Indigenous perspective, including the impact of the Canadian government on Indigenous communities past and present.

Using the shorter version, designed for grades 4-8, in about an hour and a half, The Blanket Exercise covered about 500 years of history, from early contact with the settlers through modern history, as a step towards reconciliation, as our participants experienced the devastating events of Indigenous history, including the extermination of half the population by smallpox and other diseases, the loss of land and ways of life, loss of family, culture and language to 150 years of Residential Schools, and loss of rights and freedoms in modern day Canada. They also gained insight into some recent steps towards Reconciliation, like The Apology and other initiatives, as well as the work yet to be done. The experience  is a small part of our greater classroom learning, and will connect to our Treaty Days celebrations at the beginning of May.

When we finished the simulation, we came back together briefly in the big circle, before we split into our classes for smaller sharing circles, as the group was too large to accommodate everyone. Grade 7 students only have so much patience, and we can only ask so much of them, and their teachers. The group, who had been prepped before we began, but could not know what the experience would be like, was amazing in every way. They were willing, cooperative, and exceptionally respectful to each other, and to the process, which had some sitting on the sides for a long period of time, and others standing for the duration. Though there were a few moments of sshing, or redirecting focus and minor behaviour, overall our students gave themselves to the experience.

While many passed as we went around the sharing circle after, several spoke of gaining a deeper understanding the events of history, as rather than just being told, they were led to feel. The reflected on the feelings they had experienced, including shock, fear and anger. I am looking forward to learning more about their experiences when I read their written reflections.

It was a very powerful experience and it began with a very powerful, though not easy, meditation. I chose one of the shorter tracks, but at just under 5 minutes, it was one of those days when the minutes passed slowly, and the time seemed long, probably because in the unfamiliar setting, with so many people, there was more behaviour to manage.

There were four classes of grade 7's, about 95 kids, sitting on chairs in a big circle around the blankets, which had been set up to resemble Turtle Island, or North America prior to European contact. My two classes might meditate regularly, but usually in the comfort of the classroom, with desks on which to lay their heads. I have never meditated with the other two classes, and so it was certainly a new experience for them, one to which I gave little explanation. I just reminded everyone that the only way to meditate wrong was to bother someone else, and with that we began.

We dimmed the gym lights, but it was not as dark as my classroom, and kids felt noticeably awkward as they shifted in their seats and I encouraged them to relax in their chairs, and into their breath, as they allowed themselves to forget about everyone else in the room. The speakers I have been using for the last 5 years broke, and so with just the IPad the music was very quiet in the background, adding to the awkward silence. But at the same time it was quiet and peaceful enough. I continued as usual, with extra attention to the introduction and the prompts.

As we started, I encouraged everyone to plant their feet flat on Treaty 1 Territory Land, the traditional home of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the M├ętis Nation, noting that it was in the spirit of acknowledging and honouring these connections that we were all there today. It was our purpose in meeting, and as we make these connections with the land, the treaties, and the people who came before us, we make steps towards reconciliation. 

I moved through the posturing, encouraging them to sit up straight, and still relax all parts of their bodies, and ultimately close their eyes. I reminded them that it is natural to feel awkward or a little uncomfortable, and to be wondering if everyone else was also closing their eyes or looking at them instead, and challenged them to let those feelings go, trust themselves and close their eyes. Quite a few did.

I led them through the breath count, but kept it shorter than usual taking only four or five breaths, in part due to the short time we had, but also because so many of them were unfamiliar with the count and I didn't want them to get too hung up or distracted by it. I then encouraged them to bring their focus and attention to each inhale and each exhale as they breathed naturally.

As I brought their attention to their breath, I encouraged them to find what they need, inhaling the focus and patience to listen and participate, while exhaling the impatience and distraction that gets in the way. As some fidgeted, as there are students like Students A and Students 1 and 2 in every class, and we had 4 classes, I reminded them to inhale the respect they bring to the experience, for themselves and the people around them, and then exhale the fear that causes them to make the choices that bring them negative attention. I challenged them to look within and give their respect and best selves to the experience. At the same time I applied the old rule of proximity and moved where I was needed, spending the bulk of the minutes near Student 2 and his buddies from the other classes.

We moved into the silence and they managed to keep it together, and though there were a few smirks and glances passed between them, they were quiet, as was everyone else. As I looked around the circle, there was a certain amount of stillness, though some, like Student A, were still a little fidgety, everyone was quiet and no one disturbed the peace.

I closed my eyes where I stood and took a few deep breaths, giving thanks for the quiet and the positive start to the morning. Then I said a little prayer for the rest of the morning, asking for a positive and meaningful experience for my students and colleagues and that the intention and purpose be understood. 

I was standing near the boys and so it was hard to hear the music, but after a few breaths I sensed that it was time to close. I walked over to the IPad as I ended the meditation, and thought that it didn't really matter if the track was actually over, as it felt long enough, only to see the next track had just started. The five minutes was well timed, and like the rest of the morning, it was not easy, but it was certainly worthwhile. It was the beginning of a powerful learning experience and I am grateful for it.