Gardening on the mountain

Today was the “Corvée du Mont-Royal” which is an event organized every year were people go to our beloved Mount-Royal, pick up trash, write down notes on erosion and tree health and other fun things. Last year, I was really excited about it and wanted to participate with my students. However, since negotiations between teachers and the government were starting, I was told that I couldn’t organize any activity at all. Deception. Well this year, the student council organized it! How fun!

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Our guide explained what we were looking for (trash or any object that does not belong in nature), gave us gloves and even provided with granola bars. Amazing! I was really happy with our team: the students were really fun and interesting, were super motivated and were just, well, happy. It was really nice to see that they were willing to come on a ped-day (no classes, but teachers come in) to go clean up nature. Once again, I was happily surprised with their enthusiasm and energy.  It was also a great change of pace to see students outside of the classroom and to be outside with them.

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It was a great day outside! The weather was perfect, and we found a lot of stuff, including these wood pallets! How strange! We also found pieces of metal banister that weighted a ton and made us wonder why and how it got hauled up to the mountain (it was a pain to haul down by the way), chairs, a gazillion beer bottles, a 1996 Orange Crush bottle, and a million plastic bottles and bags. It was quite astounding to see how much stuff is left behind by people and how much of the trash is actually recyclable.

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It was so much fun to be outside, to do something good for a Montreal landmark, to interact with students in a relaxed setting and to move a little bit. I really hope to participate in more events like this one because it was great! Let me know if you have something similar going on in your area!

I’m a mindfulness instructor!

I feel like I have reached a new level in “hippie-land”!

Joke aside, I have completed my 12 weeks training with Mindful Schools to be a mindfulness instructor this week. How exciting! As an end of training celebration, I’m sharing some thoughts on how this happened.

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Flashback to the beginning of the year: This year, I have been assigned with six groups of 30 to 38 students. I know most of them as I taught them last year too, and I know that many of them have a great potential that is hindered by their anxiety, stress, or strong feelings/emotions.  This is my problem because it makes it difficult for students to learn when their minds are busy processing all kinds of thoughts. It is also a personal problem because teaching is hard! You are dealing with so much more than the curriculum: student meltdowns, administrators, parents, and taking all this personal stress at home because you care for the kids in front of you. Add this to regular-human-being stress, and you are pushed off balance on a daily basis. So, this beginning of the year is hard, and I feel resource-less.

Meeting with Charity Bryant: At a teacher conference, I get to meet Charity Bryant who is a mindfulness instructor who started out as an English teacher. Her presentation is inspiring, and I feel like she is describing my students when she tells us about her own students and experience bringing mindfulness in the classroom. I need to know more so I write to her ,and she tells me about the online training given by Mindful Schools.

Training with Mindful Schools: I start with the six weeks mindfulness fundamentals and follow through with the mindful educator course. I feel very lucky to have received a scholarship because this training is very complete and thorough, but would have been inaccessible to me as I’m paying it on my own.   Not only does this training help my students, it also helps me face difficulties and deal with my emotions better. Things are still hard sometimes, but I feel like I have a better tool set to face them.

Introducting mindfulness at school: To give me courage, I start offering a mindfulness workshop once every two weeks for interested students. As the meetings go by, I gather experience and confidence with this ideal group. I then introduce mindfulness as a daily routine to my different groups. I am amazed by the curiosity and willingness to try that my students are showing. Most importantly, I feel that my most difficult, disturbing students are responding to this very positively. I also welcome their suspicious as to this “voodoo stuff” and discuss research and brain functioning with them. I really like how it creates an open, ready-to-learn environment where the students are taking time to slow down and connect before starting to work. Is it time lost? Not really. Since they are relaxed and available, I don’t need to bring them back to the activities as much, instructions and modelling take less time because their attention is there, and I can tap in to their new capacity to pay attention with a shared and understood vocabulary.

The results of implementing mindfulness in my classroom might sound magical and untrue. And yet, they are real. My students are still teenagers, but somehow, they are more focused, calmer and more available to learning, to their peers and to my interventions. I really love our 15 minutes of practice each class because it gives me a chance to teach them something out of the curriculum that is precious and truly helpful. I am really glad to have done this! Let me know what you think!