Changing Space

Photograph by Edna Vite “Mandalas are utilized in all cultures as transmitters of energy,” Vite says, explaining that they can transform negative energy into positive energy. According to Vite, people use mandalas to cleanse spaces of negative energy, as well as to meditate and to energize themselves.

Last week Jose wrote:

I stayed in my classroom until 530pm making sure that, when the kids
came in the morning, they had a more comfortable setting for themselves
than what I felt I provided. I’m tired of the negative energy my
homeroom class has, so maybe if I change the environment a bit, I’d get
a little more positivity back.

I’ve been trying to do the same and when I started my response to his question, “how?” it turned into this blog post.

Here you go, Jose.

How I did it? No, more like how I am attempting to do it. It’s always a process….a long one ;)

Physical environment.
I’ve got an interesting dilemma because I’ve got 2 distinctly different groups in my class – the 12-15 year olds and the 16-19 year olds (don’t ask how that happened). At first I had the older group (6 altogether) sitting at round tables at the back of the room with the younger group (8 altogether) scattered around the front at individual desks – facing all different directions because at the beginning of the year some of my kids couldn’t deal with looking at each other, too much of a distraction.

This week I changed it up a bit and I decided to place some of the younger, more challenged students at tables with an older student or 2. So far so good. I’ve seen some mentoring already. And I’ve placed my major behaviour time bomb (remember the desk flying incident?) near the door so he can quickly leave when I signal him to go for a break or when he realizes (if we ever get to the point where he can self-assess his anger levels) that he needs one himself.

Head space?
The mentoring I mentioned above is helping. Instead of constant bickering I’m hearing more helping. Could it be that I am seeing more tolerance? I think maybe. Time will tell. That was a side effect of the physical space thing though. Something I started this week is a daily quote analysis. I work with kids who have a difficult time with text and being able to fully analyze a cohesive piece of text has been good for them. Instead of doing it every once in a while as a class, this week I tried it every single day and I gave groups of 2-3 students their own quote to look at it. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes. I’m liking it so far.

Like I said, it’s a process….

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Change…the 6-letter 4-letter word aka Wishes, Hopes, and Dreams the Remix

I closed my last post with this quote from the stunning Invincible:

Metamorphosis, no better metaphor for this.

here’s the link one more time for your listening pleasure. Go here to see credits.

And post-post discussion (aka comments, I guess) is gravitating around the concept of discomfort and learning.

I am propelled to reflect on both the quote and the discussion.

I have not been feeling comfortable lately in the classroom. Before the holidays I was burnt out and definitely not pushing myself to do anything novel with my students – almost questioning my decision to return to teaching. My back went out, I took sick days.

Metamorphosis, no better metaphor for this….

Change is not easy.

I have been suffering in my discomfort.

Change is not easy. For me, my students, the attendant in my classroom.

I’ve worked with teaching assistants before, but never with one who is in my classroom 24/7 and who was there for a couple of years with a different teacher before I got there AND who is bound by union regulations to certain activities. I’ve worked with students with disabilities before, but never such a diverse group as I am working with now.

I am becoming a different teacher. Metamorphosis, no better metaphor for this….

To do this, I need to balance:

Charlie Parkerbuddha for Fern

I read Jose’s post The Great Dissenters and I think of the discomfort the teachers in his school are experiencing and I think of the potential for learning and change if it is examined more closely by more people, in the way that Jose is starting to do – with a balance of reflection and action.

I read Elona’s post Helping Kids with Learning Disabilities Change Negative Habits of Mind and I am witness to the balance of reflection and action as a result of discomfort that led to learning.

I read Pete’s post I Don’t Want to be the Bad Guy and I am reminded of the choices I make everyday and how I can choose to explore my struggles and discomfort in order to learn and change ….or…not.

And I reread Marilyn Taylor’s work (2004) on learning and change and remind myself:
“The challenge of the red zone [discomfort, disorientation] is self-inquiry about the nature of the disorienting experience and pursuit of learning from it.”

And even though I read and remind myself about all of that….

…change still remains a 6-letter 4-letter word a lot of the time. Luckily I don’t mind swearing once in a while.

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Parents protest ‘time-out’ cage in classroom

Parents protest ‘time-out’ cage in classroom
(Last Updated: Friday, February 9, 2007 | 3:09 PM ET CBC News)

A Shawinigan, Que., teacher who put a nine-year-old student in a lattice cage for misbehaving will not face any disciplinary measures, school board officials said Friday.

The boy’s parents discovered their son, Félix, had been kept in a makeshift cage at Shawinigan’s École St-Paul, after he complained to them he couldn’t see the blackboard.

When they visited the school, they discovered he’d been spending several hours a week in the lattice cage….The local school board director, Claude Leclerc, told Radio-Canada the teacher did nothing wrong by using what he called a time-out area for a difficult student.

I have a few thoughts about this…as I am sure many people do.

My mind goes to a cartoon I saw on the Internet a few months ago. It is a picture of a boy, standing next to his desk, students sitting around him at their desks, and his teacher at her desk. At the back of the class is a huge cage with a pacing tiger and the caption is, “Well, Timmy. It looks like you’ve just earned yourself 10 minutes in the cage with Mr. Whiskers.”

Extreme discipline cases like this reaffirm my belief that teachers are overwhelmed with all that they need to do in a day. An act like this seems desperate to me and I think that if we took the time to think about our values as people and educators, a decision such as to put a child in a caged in area – in front of his peers no less! – would not have been made.

They also reaffirm my belief that we need to build more time into our lives as educators for professional development to help us in dealing with classroom difficulties like this and others. Personally, I think that MELS needs to provide us with time solutions (and the $$ to accompany them) to do so – especially given the present school context of inclusion, integration, and differentiation.

And so, I don’t think that the teacher needs to receive disciplinary measures. Rather, I think that she needs to receive support that will assist her in making appropriate decisions regarding discipline in her classroom. Perhaps the rest of that particular school community could use some as well.

But really, despite all that, I have to ask how could a measure like this have been instated by the teacher and school without parent permission?

I don’t know the whole story, but that is a nagging question for me.

Any thoughts?