Friday, September 16, 2011

Yantra in Math Class

Today was our first pop quiz.  If you've read anything here in the last year, you know that means meditation and cookies.  I have been itching to meditate for the last 6 days with these kids, just waiting for an excuse, not feeling quite ready, finally caving and just resting in the structure from last year.

But this year I wanted to be a bit more thoughtful about it.  Here was the lesson...

I.  Writing prompt: What do you know about stress?  They write for about a minute.

II.  Class conversation: Raise your hand if you've ever felt stressed.  Raise your hand if you've felt stressed today.  Raise your hand if you get stressed out about friendships.  About school.  About math class.  What happens when you get stressed, what does it feel like?  What does it look like?  What do people do about it?

III.  Introduce Jesse as a stress-reduction (I didn't actually use the word meditate) instructor: In addition to teaching math, I also teach adults and my students to techniques to manage and reduce their stress so that they can feel better and focus on whatever it is they want to do.  When people get stressed, as you guys described, at best it's uncomfortable and distracting.  Sometimes stress about a test can cause a kind of panic that makes us forget everything we've learned.  So in this class, we'll experiment with some different techniques to help us focus and relax at the same time.

IV.  Pop quiz announcement: We're starting this today because we have a pop quiz, and I want you to experiment with not being stressed about it.

V.  Introduce the yantra: There's a picture of a yantra up on the smartboard.  I explain: in India, people have been making these kinds of geometric images for thousands of years, and using them to relax and concentrate.  Today I'm going to tell you a kind of story about the yantra while you look at it, and you can just see what happens to your body and mind.  There's no pressure, just see what happens.  Keep your eyes open and look at the yantra.  Listen without speaking as I tell you the story...

VI.  The story: The dot in the very center, called the Bindu, represents unity, our connectedness to each other, our families, our neighbors, the whole of the universe.  It's small and hard to see, but see if you can just focus your eyes on that one small point.  (wait time...)  Now let your vision expand so that you can see all the red triangles.  They say that the triangles that point up represent the masculine or male energies in the universe, and the triangles that point down represent the feminine or female energies.  (wait...)  Now look at the circles around those triangles.  These circles symbolize that which is constant, infinite, cyclic in our lives; time, which has no beginning and no end, our breath which pulses in and out, 60,000 times a day without our effort, gravity which pulls on us all the time, the universe which is infinite in it's vastness, always expanding, no starting point, no end point.  (...)  Now look at the petals of the lotus flower around the circles. The lotus flower is so important in India, and in this yantra it represents your understanding, your knowledge, which is opening, always expanding, growing.  (...)  Finally, let your eyes see the squares at the outside of the yantra.  These squares are your identity, your separateness, your individuality, which enclose everything else.  (...)  Look at the Bindu again, that point in the middle.  Relax your eyes, so that you can focus on the Bindu but see the whole yantra at the same time.  (...)  Close your eyes and see the after image on the lids of your eyes.  (...)  Open your eyes and see the yantra again.  (...)  Close your eyes again.  Just see how much of the yantra is still visible to you.

VII.  Debrief: Write for one minute about what you experienced.  What did you feel, what did you notice?

VIII.  Pop quiz:  ...And if you feel stressed, experiment with seeing the yantra in your mind's eye and just see what happens.  See if it helps you relax and focus.  And if it's not quite enough, there will be cookies.


It was awesome to do a meditation with kids that doesn't require them to close their eyes.  I hadn't planned this part, but as it turned out it was so much easier to get them to do this practice than any closed eyed meditations I've done in the past.  It was awesome to introduce meditation to kids with such a high voltage geometric image.  They had cool experiences with it.  I want to get them to make their own and put them on their binders so they can remember and keep that intention of focused relaxation, relaxed attention, anytime they're in math class (and beyond!)

2) My incredibly brilliant co-teacher found himself somewhere between lazy and curious, and when it came time to teach his lesson (which we usually share) he began...

"So this isn't really my thing.  This is really Jesse's thing, and she's really crazy.  So it's ok if you think this is weird, because I do, but we'll try it and then we'll decide if we ever want to do it again.  We'll wait to talk about how weird it is til after she's gone."

He did the whole thing.  I happened to walk in when he was introducing the yantra, and he asked me to lead the storytelling part, but he was totally prepared to do it himself.  Amazing.  We are learning so much from each other.  Which I will continue to tell you about...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

first day of year six

Today was the first day, and the two things I want to share are about my new coteacher/department cofacilitator.

1- He regularly counts how often I say awesome.  Or maybe how often I say awesome and amazing.  In meetings and I think maybe in class too.  Then he gives me responsibilities because I'm awesome. 
2- I'm so excited about our curricular collaboration, and want to say right now, whatever comes after, that what we're up to seems to be somewhere between strictly awesome and downright revolutionary.  Always.  

We make a strange and really good team, I think.  I'm curious how it will develop and excited to share our work with you!