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10/14/2018 - Week #5 

There are times, for me, when time sleeps to slow - even cease altogether. Whether I’m in a crowd or alone, it’s as if all motion and all sound just stops, and I am outside of it. My mind then takes a picture - snap - and then it all goes back to normal. Several such moments occurred this week.

On Thursday evening, we had our family Thanksgiving. Family and family-by-choice and friends of family all gathered around an enormous table, and there was food and laughter and noisy conversation. Then... it all just stopped. I was standing off to one side, and happened to glance back at the rest of the group. For just a second, they all seemed to freeze, and all of the sound turned to silence, and a little voice in my head said, “This moment will never come again.” I looked at the group and really listened to that voice. Over there were Mom and Dad, laughing with my sister and her husband. Dad is coming up to his 91st birthday, and Mom will be 90 in December. My sister and her husband head back to Tasmania this week, a parting which is ever more heartbreaking for them and us. Here were my brother and his wife and one of their two sons - recently here from B.C. - talking to my sons, home from school, on reading week. There were my long-missed cousins, my family-by-choice and my Dad’s new friend (who sometimes seemed lost in the noise of it). I had a moment of clarity - there is the very real possibility that this particular group will never be gathered here in this way again. My mind took the picture - snap - and then the silence disappeared and movement resumed and I rejoined the pandemonium.

We had our family Thanksgiving on Thursday because my eldest son and I were in New York on Thanksgiving weekend. Every year, for Mother’s Day, he takes me to a Buddy Guy concert. (Buddy Guy is a wonderful old Blues guitarist and singer out of Chicago. Jack happened upon him one year because I love the Blues, and he was learning to play guitar.) At this year’s concert, in Toronto, we realized that eventually, we will probably have to find another person for our annual tradition - Buddy is in his 80s. The conversation turned to people we need to see before it’s too late. Eric Clapton’s name topped the list. Well, it turns out that the legendary guitarist is suffering from peripheral neuropathy, a disease that can cause numbness, shooting pain and loss of coordination. His concert playing days may soon be over. On a whim, I checked out upcoming dates - there were only two, both in New York. I texted Jack, asking if he would like to go, even if the only tickets we could afford would make Clapton a mere speck in the distance. My son, who often takes days to respond, replied with a “Yes!” within 30 seconds. So...we went. It was incredible. There was a point - most poignantly during the song “Tears in Heaven”, which Clapton sat and sang alone  - where time stopped. Again, my brain took a photo - snap - and recognized the moment as fleeting. Not just the artist, but my son and the entire experience with him, needed to be filed away to be pulled out and enjoyed again and again at a later date.

This phenomenon happens quite often at school. Dark clouds roll overhead, and the last child has entered the building after recess, and I stop and look back in a rare moment of calm at the yard. Everything feels just as it should. Snap. Then a sweet voice, “I waited for you, Ms. Eccleshall,” brings me back, and I enter back into my world through a door thoughtfully held. Later, while moving through the hall during a rather tense meeting, a child runs out of class to read our little group a short book. This seems so small a deed, but the fact that the child has always proclaimed that he hates reading, and the obvious pride he has for his accomplishment, makes the moment stretch out - I carry in my mind the picture of the child’s uplifted face, the happiness in his teacher’s eyes, the feeling I had of the enormity of it, and the stunned and then delighted look of our guest as the child hugged him. Snap.

Now comes the reflection - the aha moment. It is the times of stillness that bring about these moments. My life is so much larger now that I take the time to stop and recognize these precious gifts for what they are. It has taken me over 50 years to learn that some moments are worth keeping forever, and that we must take the time to photograph them well with the camera of our minds. Then I think some more...what if it didn’t take a person 50 years to learn this? What if we gave this to our children as a precious life skill?

There are some who would say that our children cannot come to this realization because they are never still. Their lives are a flurry of lessons and practices and TV and screen time and constant connectedness and…and.

What if we just stopped? No, not forever, but just for a moment or two. What if we not just allowed this to happen, but encouraged it? What if we set aside time for children to Just. Be. Still? From this, what greatness might come?

Might there be more calm, less anxiety? Might there be a greater appreciation for the gifts that have been given? Might there be a reset - an chance for inner strength to grow?

We built, into this past week, a few chances for children to be still. Did they listen? I have no idea. Probably not. Not yet.

We have a meditation each day at approximately 1:35. Taryn R., shows up each afternoon without prompting, and leads us through a short reflection, and then we have what is now up to three minutes of relaxing music. All we ask of the children and staff is that they are still and breathing deeply. We struggle with the staff at the office - teachers trying to photocopy on their prep time, phones being answered, important meetings being held - so I can only imagine how difficult it is for students to take three minutes to be still and silent. But yet, we must.

We have been using a home-written prayer each day. In it, we say, “May we remember that this day is special, and will never come again.”

Mass was held on Thursday. About halfway through, I realized I was focused more on behaviour than on the silent reflection that was being requested. So, I stopped. I recognized Mass for what it can be - a chance, a moment, to be still. It is just fine for children to be still. Great things happen when we are still.

(As I write this, my mind, which often plays background music for my thoughts (it really is a strange and uncharted space in my mind) has switched to “The Sounds of Silence” by Paul Simon, another old rocker.)

So now, having lauded the benefits of stillness, I will now share some of the moments in which we were not still:

Ms. Vidler presented the findings of her Professional Learning Community this week, and now is ready and able to show her students the work of a 3D printer. More exciting news to come on that!

The Cross Country Team had a great day of running, thankfully with neither high temperatures nor thunderstorms.

Mrs. Fotheringham and Mrs. McCulloch brought toys in for their charges - yet another demonstration of the love and care that all of our outstanding Educational Assistants take in their work.

Mrs. Montgomery’s class delivered over 1200 items to the Food Bank.

Mrs. Chase-Duncan’s moment of the week came while observing her children demonstrate hard work and perseverance: “A high point for me was watching my students read and participate in Mass yesterday with confidence and pride in their voices, including one of my most reserved and shy students who was nervous, but practiced with her parents and in front of our classroom to overcome her fear.” Well done 5/6s - Father Gerard was so very pleased with your contributions to the Mass.

Mrs. Margie Baks joined us in the office, filling in for a few weeks while Mrs. Murray is on leave.

Mr. Stevenson, our caring and devoted afternoon custodian, has retired as of this week, leaving Mr. Whiteside and Mrs. Hedderley to man the fort, at least for the time being, alone.

Students came on their own to run the laps assigned as a consequence for hands-on behaviour. (We don’t ever like to have children miss recess or “stand on the wall”, so a lap or two burns off some energy as well as giving that much needed time for reflection. In the past, we have often had to go looking for them, but this week, students showed up as agreed, without prompting. They took responsibility for their actions. Well done.)

Basketball practices and team selection, along with football, were at the forefront of sports activities. The Green Team promoted Firefly Friday, turning off many of the lights in school, and created a presentation for next week’s Celebration Assembly, at which certificates will also be presented to students who have best displayed (according to staff members) the virtue of Respect.

Ms. Lemanczyk promoted the Extreme Reading Challenge:

This year St. Mary’s would like to launch our very first

      Extreme Reading Challenge !

Books can be read anywhere and everywhere! We are asking the students of St. Mary’s to take a photo reading a book somewhere interesting, unusual, exciting or extreme. (Please make sure you are safe when taking photos). Along with this photo, students are asked to write a brief description of what the book is about and why they liked it. All photos will be displayed in the library and 6 winners will be chosen at our November Book Fair!

Please submit all photos and descriptions to Ms. Lemanczyk no later than November 9th. Happy Extreme Reading!!!

It was a short week, but in many ways, a long one. In the office, we were focused on paperwork - wow, those deadlines crept up quickly -  and meetings and also meetings before meetings. (For someone with an aversion to meetings, it was a long haul.) Better meetings will take place next week - we have a representative coming from the social justice group WE regarding a research study project put on by the Federal Government. The government is looking at establishing or promoting the Canada Services Corps in order to promote youth engagement in social justice activities. WE has been signed on as a major partner in this study, and St. Mary’s, with its active social justice team, will be working with them. The Parent Council Meeting will take place at 6:15 on Monday. Monday is a busy day, as the Flag Football team is also at a tournament at Klondike Park, in Wasaga. It is School Bus Safety Week, so we have some lessons around that on Wednesday. This is the week in which our annual School Improvement Plan will be updated - staff volunteers will use our recent surveys (with input from staff, students, families and community members) to create a draft document detailing our vision for school. If you feel that your voice has not yet been heard, please feel free to email me your ideas at [email protected].

Most importantly, and I am selfish about this, though at least honest - there will be more time for me spent with the children this week. Adults are wonderful. We have the best adults imaginable in our school community. Children, though, are the givers of joy, the openers of eyes, and the reason for being. And there it is. My Sunday morning mellow internal soundtrack switches to Van Morrison’s “Someone Like You”. Perfect.

Posted by seccleshall On 14 October, 2018 at 8:34 AM  

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