September is a busy month in schools as teachers get to know their students, learn new curriculum, set up classroom norms and some teachers even have to deal with reorganization by the end of the month. It has been an especially busy start for my class as many students are new to our school and some are returning back to the classroom for the first time in almost three years. Getting into a routine has been challenging as I know the routine is an important thing to establish in September.
Having said that, September is an important month about Truth and Reconciliation. As September 30th is Truth and Reconciliation Day, schools prepare differently to reflect as a community. Our school spent time considering a school-wide assembly filled with student created land acknowledgements, a video of all students sharing why they wear orange, various poems, Indigenous art and highlights from the 94 Calls to Action. We shared our thoughts with Indigenous members within our board and were asked to remind the school community that Orange “Every Child Matters” shirts should be worn all year not just on September 30th. They also shared other ideas to ensure our assembly was culturally appropriate.
Students in my class as well as many others started looking at the Land Acknowledgement and thinking about what it really meant. Students hear it on the announcements every day but may not actually understand the meaning of the words. Many students came up with really well written versions and were going to read them to the school.
However, our board sent out an email stating that we needed to avoid assemblies on September 30th and that it would be better to reflect and listen within our own classrooms so that we could support student responses within the classroom. We were asked to concentrate on classroom activities instead. We decided to have students read their land acknowledgements over the announcements and some staff shared their student-created videos by email instead.
I was able to share the video with my class from our member ETFO news from September 28th, where Shawnee Talbot explains her connection to music. The video can be found if you click this link: Music is Medicine. My grade eight history class watched her TedxGrandJunction video about her life as a member of the Two Spirit community and how music has been such an integral part of her life. Students connected with their love for music and how it helps them during their times of need. It was a great discussion and I really encourage you to explore our ETFO news article from September 28th for more resources. The entire resource can be found here: Two Spirit Resource.
I would like to close this post by sharing a reflective piece of writing by one of my students as she shares how she will help others remember the horrible past of Residential Schools:
“I pledge to remember the people who were here before us on this land and how they suffered in residential schools. Also, to help younger people to remember by telling stories, wearing an orange shirt, watching videos about Truth and Reconciliation and making posters to put up on walls. I would want my teacher to bring a friend or a member of the Indigenous Community to share about Truth and Reconciliation. We should also have moments of silence and reflection to honour the children who died in Residential Schools. I also want the people around to acknowledge that it is Truth and Reconciliation and respect the people who may have lost a family or friend in a Residential school.”
I share this post in a reflective lens and understand I am learning and listening each year as we reflect on the horrible past of our country.