I am Brenda MacNaughton, teacher and first-generation Irish Canadian. I have lived near Lake Ontario most of my life in Williams Treaty Territory. I am grateful to be here at the Heart and Art blog with you as I write my first entry, and I look forward to your feedback.

New Beginnings

September begins with new relationships forming among staff and students in our schools. I’m starting a new role at work as an Early Intervention Teacher, which allows me to work with small groups on literacy and social and emotional learning skills. I’m also continuing a role I’ve had for many years, teacher-librarian and primary prep coverage teacher for kindergarten and grade one. I am excited to help our youngest learners feel welcome at our school as they enter a classroom for the first time. I’m looking forward to seeing students learn and grow over the year ahead. For many educators, students and families this is a very exciting time of year.

National Day of Truth and Reconciliation

September also brings the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. This month can evoke traumatic memories for residential school survivors and their families. I am listening to the stories of survivors and their families and bringing that learning to the classroom. The Orange Shirt Day movement, started by Phyllis Webstad, helps us understand the reality of a child attending residential school. When she arrived at St. Joseph Mission residential school, Phyllis was stripped of her shiny new orange shirt. She went months without seeing her family. She was hungry and lonely. You can read about her experience in her books, one for younger children, “Phyllis’s Orange Shirt,” and one for grade 3 and up called “The Orange Shirt Story.” The Orange Shirt Day website has lesson plans for Kindergarten to grade 6 that will help students understand the truth that was swept under the carpet for a century in Canada. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation also has a series of online events happening throughout the week leading up to September 30th. This year I found more resources online than I can possibly fit in one day or even one week!

Truth and Reconciliation Throughout the Year

There is much work to be done in Canada to listen to the truth and reconcile with Indigenous Peoples, so I will plan activities that include Indigenous voices throughout the year. I want to build relationships with local First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples. As I lay out my long-range plans, I’m looking for opportunities to incorporate Indigenous guest speakers and books and videos by Indigenous creators. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action call upon varying levels of government to collaborate with educators. Let’s ensure that the message is heard loud and clear, “Every Child Matters.”

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