Children of God

Last night we saw Children of God at the Citadel Theatre. This compelling musical captures the experiences of children who were forced to attend residential schools and the parents who were left behind. This part of Canadian history has been ignored in the history books, hidden even. 

After the performance we stayed for a talk back with some of the actors. The moderator opened the time by saying we were in a safe space to share. I felt privileged to be present during the sharing of perspectives from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. This sharing brought to light some of the pain, grief and guilt that continue to resonate and affect lives. 

Clearly, the audience was moved by the performances, the music and the story itself. As was I.

One of the things that struck me is that kids are kids. As teachers, we know this. It doesn’t matter the colour of our skin, or our country of origin, kids are kids. Yet, why is it that adults continually divide themselves into groups? Us against them. Sometimes the groups are based on race, sometimes religion, sometimes socio-economic levels. Regardless, there seems to be an urge to divide and dominate.

And truly, I don’t understand this compulsion. I don’t understand how the colour of one’s skin makes us better or worse than someone else. One of the actors mentioned that he often tried ‘washing out the brown.’ He spoke of living an identity of shame. And given the history of how indigenous people have been treated, it becomes evident where his feelings about his own identity stem from. 

No matter who we are, or where our families were originally from, we’re all human. We all occupy the same planet. Kids seem to understand this better than adults. We can take a lesson from them, watching their interactions in schools or on the playground. We can also take a lesson from our own recent past. We cannot – or should not – hide history, no matter how shameful it might be.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Last night, I was educated through a beautiful work of art and the discussion that followed.

Maintaining Dignity

The other night after leaving a concert at the Winspear, I bought a paper from a homeless man: Alberta Street News. This paper, published in Edmonton, provides vendors with the opportunity for employment. They pay $0.75 per copy and then sell the paper for a small profit. Many of the vendors face barriers that prevent them from other employment.

Homelessness is a complicated issue. It is difficult to understand the circumstances that lead to individuals living on the street. To be sure though, it is not a circumstance that they envisioned for themselves when they were children. 

Rather than begging for money, this man sold me a newspaper. Our exchange, short as it was, maintained his dignity and provided him with a purpose. Here is yet another example of how words change worlds.

Why we do what we do…

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many new people at teachers’ conventions over the last few weeks. I am inspired by the energy, enthusiasm, the compassion and care that teachers have for their students. As Robert John Meehan has said, “Teachers who love teaching, teach children to love learning!” 

But, let’s face it. It can be easy to become discouraged in this field. We face a range of abilities within our classrooms, ever-increasing expectations, pressures from parents, and day to day demands that only fellow educators truly understand.

Thankfully, teachers’ convention provides us with the opportunity to reconnect with each other, to be inspired through the stories the speakers tell, and ultimately, to remind us why we do what we do!

As we walk back into our classrooms on Monday, as those student faces look up at us, consider this: they are the reasons we became teachers. Despite their individual circumstances and needs, we have the incredible privilege of working with each and every one of them. They are the reason we do what we do.