Honouring the Spirit of Truth and Reconciliation
Throughout GNS, students and staff took part in activities and learning centred around reconciliation, listening and empathy for Indigenous communities.
In response to the Government of Canada naming September 30 as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, GNS has acknowledged that it is our responsibility to listen, educate ourselves more fully, and to provide greater opportunities for our students to learn and to understand. As the school was closed on Thursday, GNS recognized Orange Shirt Day on September 29. Throughout the school, students and staff took part in activities and learning centred around reconciliation, listening and empathy for Indigenous communities.
At the Beach Drive Campus, Crystal Shea read When We Are Kind to the Kindergarten to Grade 3 classes. This book by Monique Gray Smith celebrates simple acts of everyday kindness and encourages children to explore how they feel when they initiate and receive acts of kindness in their lives.
Grade 4 and 5 students were joined by Indigenous educator James Taylor. He spoke about residential schools and resilience, sang songs he had learned and answered many questions from the students.
“The process of reconciliation weaves its way through our program” said Sarah McLeod. "It starts early with understanding the importance of community, family relationships and kindness. It’s not only Orange Shirt Day. It's conversation that occurs throughout the year and their educational journey at GNS.”
At the Pemberton Woods Campus, the Middle and Senior School students had assemblies that were led by Mr. Taylor. Again, he spoke about residential schools and reconciliation, but he also shared some personal stories and performed some Indigenous songs.
“It’s of the utmost importance,” said Mr. Taylor about coming into schools and speaking to students. “I realize they are the future, they are the ones that are going to change things for the better, this is reconciliation in my eyes…Moving forward they are the ones that are going to enact a policy so that all the work we are doing is going to be real and right. Righting the ship and repairing the things we never broke. I’m always humbled by the youth being so open and ready to hear the stories.”
Based on the open conversations that Mr. Taylor has with the students, he has hope that they will be able to help break down the systematic racism that exists.
“Teaching these things and sharing these stories I believe is what’s going to break those things down. Those strong leaders are just holding the line for these other leaders to come. They are getting the tools the others didn’t have,” he explained.
Having a dedicated Orange Shirt Day assemblies with Mr. Taylor were effective in helping the GNS community and the students understand the importance of reconciliation, said Mrs. Rebecca Nielson.
“I feel grateful for the opportunity to have James work with our school community,” added Mrs. Nielson. “His ability to connect with students and adults is amazing. I love the way he can weave his teachings, wisdom, culture, stories and sense of humour all into one wonderful presentation. The intention for the Orange Shirt Day assembly was to allow students and the community to hold space for reconciliation, and to hear the stories that need to be told. I am grateful to the students and my colleagues for all their support and leadership in putting this event together.”
Following their assemblies, Middle and Senior School students created personal reflection statements on either cutouts of hands or orange t-shirts.With guidance from Ms. Gina Sicotte and Ms. Elaine Kao, these pieces will be used to create a visual representation of reconciliation.
In the Wednesday Announcements, GNS also shared some resources to help our community learn more about the creation of this federal statutory holiday, the history of Orange Shirt Day, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. These resources were put together by teacher librarians Mrs. Rebecca Nielson and Mrs. Sarah McLeod.