This blog was originally published on November 11, 2011.
My most powerful memories of Remembrance Day in the past have always been the ones where the teachers let the veterans do the talking.
It can be a little tough to get our kids, especially the younger ones, interested in the meaning behind Remembrance Day. Showing them video clips or textbooks on the subject may only elicit comments ranging from “it’s too old” or “but it’s all in black and white.” This is why I think it’s important for schools across Canada to invite our veterans to actually come in and speak to their students.
Kids often understand very little about the sacrifices made. Granted, schools across Canada stop to remember at 11 a.m. every November 11th; however, whether or not schools go the extra mile to truly teach our kids about our war dead varies depending on the school. Imagine my surprise when one friend recently told me she’d never heard a veteran speak at her school—ever.
I remember my elementary school did very little to honour our veterans. High school had an annual assembly. However, it wasn’t until I was in my post-graduate journalism studies program, that November 11th was properly recognized. Our department was lucky enough to have a teacher who cared enough about our nation’s history to make sure all the students, faculty and some of their family crammed together into our tiny campus library to listen to first-hand accounts from three veterans. I remember some classmates arriving at the ceremony with some reluctance—it was crunch time and we all had deadlines to meet—however, by the end, everyone was visibly moved by the accounts and many stayed around afterward to shake the hands of the veterans and ask questions. It was an interactive ceremony and its powerful message was not lost on us.
I’ve been thinking about how we teach the significance of Remembrance Day to our children. Each new generation will inevitably become more detached and distanced, which is why I’m grateful that we honour our veterans with a moment of silence or an assembly, instead of taking an entire day off from work or school where we’d be more likely to forget to remember.
For kids who don’t have a particular interest in history as a subject, or don’t have a family connection to past wars, having veterans visit their schools gives them the chance to have an appreciation for those who defend our country. Instead of overwhelming them with facts and stats we should try to personalize the veterans’ stories so younger generations can fully appreciate the sacrifice involved.
Giving veterans the opportunities to share their experiences with our kids would go a long way towards helping to keep their memory—and our history—alive.
How does your child’s school recognize Remembrance Day?
Photo by belkin59 via Flickr