Connecting with Remembrance Day

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Each year, in my role as Vice-Principal, I have the honour of shaping the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at Ridgeview Elementary in collaboration with our teachers. My goal every November is to connect the students, and the adults, to the sacrifices of war in a manner that has meaning for them. As such, the focus has been on the sacrifices of our own families. Starting in October of last year I began asking parents to share the stories of family members who have been involved in war and conflict on behalf of their country. This year I added a layer by collecting photos of those family members.

The halls of Ridgeview have these stories posted and it has been touching to see students and adults stopping to read, and even discuss something they found interesting (usually the young age our Veterans went to war). During the ceremony these names were shown on our honour wall (see below) as the students entered and exited the gym. As well, the photos were included into our Remembrance Day movie (below) which I think created a very moving piece. Finally, our grade seven hosts and our grade six speaker shared a few chosen stories. For our students to hear their own name, or a friend’s name called and hearing that their family member was in war created that personal connection to war I had been hoping to achieve. As the wars fall deeper and deeper into history and there are fewer veterans to share their stories, we must ensure our students understand the profound impact of war so that as they grow older they will strive to do what is necessary to ensure they live in a world without war.

What are your connections to Remembrance Day?

What have you done to this year to ensure your students understand the importance of Remembrance?

Below I have shared some aspects of our assembly.

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Today, the students of Ridgeview remembered the heroes in our families and those who were forever changed by war.

Brave… courageous… selfless… Heroes.

A hero is defined as a person who is admired for great or brave acts. Someone who shows great courage.  More than two million men and women have served our country in battle. They are not strangers to us. Many have been part of families here at Ridgeview. Whether they are uncles, aunts, grandfathers, great-grandfathers or great-great grandfathers, we have been touched by war. We have real-life heroes within the families here at Ridgeview. The names you read on the screen as you walked in this morning are family members of students and staff who have sacrificed their lives and put themselves in harm’s way so that we may enjoy the freedom we have today.

This is a sacrifice we must never forget.

During today’s assembly you will hear some stories about our families. As you listen throughout the ceremony, give them a silent thank you for the life we live today and know that you have the responsibility to ensure their struggle for peace is maintained, so families like ours don’t have to lose more uncles, fathers or grandfathers in the future.

These stories can be read here RI Family Stories

In keeping with our Ridgeview tradition, Naomi in Grade 6 presented this year’s speech on Remembrance.

Who Should We Remember on Remembrance Day?

Remembrance Day is a very special and solemn day for everyone. I’ve learned that Remembrance Day is about remembering the people who lost their lives in war, sacrificing themselves so others can enjoy life and freedom. But sometimes I don’t know if the sacrifice was just made by the soldier. Sometimes it feels like the hardest sacrifice was made by the people they left behind, and maybe we should remember them as well.

My grandfather and great grandfather both served for Britain in World Wars I and II. This speech today is though is about my but my great grandfathers on my mother’s side, who served in the Japanese imperial Navy in World War II. They lost their lives when their ships were sunk. My great grandfather survived the attack on the ship, but was such a great swimmer he kept going back and forth rescuing his friends who needed help, until it was too late to save himself. He died a hero so his friends could see their families, but all that is left to remember, is a picture and his medals in a frame above the family shrine in my grandparent’s home in Japan. When I visit, we kneel at the shrine, ring a bell, look at his picture and say a prayer. I know that I should remember him and his sacrifice, but I also can’t stop thinking of my great grandmother, who is still alive at 93, and what it would have been like as a young mother alone, with no money, no husband, and no father for her children; only his name and for her a picture in a frame.
When I thought about whom we should be remembering on Remembrance Day, I wrote this poem about the mothers and children the soldiers left behind.

I thought of you with love today but that is nothing new.
I thought of you yesterday and days before that too.
I think of you in silence, though I often speak your name.
All I have are memories, and your picture in a frame.

For me, Remembrance Day isn’t just about the soldiers, but remembering sacrifices made by the people they left behind.

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3 thoughts on “Connecting with Remembrance Day

  1. Thanks Craig. Wonderful stuff and so happy you engage the students in this way. I always give pause at this time of year to remember Gramps who made the ultimate sacrifice so I(we) could enjoy the exceptional life(lives) we live, Dad who helped preserve it and all those who have served, are serving and will serve in the future. Well done

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