Why we have November

If you ask any person who lives in our part of the world which their least favourite month is, I’m guessing many of us would say November. The memory of long, sunny days seems to fade in direct proportion to the ever increasing daily darkness, rainfall, fog and inevitable flu that watches and waits for its’ next unsuspecting victim.

And yet for all its shortcomings, November is a precious month. Precious because it gives us the gift of time to remember. It began in Senior School this year with the Grade 9’s who became experts in understanding why poppies are used as a universal symbol of recognition for all who fought in World War I. The simple poppy was immortalized in the words of  Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae’s ‘Flanders Fields’  written in 1915. Grade 9 created their own poppy field and with help of the whole community managed to paint over 400 poppies while sharing their new found learning about this symbol of loss, faith, and courage with classes from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The “poppy project” is proudly on display at the entrance to our campus.

On November 8th, our Humanities and Fine Arts departments took the time to help us   remember in our annual Remembrance Day Ceremony. This event brings the school together to honour those who have served as well as recognize and learn from those who are currently working to protect the rights and freedoms we enjoy.

From the first plaintive note of the bagpipes that started the processional march into Founders’ Hall it was clear that this year’s ceremony was going to be special.  Yes, we had a wonderful speaker who taught us that peacekeeping, equipment maintenance, and new technologies are all connected and are equally important in protecting our country. Yes, we were humbled and saddened as our prefects read the Roll of Honour naming people directly connected to our school who had served and died. Yes, the playing of Last Post and Reveille and the minutes of silence we were given to ponder the sacrifices others have made on our behalf were sobering and filled with gratitude. But what stirred me beyond words were the voices of our students.

One of our prefects, Jillian Kitt completed a History 12 project last year in which she researched her Great-Great uncle’s perspective on World War I. Through Jillian’s reading of Hadden Ellis’s letters from the time he enlisted to his death the following year, we shared his life. It was heartbreaking.

It was our students who read, who shared, who spoke so eloquently and with such deep respect about matters we pray they never have to experience, who gave me hope. The poppy project gave me hope. Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, survivor of the Holocaust, philosopher and activist wrote that “it is memory that will save humanity”. November really is a precious month. In our school, our students take the time to remember and because they do, our collective future is filled with hope.

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