I want to preface this post with this: staying in my own lane is hard. And sometimes, when it matters most, you have to talk about things, even when your voice shakes. I have spent the past five years committed to educators, because I think they’re heroes. They spend the most waking hours with the most important, impressionable souls who will make up our next generation in the run of a school week. And if there’s one thing I know to be true, you can’t tell them, you have to show them.
In this country within the past six months, we are starting (and I use that word deliberately) to address the cultural genocide that was experienced by Indigenous peoples. The facts, although not even fully discovered (the bodies of more babies are surely yet to be recovered) are clear. The cultural ramifications of multiple generations of abuse, neglect, and trauma are very much alive today.
As a psychologist, I will tell you this: in order to heal, you must first acknowledge, again and again, the hurt and the pain, if you ever expect to rise. You have to uncover the wound to let it heal. And depending on the size of the insult, injury, or wound, the more traumatic it was, the more ongoing, never-ending attention it will require to heal. Like, if it was a scratch, a bandaid and some polysporin will fix you up. But this is genocide. It requires care, attention, empathy, acknowledgement, and healing efforts for the rest of our days.
One of those asks for a mere acknowledgement by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was that primarily federal, provincial, and territorial governments but also to municipal governments, the corporate sector, and the broader Canadian society of this country recognise September 30th as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is 1 of the 94 calls to action in 2015, of which only 14 have been addressed in 2021. At this moment, the school boards across this country are being asked to simply acknowledge that day. Although many have, the vast majority of school divisions have not and because of that, I will simply offer my thoughts:
I am clearly not an educational administrator – and in this season of huge emotion and unbelievable strains on a profession, I can’t imagine the pressure leadership faces. If you are a leader in a school board that cannot honour September 30th in your calendar because of system demands, say that. Acknowledge that in a formal statement to your staff, your students, your parents, your communities, to the ones suffering (often in silence), just wanting one thing: to be acknowledged.
Education administrators: you are leaders in our communities. The next generation is watching. Let’s show them how it’s done. Honour September 30th as a day where we pause work and play to acknowledge. And if this is simply not administratively possible, address this with your staff and students and commit to doing better next year.
If you find your reaction to be defensive (or exhausted) and you are explaining all of the things you’re “already doing,” stop. It isn’t a score card. When you are grieving, walking people home, together, you don’t arrive at a destination. It is the ongoing efforts (and the simple addressing of when it’s not possible for whatever reason), that matters.
The good leaders among us will seek first to understand. Say this: “What am I missing?” and “tell me more.”
I hear this (and have said this) many times, “Will it ever be enough?” The answer is this: no. You and I are wired for connection. We will go through this life always needing to be acknowledged by our fellow humans, especially when there has been significant ruptures in our relationships (like a cultural genocide, for example). Our only job, dear ones, is to go through the rest of our days bearing witness to each other because only when we acknowledge, will we rise together, in this human race.
My primary goal on this platform, my platform, is to create a safe place for the hard conversations. I’m here for all of them – I hope you are too.
If you need more places to land (and there are many), here are a few voices that have taught me so much in my very early stages of learning…