As part of our learning in Room 207 about the Truth and Reconciliation movement, we watched the apology delivered by Stephen Harper in 2008 on behalf of the Canadian Government to the Indigenous peoples of Canada for the suffering and abuses experienced at the Residential Schools. Our subsequent conversation was insightful. Actually, it was the students’ conversation–I had essentially nothing to do with it. So I thought I would share it.
One student commented that the apology would have been far more sincere had it not been read from a sheet of paper, but spoken “from the heart.” Another commented that Stephen Harper’s reading fluency, more specifically his lack of expression, made the apology unsatisfactory–that it didn’t sound sincere. To this a different student responded that Stephen Harper was, in fact, using the appropriate “voice,” which was somber and serious in tone, and that this made the apology effective. From here the conversation shifted to the students’ personal experiences of both delivering and receiving apologies, what made the apologies either sincere or insincere, and what happened afterwards. The students’ thoughts on this last point were especially revealing. One student, referring to two other students who have a history of not getting along, commented that they have apologized to each other “a million times” over the past year, and that they can keep apologizing to each other all they want but their relationship will never heal “until they start to try to understand each other.” I was amazed at how an eleven-year-old can be so wise. This is what true and meaningful reconciliation is, after all. The apology is only the beginning–an important beginning, but useless if not followed up by action by all parties involved.
Anyways, this was not where I had anticipated our learning journey to take us, but what a perfect way to frame the Truth and Reconciliation movement. So, as a follow up, the students have been working on their own apology stories–a time when they had to apologize to someone and what happened afterwards–which they will share with their fellow learners next week. They can share their stories in whatever fashion they choose: writing, visual art, music, drama…whatever. I can’t wait to see what they will teach me and each other….