Remembrance Day: Even With Fewer Veterans, Kids Get The Message

Updated on November 11, 2017
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more daily than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, & LGBT advocacy.

A Day To Remember

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Standing Up For What's Right

"I'm sorry about the kids who wouldn't stop talking."

This, from a student at the school I teach at following our annual Remembrance Day services. I had just finished MC duties for the service and was waiting for the next round of kids to come in for what was our final assembly of the day when this student and her friends approached.

I knew what she was talking about. Even though I was too close to the stage to actually see who was talking, I could from my seat hear ongoing whispers that simply put, would not subside. I was not particularly surprised there were kids talking during the assembly; even for high school kids, sometimes 30 minutes (the length of our assembly) can be far too long a time in which to sit still and not say anything. To be honest, sometimes 30 minutes can be too long for me to sit still and not say anything.

I take Remembrance Day services seriously, though. I was in the Reserves (albeit for a year), and my dad was in the military for 24 and a half years while my husband served nearly 3 decades. Sometimes, when 'O Canada' is played during the announcements, I find myself naturally adopting the "at ease" position. I'm frequently very moved during Remembrance Day services at student performances and the eloquent speeches. I'm also very impressed by how the students generally conduct themselves during services, and am proud to see some of them even wearing their cadet uniforms for the day, or at least for the services.

Anyways. When this student approached me with a somewhat apologetic expression, I knew something had gone wrong in her eyes. As we spoke, I learned that she'd been sitting quite near the small group of students that had been talking and even laughing throughout the services. She felt the need to apologize for their behavior as an indicator that their behavior was not reflective of all those at the service. I thanked her and then suggested that should she feel that strongly about what she saw, she could also extend the same apology to the event organizers - something which I later learned she did indeed do.

There are a good many of our surviving veterans from World War II that are now in their 90s, and we no longer have surviving World War I veterans. Truly, unless we do some digging on YouTube or on the Internet as a whole, we won't hear their words about their experiences fighting for our freedom as their numbers are simply diminishing.

However, the student who approached me to apologize for the behavior of her peers both surprised and impressed me. I'm not one who traditionally believes that you should apologize for the behavior of others under most circumstances, but I don't fully believe that her intent was to apologize. I believe that she was trying to pass a message on to me, one that said that the behavior of the very small group of students was not reflective of everyone at the service. This student wanted to ensure that we as teachers still believed she and others her age in the room during that half-hour Remembrance Day service were taking it seriously and were taking the time to reflect about the role of veterans.

We're teachers and while we're not perfect, we know that those who chat during an assembly aren't representative of the entire grade. Another student of mine said that he didn't understand it when people would praise students for good behavior when it was an expectation to behave in the first place.

While it was not necessary for the one student to apologize for the untoward behavior of others during the Remembrance Day services, it certainly seems to demonstrate that there are teens out there who want to hold their peers to a higher standard than these kids might hold themselves. Hopefully, these kids who chose to have their private conversations during a Remembrance Day service will perhaps attend one today and take the time to reflect upon the sacrifices their ancestors made.

The truth is, I'm proud of all the kids I've seen over the years during Remembrance Day services regardless of the school I happen to be teaching in. Outside of the odd exception, even though there are fewer and fewer veterans of the Great Wars that Canada has been involved with, students "get it" and regard our veterans with pride and a reverence that is often reserved for rock stars and YouTubers lately. Their respect for the veterans of our country breaks the stereotype that still comes around at times of the rebellious teenagers who have little to no regard for adults or authority figures, and we should be proud that they still stand tall and honour our vets with the respect they deserve.

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