When I awoke to the local news on Monday morning, I was shocked and saddened. By the time I went to bed that night, like you, I was horrified. On behalf of Matthews Hall and in solidarity with our whole community and all people of good will, I denounce the actions and motivations that led to the violence inflicted on the members of the Afzaal-Salman family. In recent weeks, it seems like the ground is shifting beneath our feet. From the discovery of the graves of children at the former residential school on the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation to this week’s shocking violence in our midst, waves of grief are rending Canadians apart. As Irish poet W.B. Yeats wrote in 1919, truly it seems that “the ceremony of innocence is drowned”.
What is wrong with people?! You can’t hear my voice when I ask this question, but if you could, you would hear pain, confusion, fear, and righteous anger. If we, as adults, are at a loss for words – if we, as adults, feel that the divisions and enmities of our Canadian and global family are just too much to process and understand, how are our children supposed to be able to cope? What must be going through their minds when they see the result of society’s evil and apathy, decades old and ignored in some cases? I have no answer.
The recent horrifying events in Canada and the aftermath is a sad reminder of the painful consequences of indifference, racism, neglect, and hatred. As your children’s teachers, we want to know: how are they doing? For them, it has a been a long challenging year already and now they are forced to cope with a confusing and traumatic event in their own city.
As parents and teachers, we certainly know that children and teens have different reactions to such shocking events of violence and, while not directly affected, they may have anxieties that “it could have happened to me.” Support from us will help with feelings of safety and security.
How to help process and work through this? We may need to limit adult conversations and be mindful that our children are sensitive to our stress. They listen to our conversations, even when we don’t believe they can hear. If they don’t understand all of our conversations, they may fill in the blanks, often with misconceptions or inaccuracies, so we need to be careful. While the recent events have raised concerns for adults, we need to work hard not to lay a burden on the shoulders of children that is simply too heavy for them to bear. As the events of this week show us, it’s actually too heavy for anyone to bear.
We also need to limit media exposure likely for everyone, but especially for young children – there is truly no “good” amount.
We will soon be saying goodbye as we near the end of another challenging, abbreviated, and confusing year. I hope the coming summer will be a chance for your children and families to re-group, heal, and have fun in the hope of a truly uninterrupted and normal coming school year. There is so much we want to accomplish together.
Lastly, to the Muslim families of Matthews Hall and to all your friends and relations: we truly share your sense of loss and pain and we love you.
And to the First Nations families of Matthews Hall: we are Treaty People, we love you – and we are sorry.
Ric Anderson, Head of School