Just Imagine

Just imagine if as a child, I was physically taken from my mom and dad to live in a school.
Just imagine if at my school I had to change my appearance, my hair, and my dress.
Just imagine if at my school I was not allowed to use the name my parents gave me. Instead, I was given a new name.
Just imagine I was not allowed to speak my language or practice my beliefs.
Just imagine if I broke the rules, rules I did not understand or even know, I was beaten or humiliated.
Just imagine even if I did not break the rules, I was abused.
Just imagine a childhood lost. I could not play. I had to grow up overnight. I needed to survive.

Because I survived, I lost my identity, my language, and my beliefs.
Because I survived, I have become dependent on others.
Because I survived, I lost my personal connections with others, including my family.
Because I survived, I no longer trust.
Because I survived, I have some issues, including substance abuses and mental health issues.
Because I survived, I have an unconscious inferiority complex. I was always told I was bad, I was not good enough.
Because I survived, I do not feel safe or secure.

I am very thankful that this did not happen to me, but it did happen to a People. It happened in Canadian residential schools. It happened to generations of First Nations people in Canada. Canada had 80 residential schools and over 150,000 children went through these Imageschools. The last residential school closed in 1996, just 22 years ago. The Canadian government followed a policy of “Kill the Indian in the child.”  We tried to isolate and remove children from the influences of their families and community.  The film, We Were Children shows the issue of residential schools. Here is a short trailer of the film:

I am not writing this to assign blame. I am writing this hoping to be part of a solution. Canada’s history, with respect to our aboriginal population, is a history of genocide (diseases and sterilization) and cultural genocide. We attempted to rob a People of their beliefs, language, history, spirituality, and way of life – their culture.

walking togetherThe staff of Father Leonard Van Tighem School are participating in a series of workshops entitled Walking Together: Education for Reconciliation.  The workshops are part of a commitment between the Alberta Teachers’ Association and Alberta Education to ensure that all students learn about the histories, cultures and worldviews of First Nations, Métis and Inuit.  Not all of the workshops deal with the impact of Residential Schools, but many of them explain how the history of residential schools has a generational effect on the current First Nations youth of today.


What now? The term ‘reconcile’ means to restore friendly relationships. If we truly want to restore friendly relationships, the issue of residential schools cannot be ignored. I was not part of the decision to implement residential schools, but it is part of my history. Residential schools are part of my history as a Canadian. As a teacher, it is part of my classroom. Students in our school suffer from generational effects of residential schools.

  • We must recognize the wrong. Prime Minister Harper recognized the wrong in his apology in the House of Commons. We must recognize the wrong in our schools and classrooms. In Alberta’s new curriculum, students in Alberta will learn about the history and legacy of residential schools.
  • We must learn. Educators need to learn about residential schools and their effects. Likewise, we need to learn about our treaty: yes, our treaty. We are all treaty people, the general Canadian population and First Nations People.
  • We must listen. Sometimes we give people a token ear, but we do not listen. We hear, but do not listen. We must listen to the survivors of residential schools.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has done this for Canada, but we need to do it for our local community.  Until we do this, we cannot move forward in rebuilding our relationships.
  • We must look in the mirror. We need to decide what we can do better. We must create an environment that does not focus on “us” and “them”, but develops a community of “we”.
  • We must find ways to engage our First Nations community in our schools. We cannot simply invite, we need to find ways to empower our First Nations community to be active. Education is their new buffalo.

The wrongs of residential schools will not disappear tomorrow, nor is there a quick solution. Hopefully together, we can start the process of reconciliation and healing. The longest journey starts with a single step. It is time to start walking together.


Greg Kostiuk


Away During the Day


To start our year all our Jr. High students signed a ‘Responsible Use Agreement’ concerning the use of technology.  As our year has proceeded, we have noticed an increased use of smartphones for non-educational uses.  Therefore, the Jr. High and Grade 6 teachers have decided to implement a new phone policy called ‘Away During the Day.’  This policy requires that during class time, all students must keep their phones in their lockers.  Phones are not allowed in the classroom.  Students are allowed to have their phones before school, during the lunch break, and after school as long as they follow the ‘Responsible Use Agreement.’  Here are a few of the reasons for the implementation of ‘Away During the Day’ policy:

  • Phones can create an unnecessary distraction in the classroom;
  • Phones can remove us socially, intellectually, and emotionally from the here and now and from the people around us;
  • Phones can decrease face-to-face connections;
  • While the majority of social media can be intentional and positive, it can also cause others to feel left out, judged, anxious, and targeted;
  • Phones have the potential to be misused concerning privacy issues (for example live streaming);
  • Phones can become an unhealthy addiction.

Students come to school to learn with others.  In our connected learning community, we learn from each other in face-to-face interactions.

We are in a technology revolution—something that has changed our society. The challenge is to learn not to let it control us. We adapt and adjust to make improvements when things are not working well. Currently, phones are creating more problems than solutions in our school.

If students decide to bring their phones to the classroom, teachers will confiscate the student phone, and he/she may pick it up from the teacher at the end of the day.  An office referral will occur if a student continually breaks the ‘Away During the Day’ policy.

On occasion, teachers may use smartphones as an educational tool.  If this occurs, the teacher will give the students instructions on what particular day or class students will be allowed to bring them to class.  If this happens, it would be an exception from the ‘Away During the Day’ policy.

We are asking for parents to support ‘Away During the Day’ by only contacting their child by their phone before school, during the noon hour, or after school.  If a parent needs to reach their child during class time we are asking them to contact the school office.  Likewise, if a student needs to contact their parent during class time, we are asking them to use the office phone.

*Resources modified from http://www.awayfortheday.org

Make Ready the Way

advent one candle

The season of Advent is upon us.  Just as the Old Testament prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit to announce His approach and how John the Baptist was sent to “make ready the way of the Lord”, our celebration of Advent imitates them as we prepare our hearts with the hope of Christ coming into our hearts today.  Advent also reminds us that just like Mary, entirely of her own free will, said “yes”, we must receive grace, strength, and courage to say “yes” to do God’s will.

The themes of Advent are traditionally hope, love, joy, and peace.  Although the themes of Advent can vary by parish, the third week is always joy.  It will be a blessing to see the students of Father Leonard Van Tighem light the candles of the Advent wreath as we are reminded that we are one week closer to the birth of Christ.

Advent visual themes

Recently I stumbled upon a different visual for Advent that intrigued me.

Advent visual

The graphic fits in well with our Faith Plan of Sharing Our Bounty and the 3Ts of time, treasures and talents.  Although I plan on carrying on our tradition of modelling hope, love, joy, and peace, I am also going to try to ‘worship fully’ throughout the Advent and Christmas Season, ‘spend less’ money on the people that already have, ‘give more’ to the needy, and ‘love all’ all the time.

Have a blessed Advent and Christmas season,

Greg Kostiuk