The Grade 10 students entered “the smelly little drama class,” as most at Francis Libermann Catholic High School call it. They took off their shoes, formed a circle, and waited for the national anthem.
Following the singing of “O Canada” and morning announcements, Catherine Smith asked her students to think of the years encompassed by the First World War, between 1914 and 1918. Using their imaginations, they wrote letters as soldiers that had left home.
“September 20, 1915,” a student read. “Dear Mom, Serving this country is pretty hard. I am homesick and I wish to be home to spend Christmas with you and the family.”
Smith has been the drama teacher at Libermann High School since 1985. Her passion and dedication to the subject of war has led to her creative teaching methods.
“As drama teachers we are so privileged to be in the front row to see amazing transformations and amazing performances…(with) the proverbial light bulb going off for the ‘Aha’ experience of learning,” she said.
November has always been dedicated to the war and remembrance unit. Students combine letters they have written as soldiers with real soldiers’ letters and read them to their class.
Meaghan Hannigan, 15, one of Smith’s Grade 10 students, shared her greater understanding and respect for soldiers and veterans through this assignment.
“It’s a really good experience,” she said. “You see the different perspective from what they had to go through… This unit is really inspiring to do better and to make the world a better place.”
Smith has taught as the students “vocal exercises” and “sculptures” so that they can present their work better.
“I just hope … those students sitting in the class in 2012 have a real appreciation for what the soldiers did, for how young they were, and for the very real sacrifice they have made. I hope there is an appreciation for the anthem, for the poppy, for what it is to be a Canadian,” she said.