In New Brunswick, Belleisle Elementary School will start playing O Canada at the beginning of the day.
As a supply teacher, what does O Canada mean to me? It's the moment where students attempt to challenge my authority. They do this by not standing next to their tables during the playing of the anthem, by talking to their friends, moving around the class, swinging their hips, tying their shoes, flipping through their books and papers, searching through their desks, and playing with contraband toys. If I do not successfully order them to stop, my day is sunk. O Canada is not a moment of celebration of our great country; it's the Lord of the Flies characters ready to pounce on the wild boar--moi.
After O Canada, there is about 20 seconds for a moment of reflection where everyone is to remain silent. I believe the original purpose of the moment of reflection was to replace The Lord's Prayer. In theory, any student can recite a prayer in his/her head. So far, I haven't seen anyone do it. At about 10 seconds, this is my monent to tell everyone, "I expect everyone to listen to the announcements!"
During the announcements, I have to make sure that no one is moving, flipping through books, or talking to their friends. Again, it's one versus the mob. Who is going to win?
If all goes well during O Canada and the announcements, I thank the students for their good behaviour and listening skills. If not, I give the class my third degree speech on my expectations on how they will behave!
In some schools, O Canada and the announcements are played just before recess. This means that early in the morning, I have to get the students sitting at their seats or on the carpet (for primary classes) about five minutes after the bell rings for entry.
I have visited a couple of schools overseas where the schools do not have their students sing or listen to their anthems. Instead, the students are expected to stand by their desks when the teacher arrives. They sit only when the teacher gives them permission.
O Canada is a beautiful anthem. Some may complain about a couple of words. I try to take a poetic or figurative interpretation of the words. I don't think of "native" as meaning Aboriginal or Canadian-born. Rather, I think of it as meaning we all belong and that Canada is our home. "In all thy sons command" signifies that on behalf of God/The Great Creator/mother nature, we are in charge and are responsible for the well-being of the great country of ours. And finally, "God keep our land" sounds more poetic than "Let's keep our land." The latter sounds more like an old Ontario licence plate slogan--"Keep it beautiful." If we wish to change some of the words, let's hope that we don't destroy the poetry of our anthem.
If we choose to keep playing O Canada in our schools, let us hope that it is because we want to listen to and sing it rather than have it being used just for crowd control or classroom management.