Excerpted from Lesson Plans, Touring Vans & How I Started Teaching

by Dallas Thompson

02/22/08
Friday. One week down, eight to go. Ugh, but I think I can do it. Today I gave a fairly extensive lecture on the ear. It was a lot of material, but I think some of it got through. I caught one kid drawing penises in his textbook (as was seen in the movie Superbad). I told him that he has until Monday to make them disappear or my mentor teacher would be notified.
Some other ridiculousness happened yesterday. En route to the staff room, the hallway was full of smoke. Why? Some kids decided to see if microwaving a pencil would split it in two. The kids bolted, but were ratted out with the offender spending his afternoon cleaning the microwave in detention.
Sat in on a Gr. seven health class this morning and the teacher has scheduled the program around the development of a local baby. I think it’s six months old now or something. They put a carpet down, let it crawl around and observed its length and weight every week. It’s kinda neat, the kids are very interested and it gives them an opportunity to learn about reproduction and development in a tangible way.
Today, the Mom was talking about how the baby was a result of in-vitro fertilization. The teacher explained that the process involved the sperm fertilizing the egg outside of the body. This piqued an interest in the class and one kid goes, “How do they do it? Like, in a bag?”
Now I’ve got the weekend off. I think I’m going to go riding tomorrow. It’s my birthday today. I am spending it in my new favourite cafe eating a bagel sandwich and some daal. I think I’m going to get a brownie too. Booked my flight to Ghana. I’ve got a three-day layover in Amsterdam. Apparently there are some sweet museums to check out over there. I’d like to ride the rails somewhere while I’m in the area. It’s supposed to be way cheap.
I ran into an old classmate I haven’t seen since my second year of university. We used to drink cheap wobbly pops together at the local punker dive back in the day. It was nice to see a familiar face, but I’m getting along just fine being surrounded by all these new people. I’m supposed to go riding with the music teacher sometime soon. There are a couple others who have offered to share their corporate passes with me as well. This pretty much worked out exactly the way I anticipated it would.
It’s hard to describe the difference between being in a place like this and the city. I love the city, don’t get me wrong. But once a small-town kid, always a small-town kid, I guess. These small mountain towns are way laid back, which is more my style. No traffic, less insanity. People make eye contact with you on the street. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up teaching in one someday, once I am through with all the things city life has to offer.

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7/03/08
I found fireflies in the grass with some of the kids tonight.
Tomorrow, I will give a lesson on soil degradation to grade fives. Yesterday I talked a bit on Canadian animals, played a game of red rover and learned a Ghanaian version of duck-duck-goose. A kid would walk around the rest of us sitting in a circle, planting a shoe behind an unsuspecting person. Meanwhile, the class is repeating this funny “aaaayyy” sound. The race begins.
Today we went to Kumasi again to the Ashanti Museum, which was made from an old King’s house. They had a bunch of original artifacts and you could actually touch the old gold jewellery or clothes worn by royalty a hundred years back. The American students from the hostel showed up at the museum, including this Californian girl I’ve found myself in a bit of a fling with. It was on the ride home that I decided I do not really need any of that in my life for a while.
For lunch, I had more yam balls, rice and salad. For dinner, pasta, beans, carrots and potatoes. I’m starting to get a bit of flack from my peers since I’m always the first invited up so that I can forage for the vegan courses.
Today we also sat in a high school class. We watched the math teacher in action for a while and when he finished up, there was a long break as everyone waited for the English teacher to arrive. When the class discerned that he would not arrive, a student stood at the front ready to lead a lesson. It was like that in the village school the other day as well. No teacher? No problem. The kids would take control and class would continue. Louis and I decided to jump in. He read an excerpt from the novel Heart of Darkness and prodded the class to see if they got the inherent racism in the tone of the writing. From that, we somehow ended up talking about the oil economies. I guess, being that Ghana is supposed to come online for oil production in the years after these kids graduate, we thought it was an appropriate discussion to have. It was good to see the kids were eager to think critically, oil will be a hot button issue in many of their futures, I’m sure.
Conversing with the students was good, a much different experience than trying to do the same with the elementary kids and in some ways the class resembled one in North America. But the students seemed more passionate about the issues we brought up than Canadian students I’ve had to instruct. Though, I find that students in both countries are always eager to break from the curriculum to talk about issues that affect their lives. It’s like education in the village, content has to be relevant or it has no meaning and is unlikely to be internalized. Every student loves to be engaged, you just have to figure out how to do it in the right context.
Here’s something that occurred to me yesterday: the inherent meaning of English words. It seems that English is the perfect language to describe something, but sometimes words are only words. To elaborate, in Twii, the word for chair can mean many different things, each specific to the occasion or who gets to sit on it. My journal was soaked on this page and I unfortunately lost the rest of this thought. I think it had something to do with how we love to label and categorize things in the West, rather than just accepting them for what they are.
Another thing that occurred to me while I sat in the class is the North American obsession with the cleanliness, tidiness and pristine appearance. The high school was an upper middle-class boy’s academy and the paint on the walls was very worn. The desks were old, uncomfortable and rickety, and the science equipment was very aged. Why do we find it so important to keep things looking perfect in Canada? Is it because something’s considered to be worthless if it shows wear? Clothes, cars, perfectly white, symmetrical teeth. Don’t we have better things to focus on?
It’s 5AM and I’m watching a woman with the wildest hair and her kids start a fire so they can have hot water for their breakfast.

Originally from Whitehorse, Yukon, Dallas Thompson lives in Edmonton where he has cats, teaches a science class and drums in the band, SLATES. Lesson Plans, Touring Vans and How I Started Teaching is a compilation of journal entries he made during his education degree. At the time, he felt like he was constantly on the road either teaching or playing shows. Occasionally the two would come together, love would get in the way or he’d be 10,000 kilometers from home looking for a bucket so he could wash his hair. It documents two years of growing up and trying to maintain punk-rock ideals. You can follow his adventures at:
punkrockpedagogy.wordpress.com

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