Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How the Dinosaurs went extinct, with a bit of Alcoholics Anonymous Thrown in

Every Wednesday or Thursday, my grade seven English class while I was at Sir Winston Churchill had a combined group of students instead of just our class. I always disliked this arrangement.

Desks were overcrowded, it felt like. Too many people. Too many annoying people.

But one class was quite interesting. Very much so. Our English teacher, Ms. Ashton - who was actually English - usually spent the period teaching the aforementioned subject quite expertly. It was her who told me what a house 'in the middle of a street' meant when I was still quite crazy about the song 'Our House' (it was the early 2000s. Madness was fairly new to me at the time). Our English classes were usually quite informative.

Except one particular period when all we talked about where how the dinosaurs were annihilated.

It was one of those combined periods. I was normally zoned out on such an occasion with the annoying people making annoying sounds with their gum chewing all around me. Eventually I noticed the diagrams of the Earth in relation to the meteor in space on the blackboard, the talk of how it happened, and the explanations of all the known knowledge of how the meteor impacted, and I came to my senses and I realized what was going on here.

It turned out to be a much more fun period than usual. I didn't take part very much, but it was cool and interesting and not English-related. Not at all.

The same thing would happen again when I was in grade 11 at this particular high school mentioned too often around here. I had a teacher named MacGregor, and the whole class was present.

I don't know how it happened. I had zoned out again. But about twenty minutes into class, I'd realized we weren't talking at all about Mac Beth or Shakespeare or anything to do with English literature. Instead, to my subtle amusement, the whole class was discussing particular kinds of vehicle collisions they'd heard about, and how it had almost always been influenced by alcohol.

MacGregor was enthusiastically discussing the semantics of how a crash might occur with a group of the students. I attentively (for the first time) listened. Again, it was all interesting. Everyone was buzzing with sophisticated conversation about the matter. I even asked a few questions myself, as question-asking was apparent in the whole thing.

"Ms. MacGregor, what about what would happen to the edge of the door in such a forceful impact? I was wondering about the force and weight plus the momentum ratios all involved."

That really got them going again.

About three minutes before the bell rang, our teacher had remembered what we really had to do (due to us being quite behind in it) and as we began on it, the bell surely rang.

It's all interesting to think about. English class in middle school had always been about forty minutes long, so it wasn't hard to keep up the discussion before reverting to boring old English. In high school, though, you have seventy-five minutes - an hour plus a quarter - to keep going. Remarkably, I remember our teacher would later reflect on the whole class conversation with this mindset: "It was the best talk we had. Everyone was involved. I wish we could have another one so successful."

We never did. We just kept plugging along with the motivations and words and meanings of the works of the Bard. That's not interesting enough to talk about it so enthusiastically.

Not with today's teenagers, I guess. Having simulated AA meetings/driving school seminars really work though.

Justin C.

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