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On Tour

April 24, 2009

Wisdom in the strangest places
Posted by Rex Weyler

Rex Weyler

I have been on the road with three great writers: historian Stephen Bown, poet Karen Hofmann, and all around journalist/writer and wise-man Andreas Schroeder. Yesterday, Andreas and I arrived at Vernon Secondary School for what we thought would be a session with a senior writing class. When we arrived, we discovered that a glitch in the students’ schedule made this plan impossible, but that a group of grade-eight students were available.

Okay, we were up for anything, but we felt slightly disappointed, as if we had lost our star students. I imagined we would be imposing upon some 14-year-olds, who probably had better things to do and little interest in our tales of being writers. I prepared for the rolling eyeballs.

When we arrived at the classroom, a large sign on the door announced: “DETENTION ROOM”

Oh, dear. Now we felt certain we would be a flop. Andreas muttered about getting the “Group W bench.”

Teacher Michael Allen greeted us at the door with a welcome smile. I asked if this was the detention class, and was thrilled to discover, no, this was a grade-eight English class. The students reflected the bell curve of personalities, from hip to goth, jock to bookworm. We were used to delivering our stories, reading a bit from our books, and opening the session to questions, but we had discovered that pulling questions from the high school students posed a challenge. We had gradually shortened the questions period.

However, as soon as we began to speak, we realized we were in an inspired learning environment. We could hardly say a word without two or three hands shooting up, students challenging our statements or asking a probing question.

“Has writing changed your life?” a punkish girl wanted to know. “What is it like when people write mean reviews or say mean things about your book?” a dishevelled boy asked. We were in new territory.

Andreas and I abandoned our usual routine and spent the hour answering questions: “What’s the difference between novels and history? Aren’t novels also about real people?” Well, yes. “Don’t people make things up even in non-fiction books?” Uh, yeah, some do. “How do you create characters?” Steal from real life.

“Did you ever write a short story just because you didn’t have enough to say to write a novel or a whole book?”

“Do you keep a journal? Does this help you write?”

These inquiring young minds kept us engaged for an hour, and we felt genuinely sorry to have to depart. We carried on in the library with several students and teacher-librarian Mark Bendall.

We sat at the computers and discussed the reliability of the Internet versus print media. We all agreed that it’s a toss-up. Misinformation exists everywhere. Check your sources. Don’t trust “experts” until you can confirm what they claim. Mark Bendall pointed out that Wikipedia is a great source, but he encourages his students to use it as a starting point for deeper research.

I don’t know what they’re doing at Vernon Secondary School, but they appear to have created an environment in which students love to learn. That may be the greatest gift of education.

Rex with student from Vernon Secondary
At Vernon Secondary School

Rex Weyler at Mt. Baker Secondary
At Mount Baker Secondary School in Cranbrook

Filed under: Southern Leg 2009 | 1 Comments | Permalink


Apr 24, 2009 at 11:56 AM

Cool to see your photos Rex! Thanks for sharing.


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