I had an interesting experience this year with my 7th graders that I want to share.
I had two sections of English and three Social Studies classes. I tried some different journal exercises this year in ELA, mostly from Christie Zimmer from Grace is Overrated. She has something called a “Lightning Round,” which I really like to use.
One Lightning Round we were using back in September or October was “Firsts”: first bike, first airplane ride, first whatever. The kids had to fill it in with their experiences. I like to do it along with them on the doc cam so they can read my responses, get to know me, and maybe get some ideas. One of the prompts was “First crush.” I couldn’t remember my first crush if my life depended on it because I’m O-L-D, so I told them they could also write the last or most recent one if they wanted.
I wrote “Doug.”
Low level chaos ensued. They were clamoring for information, and wasn’t I married?! (no!) and WHO IS DOUG? How old was he? What did he look like?
I told them a little, he works at my local Safeway, and I’ve had a light crush on him forever. We also had an interesting conversation on what is a crush, and can you be married and still have a crush on someone else? They had other questions and that’s how we spent the rest of the period. It was pretty much the same in my other English class.
And then a funny thing happened as time went on. They started to tease me about my crush, this Doug Thing, in very friendly and ok ways. They’d come in Monday morning and ask if I’d seen him over the weekend. They asked how often I “had to go shopping.” They threatened to go to the Windsor Safeway and see just who this Doug was. Yikes! I let them know that he worked in Santa Rosa, but I wasn’t divulging which store. They even offered me Starbuck’s cards so I could invite him out for coffee. Heh. How sweet!
One day in history class (most of the students in my English classes are in my history classes as well), we were reviewing the reading and I asked some question about who did this or that, and someone yelled out “Doug!” I couldn’t help but laugh, as did my ELA students, so we had to explain to the not-in-the-know kids what we were talking about. Eventually the story of Ms. Gonzalez’s crush on Safeway Doug was known in ALL. MY. CLASSES.
A student who had left the school before the Doug Thing began, came back in the early spring. He was in both of my classes, and one day someone called out “Doug” as an answer to a history question, and the student asked “Who’s Doug?” A classmate responded, “You’ll catch on.” It was then that I finally realized just how pervasively this Doug Thing had became part of our classroom culture!
And while pondering this phenomenon, it dawned on me that it had actually made my relationship with my classes closer this year. I think that the kids got to see a teacher in a different light, a more human, frail, vulnerable light, and that, yes, we’re more similar to them than they realized. Students probably don’t get much of a chance to tease their teachers either, and I was good natured about it, so that changed our class dynamics as well.
I’m sure that my students won’t remember a lot of specific lessons about English or medieval world history, but they will forever remember that their 7th grade teacher had a crush on Doug. And I can’t help but smile when I think of that.