February 8, 2013
Teachers Talk - How do you break the ice in CALM class? Speed dating!
Tracy Ganson, Former Teacher, Parkview Adventist Academy, Lacombe, AB

From the moment I began teaching Career and Life Management (CALM),  I knew I would be loaded with teaching stories that I would be telling for a lifetime.  It was my first time teaching CALM, teaching teenagers, and teaching at all.  As we neared the end of “dating week”, I was wondering out loud one day how we could finish it off with a bang when one of my students suggested we have a go at speed dating as a class.  He was kidding.  I thought it was brilliant.  So once again, I trudged down the stairs to run this one past my principal.  I’ve learned – better safe than sorry! 
 
With the thumbs up, I proceeded online to find out how speed dating works and how on earth  I  could apply this  to the classroom?  Answers to the first question were everywhere.  Participants sit in two circles – an inner circle and an outer circle.  Ladies sit in the inner circle facing the outer circle.  The gentlemen sit in the outer circle.  After a short period of time, anywhere from 2-3 minutes, a buzzer sounds and the gentlemen move one seat to the right.  Each couple then has time to sit across from each other and chat and get to know each other a little before moving on. The thought of my Grade 11’s having to chat one-on-one with each other with everyone interacting so far out of their established social circles was so intriguing I decided to proceed with this idea for Friday’s class. 
 
As with all crazy ideas, I started with prayer.  I asked God to make sure that if this idea was a waste of time that it would die fast and quiet and something else would come along for Friday.  But as is the case when an idea seems to be inspired and yet make no sense initially, the doors swung open.  We needed more than just our class to participate, so I went in search of the rest of the Grade 11s and found that they were in Math class with a student teacher who was willing to give up the last half of class time.  As Friday approached, the students got curious about my excitement.  I told them to make sure to brush their teeth and look good on Friday.  It was too much fun!  Some of them were thinking that I was going to make them practice kissing and I had to assure them – I would not!!  
 
Friday morning when I announced what we were doing and explained the concept, some of them looked ill and terrified.  One girl even came up and pleaded with me not to have to participate as her boyfriend would be upset.  I assured her and the class that this would in no way be romantic and that it was more of a game than a date.  They settled in and prepared for the face off.  When the rest of the Grade 11s entered and we had all of them together, I realized how much work God had done for me in taking care of the details that I hadn’t even thought of.  That has been His way this year – taking care of me as a first year teacher.  He’s delighted in making Himself known to me everyday and I have been overwhelmed with gratitude so often.  I had no idea how many girls and guys I would have exactly that day. When they all entered the room, we had the exact amount of desks for the girls in the inner circle and the correct number for the boys in the outer circle.  A huge relief for me as I was wondering what I had been thinking in setting this up!
 
The students were giddy and chatting nervously, almost like they hadn’t hung out in the halls with each other just before this class.  This was a new way to meet and flew in the face of their treasured teenage boundaries.  We began and right away I saw the tension melt.  At the first change, the students seemed reluctant to interrupt their conversations.  Amazingly, it seemed that the students who really didn’t spend time talking with each other normally seemed to have the best time chatting.  The classroom was deafening, so loud with all of the conversations.  I promised the students at the beginning that since they all participated, we would not have to do this next semester for the CALM students again.  When we finished most of them said, “Mrs. Ganson, please can we do this again?!”  I was stunned. 
 
Now, as I have done with most puzzling teaching experiences, once again I headed downstairs to visit my principal and ask her – what just happened??  And, why on earth did something as simple as a class speed dating seem like a great experience for the students.  “Well,” Mrs. Bishop explained, “the students were given permission to cross their social boundaries and get to know people who are usually off limits and that is exciting for them.”  It made sense.
 
I saw one of the boys later that day who said he got chatting with a girl that he had not talked to since Grade 9 and he remembered what good friends they had been in Junior High and how he had missed that friendship. I was overjoyed that he had told me.  So, the day that began with a prayer begging for a miracle in class ended once again with a thankful heart.  So thankful, in fact, that after all that talking, I couldn’t even put it into words.