Based in Long Beach, California, "Teach Me Mr. West" is a blog by Jason West. His posts explore the rewards and challenges of being a highly effective 21st century educator.

Hallway Celebrity

Hallway Celebrity

Tell me if this has ever happened to you…

Whenever I leave my classroom, I do so knowing that I won’t be able to get from point A to point B without having to stop and say hello to at least a dozen students. The number doubles the farther I have to walk (like, say, across campus to the office). It’s become a running joke with a few of my peersCan’t go anywhere with you, Westand so forth.

Sound familiar?

While many of the students waving or saying hello to me are my current and former students, you might be surprised by how many students I’ve never had in a class (or even recognize as someone I’ve ever met) make a point to say hello to me as I walk through the campus. It’s been like this for a few years and it’s still very strange to me. Trust meif you went to high school with me, you’d be absolutely GOBSMACKED at my level of popularity among high school kids.

Why am I telling you this? Surely it’s not to create a textbook example of a humlebrag (Don’t you just hate it when you can’t get from your room to the office without being stopped by dozens of adoring students? #humblebrag)…

Nope. It’s actually the exact opposite! Because, unless you count the fact that I’m routinely confused for every generic white “celebrity” from the last twenty years, there’s not a single identifiable thing about me that is special (You look like that guy who played the neighbor on that one show I used to watch on Nickelodeonwas that you? You know the guy who played the goofy best friend in that straight-to-video teen rom-com starring Mandy Moore? I swear you look JUST like that guy!).

Think about the hallway celebrity at your site (almost every school has at least one). What qualities does this person embody? What do the students say about them? I guarantee if we took a survey asking those two questions, we’d end up with one of those word clouds where most of the words are super big because they’ve been repeated so many times. Kind of like how if you made a word cloud for every response a girl in high school gave me when I asked them out, you’d only have two words: No and Eeew!

So what has turned me into a hallway celebrity? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I keep coming back to the same reason: It’s the relationships I’ve developed with the students—especially the most challenging ones—in my class.

See, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but at school—particularly in high school—gossip spreads pretty quickly. GASP! I know!! What you do in your classroom reverberates throughout the school. Your classroom is not Vegaswhat happens there, immediately spreads everywhere. I make a point to connect with my students both on an academic and personal level. I know it seems like all kids talk about these days is Fortnight, but I swear, they also talk to one another about real things like, “which teacher pays attention to me.

In case I wasn’t clear, this doesn’t mean that I only ask my students about their lives. As I’ve mentioned before, I share my life with them as well. A relationship cannot be built on a one-way connection—just ask the prom date I never had! Now that I’ve been at my school site for a few years, this reputation has served me well—especially with my most challenging students.

I’ll leave you with this one final anecdote:

The other day, I’m on a plane and I’m sitting in my aisle seat taking a mental count of the rows between me and the nearest exit (don’t askI’m a weird, overly-cautious person) when a sweet but gangly 14 year-old boy sitting in the opposite aisle seat taps me on the shoulder.

Excuse mearen’t you Mr. West?

Yes…” I say, trying my best to cover up the fact that I don’t recognize him.

He rambles, “You’re a teacher at my school! My friends like you. You know Andrew and Blake? I’m friends with them. They’re pretty cool. Can I get a photo with you?

I smile and, with great arrogance, turn to my wife. I say pointedly, “Sure. I’ll take a photo with you.

You know this is the closest you’ll ever get to being a celebrity…” my wife says with a severe eye roll.

Little does she know that I’m a hallway celebrity at my school EVERY day—or that I’m also famous for looking like one of the singers in that one Canadian punk-rock band that had that song in 2004I look JUST like that guy.

Are you a hallway celebrity? Do you know someone who is? Or do you reject the concept, completely? Either way, continue the conversation by sharing your thoughts in the comments below!

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