All over this area, Mallomars are coming back on the shelves after being taken off sometime in the spring. This is supposedly because they would otherwise ‘melt’ on store shelves, but do chocolate bars get removed? Nope. Basically, it’s a clever marketing ploy.
So what does the autumn appearance of Mallomars have to do with teaching, you might ask?
For many years, we did a writer’s notebook exercise early in the year in order to get ready for memoirs. Even further back, we did the exercise just to get familiarized with each other – our back stories, as it were. To get the prime pumped, I would share a ‘famous family story’ – something that was told again and again within one’s family with, perhaps, some altered details upon subsequent retellings.
The story I always told had to do with my mother and some middle-of-the-night, under-the-covers snacking – and it always drew some laughs. Of course, I let the students know that I was also a snacker – and a devout lover of Mallomars. And while many students already knew of this perfect little cookie, some did not, so I would strongly suggest that they try it. (Allergies notwithstanding.)
That first year, I received a box or two of Mallomars, not long after I first told the story. The next year, the same. And again, and again, in succeeding years. Occasionally, the gift would be presented at the holidays, or at random times throughout the year – until the cookies were taken off the shelf once more. One thing was certain: I would get at least one or two boxes each year.
In recent years, I didn’t do that particular lesson anymore – and yet the gifting of the Mallomars continued. Often, it was an older brother or sister, or cousin, who passed along the info. Maybe the students were told that this might get them in good with their teacher- sweeten her up, as it were.
And yes, I did offer a gift in return, but this was for the entire class: to stop whatever I was doing and tell the tale of the Mallomars again. And laugh together. And share famous family stories.
And that was okay with them.
I had, in fact, created a famous classroom story.
What are the stories you tell to build community?