What’s your madeleine: Teachers reflect on the past

In Marcel Proust’s classic “Remembrances of Things Past,” the hero takes a bite of a French cookie called a Madeleine, at which point a lifetime’s worth of memories come flooding back. This device has been referenced many times, including in the film “The Transporter.” Participating Washington-Liberty teachers were asked about their own high school memories, including, “What’s your madeleine?”

Not surprisingly, some of the most interesting responses in our survey answered the question “A celebrity crush I had that might surprise you is: _______.” The movie, “Back To The Future” produced not one but two heartthrobs, Michael J. Fox and Lea Thompson.

“[A celebrity crush I had that might surprise you is] Vince Vaughn, and I still do,” World History Ms. Bethany Bennett said.

PE teacher Ms. Terri Wrightson provided what’s likely the survey’s both most and least telling response. 

“Definitely not answering that,” Ms. Wrightson said.

Out of 16 responses, four teachers’ first car was a Volkswagen; three drove Nissans. Among then-popular fashion trends teachers now regret: shoulder pads, stone-washed jeans and baggy jeans. Embarrassing hairstyles included frosted tips, teased bangs and “big hair.”

When asked about what they consider the most significant historical event of their high school years, four responded the fall of the Berlin Wall. Others said the O.J. Simpson trial, President Reagan getting shot and the Columbine shooting. Many others responded with events that occurred all around the world, some more light-hearted while others not so much.

Today, because of the pandemic, watching movies means streaming. But this wasn’t always the case. What were THE blockbuster movies for teachers? Some were more recent such as “Iron Man” and “Avengers.” But most responses were oldies like “Crocodile Dundee,” “Top Gun,” and “Jurassic Park.” Popular TV shows they watched aired from the early 1970s to the 2000s. Some movies and shows sparked sayings teachers would themselves wear out, such as Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics and Geometry teacher Mr. William Drake’s, “Nobody puts baby in a corner.”

Distractions sometimes prevent us from doing things we want to do or be. High school students aren’t adults or kids. Instead, they are people trying to figure themselves out. Teachers were asked if they had any regrets. Some lucky teachers said they had none. Others said not accepting their true selves, not being very outgoing and not being more confident about being themselves. 

“[My biggest regret in high school is] not working harder,” algebra and pre-calculus teacher Ms. Jennifer Scher said.

Teachers were asked about their own personal madeleines — things that bring them back to their pasts. Some were very simple like jean jackets or walks along a river. Five teachers’ responses related to music, saying they are instantly transported back in time. Others said food or drinks, watching a specific movie or watching their football team play. Many things can create a time machine for us. This pandemic will affect this generation like no other. It’s a historical event. What memories will you create during this unique time? What will your madeleine be?