The Speed Dating Event By Daniela Cohen

The Speed Dating Event

By Daniela Cohen

Published on Sun, Feb 22 2009 by Daniela Cohen

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What is love? An apt question to be asking around this time, it seems. Again, Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and this year I am left with a different understanding of that warm, fuzzy feeling. The day before, the students in my English for Humanitarian Work class put on a speed-dating event at the school! We had eighteen participants, each paying R25, and the money raised was to go to the Scalabrini Centre, a non-profit organization providing crucial services for refugees in Cape Town. The class worked hard for three weeks beforehand to prepare the event. The students came up with getting-to-know-you questions for the daters to ask, strategies to advertise the event, decorations to use, and prizes to give the top three couples.

The hours before the event sped by as we all worked together to set up the space and take care of any last minute details. I had tried to put as much responsibility for the event as possible in the students’ hands, and as the time drew closer, I was proud to see them increasingly owning the fact that it was them in charge. In fact, getting people to commit to coming to the speed-dating was no small feat. Luckily, a determined student not even in the class took it upon herself to convince her classmates of the necessity of signing up. Thanks to her, the effort of our event preparation didn’t go to waste!

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After the participants arrived, one of the students, Mark, explained what would happen: They would have five minutes to talk to each person across from them, of the opposite sex, and then change. They could use the question sheets on the table to help them. After five minutes, they needed to rate their partner using the key on their rating cards. At the end of the event, we would calculate the best-matched couples based on the interest they demonstrated in each other on their rating cards.� The speed-daters’ anticipation resulted in a restless attention as he spoke.

A bit perplexed, he told me, “They don’t listen.”

I laughed. “Now you know what it’s like to be a teacher!”

The conversation began with a bang. Laughter rang out from all sides of the room. Pink hearts flashed from the projector at the far end, part of a beautiful poster a student who was not even in my class had offered to design for the occasion. I wandered around the room watching the shining faces of people from Mexico, Switzerland, France, Turkey, etc, as they engaged in the process of getting to know each other a little better/date selection. I smiled at the unimpressed nonchalance on the face of the female teacher I’d dragged in at the last minute when one of the girls hadn’t shown up. The talk continued in waves of varying degrees. The students from my English for Humanitarian Work class kept busy by keeping time, giving further instructions, taking photos, and speculating on the chemistry or lack thereof between certain couples. After almost an hour, the speed-daters came full circle; back to the person they had first talked to. We sent them outside while we calculated the results.

Adding the rating of each girl to the rating of each guy for the same girl (a number between one and ten), we determined the three best couples, students who had rated each other highly. Looking at the ratings reminded me of just how different people’s taste can be! We adorned the speed-dating king and queen with yellow cardboard crowns, beautifully crafted and full of hearts and glitter. The top three couples received gift vouchers for Da Vincis, an Italian restaurant close to the school who had generously offered prizes that far exceeded my expectations. The willingness of the restaurant owners to support us as well as the students dedication to making the event the best it could be, touched me deeply, a profound example of the diverse ways love can manifest in any arena on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year.


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