Back to School, Again

Backpack filled with blank paper, several pens, and the required readings? Check. Clean shirt and pants pressed? Check. Class syllabus reviewed at least 10 times? Check. Butterflies in the stomach? Check, check, and check. Now, all I needed was a good night’s sleep, though the butterflies made that difficult. But hey, I think some nerves before the first day of class is natural. Especially if you’re the one teaching it. Eight years after sitting in one of their desks, SHC gave me the opportunity to stand in front of the classroom this past June and lead an Academic Exploration course. (For the unaware, Academic Explorations are interdisciplinary courses that dive into topics beyond the standard college prep curriculum). Ever since I graduated from SHC in 2007, I’ve nursed a hope to one day come back and teach (and perhaps even be colleagues with my former teachers—imagine all the Star Wars puns!). At the beginning of the year, I contacted Ms. Joan O’Neill, my former Senior Seminar sage, to inquire about the possibility of teaching an Academic Exploration, a program born when I was a sophomore in 2005. To my delight, Ms. O’Neill was very receptive to my ideas and encouraged me to submit a proposal to teach an Academic Exploration class in the summer. That was the easy part—I already had a bunch of ideas and spent several weekends and evenings fleshing them out further. After submitting my proposals, I had to play the waiting game: students, after all, had to actually be interested in what I was offering. Fortunately, a handful were willing to look past my uninspiring course title ("Writers Workshop"… I know, I’m yawning, too) and sign up. That’s when it became real: I was actually going to teach a class! D-Day wasn’t June 6, but rather, June 15. As soon as Ms. O’Neill sent me the good news, I spent the majority of my free time thinking about and planning my class—and running into issues I hadn’t even considered. Like, what are high school students even interested in these days? I spend 50 hours a week in the corporate world: Would they think I’m boring? What if they ask me a question I can’t answer? What if they fall asleep in class? How would I deal? To prepare, I utilized every resource I had. Friends who are teachers now patiently offered assurance. Several sets of eyes reviewed my syllabus. Conversations about how to best run a classroom went long into the evening. And the night before the big day, after nearly half a year of preparation for a weeklong class, a single thought crossed my mind before I slept. "Enter to learn, leave to serve. And now I get to go back and share what I’ve learned since I left eight years ago. This is going to be pretty cool." And it was.   Chris Wong

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