For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Jan 08 2018
by Neeti Joshi

What My Return to High School as a College Student Taught Me

By Neeti Joshi - Jan 08 2018

Teaching is something I've always been terrified of, honestly. The idea of me standing in front of a classroom and facilitating discussion something that had never crossed my mind in my entire life. I knew I wasn't meant for it, and I never expected it to be a part of my life in any way.

Which all changed about a month into college.

I got the opportunity to teach a social science course to several different public high school classes, an opportunity that sort of just fell into my lap. At first I was resistant, and the reason for that is twofold: Of course, I didn't think teaching was for me, and I also just wanted to forget about high school and move on. Going back would accomplish the exact opposite. I wanted a completely fresh start without dwelling on the past, and I was scared of all the memories that would resurface if I entered a high school building again.

After much thought, I ended up doing it for the sake of principle, hoping I wouldn't have any flashbacks to what was, quite honestly, a traumatic time in my life. I was expecting to walk into the classroom and immediately walk out after realizing that I was simply regressing—after all, everyone makes fun of the kid who continues to think they’re in high school even after they’ve graduated, right? It took some time, but I eventually figured out that going back to high school was actually helping me to progress because even though I was back in high school, I wasn’t back to being a high school student.

As an educator, I was getting to see high school through a teacher’s eyes, no longer through a high school student's eyes, and the difference between the two is huge. I would usually be in a classroom and manage to pinpoint at least one student who reminded me of myself when I was in high school, and I would find myself viewing said person in the way that my high school teachers probably viewed me. It was such a strange experience, but it was more valuable than I can even put into words. It helped me to figure out what I would’ve changed about myself if I could go back and redo high school, and at the same time, it helped me to be more proud of who I was back then because while I was in high school, I never really thought about what kind of student I appeared to be. Now that I was actually thinking about it, it really gave me something to reflect on. And while I initially told myself that I wasn’t going to dwell on the past, I realized that sometimes it’s necessary to do so in order to really move on and focus on the future. I hadn’t truly gotten over my high school experience, and getting to go back and see it as a college student was the first step to getting over it in the most honest way possible.

I found myself picking up on little things that students did—hesitating to raise their hands, trying not to fall asleep, and pretending to know what was going on while really not even being able to find a pencil. It looked really familiar, and I realized that I was pretty much the same way as a high school student. I was just perceiving it differently because now I was on the other side of the classroom. I had anticipated teaching in a classroom to make me feel like a high school student all over again, but really, all it did was remind me of how much I’m not in high school. And to be honest, it was one of the best feelings ever. Getting to clearly see my growth and development, and getting to directly contrast it to myself in high school through this opportunity. It’s something I didn’t know how desperately I needed, and quite honestly, it put me at peace. I was getting to actually educate and inspire people that are exactly who I was not too long ago.

After teaching every week for nearly a semester, I’ve realized that I was right from the beginning; teaching is definitely not for me, at least not as a profession. I don’t see it as something I’d pursue as a career, but it’s something that I hope I continue to do regularly because being able to influence current high school students in a way that I wasn’t necessarily influenced is such an important thing to be a part of. I have truly enjoyed getting to impact these kids’ lives, no matter how minuscule the impact may have been. As a result, I have impacted my own life. In a way that’s much more than minuscule, and I’m so grateful that I went back to high school and saw it through a college student’s eyes.

Lead Image Credit: Unsplash 

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Neeti Joshi - New York University

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