Office Hours

We do not have family in Gaza or Israel, but some friends, colleagues, and students do. When they suffer, I suffer.

A friend has two relatives who are hostages, one a 12 year-old girl (see below). Another has a cardiologist who has lost 23 family members when a building in Gaza was bombed.

During drives homes from work, I often unsuccessfully fight back sudden tears.

Via Izhar Armony

Yesterday, at Harvard Yard, a Shabbat table was set with an empty seat for each hostage. Note the high chairs and sippy cups for the babies and toddlers.

Photo: Ayelet Israeli

This week, I offered a lot of office hours for my students, both individual ones and in two group formats. Many students are in a good place, others are anxious, and some are quite down. When I get the sense a student needs a longer conversation, I take them to lunch. I view office hours as sacred time.

I do not offer anything particularly insightful to my students during office hours. Even when asked, I try not to tell them what to do. I instead take a page from Bill Sahlman, who was my favorite HBS professor when I was a student. He 29 years ago didn’t tell me what to do. He instead asked me questions and forced me to articulate what I was thinking. I now do the same.

Faculty at HBS have met both formally and informally to discuss the situation in Israel and Gaza. For me, any terrorism needs to be condemned swiftly, totally, and quickly. So much feels out of our control. But many faculty members have concluded that what we do control is the care we want to show to our students.

It takes a lot of mental energy to teach the case method at HBS with its constant dynamism, uncertainty, and potential points of exhilaration. Office hours are both enjoyable and demanding. Who knew that listening carefully requires effort? I have learned that it is important to guard my energy level.

But it’s all good: the students are simply amazing! Kind, thoughtful, earnest, and eager. As I told the most recent “Fun Friday” group of students, one reason I teach is to earn the trust to have office hours.

As for me, my initial plan was to fish today on Saturday, but I don’t have the energy and just want to read and write and enjoy a breakfast treat with strong coffee at my favorite patisserie. Food therapy. Sometimes all the horrors around me make me uncharacteristically quiet.

Best wishes for a peaceful weekend in spite of the saddening events during this time.

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