When a beloved Professor at HBS asked me if I’d consider coming back to teach part-time, I didn’t know what to say. But I did my due diligence. I contacted about a dozen current and former instructors. “What was the best part of being at HBS?” I asked. “The students,” each and every single person said. “You’ll see.”
They were right.
Perhaps it is because we are interacting with students at the right point in their lives: they have enough experience to know what they want, but they’re young enough to search for meaning and impact with zeal. Perhaps it is because HBS has the most generous financial-aid program amongst business schools so that we are able to work with an incredibly diverse student body.
Perhaps it is because we instructors might be able to affect their lives? I know I am not the only one when I say that a few of my HBS professors changed the arc of my life.
I was reminded of all of that this morning, 7 am at Spangler, the student hall, where I arrived bright and early for breakfast before I teach this morning. Periodically, the school posts profiles of students. This month, they’re featuring First-Generation, Low-Income students. Here’s one profile, which I found particularly moving:
It’s embarrassing admitting you had never left the country until your second semester at HBS, or negotiating a salary that is multiples of anything your family has ever made, or keeping track of who you told what about your financial aid, or admitting you’ve never worn a tux or tailored suit.
It’s humiliating having no clue what is going on during the skiing or wine or fashion cases, or knowing you will never raise a meaningful friends and family round for your startup, or explaining overlapping jobs that go back to high-school on your resume, or googling how to shave or change a tire or tie a tie.
But it’s humbling looking back at all the things that you shouldn’t have been able to do, and realizing that you aren’t the only one out there struggling, and accepting that it is who you are, and seeing how far you’ve come.
I’m an advocate for my students. It is odd to write, but I do love each and every one of them. They have incredible potential and, in 99.9% of the cases, they don’t realize it.
Why do I teach? I teach for them.