It’s a funny thing to “reflect” on my experience at HGSE just a few short weeks into it. Although midterms have now come and gone, I still feel like a newbie — figuring out my classes and my professors; finding friends and places to study; and trying to determine the optimal amount of caffeine to ingest in a day without ruining my health or budget.
At the same time, I now have enough distance to look back on those first few days when I was really a newbie, and to recall some of my early anxieties. There were the deep existential questions — do I really belong here? — and then, the more practical — do I take four classes, or five?
Thankfully, I discovered that everyone asks the former question, and while I was wrestling with the latter one, I ran into my fabulous Program Administrator, Rilda Kissel. Rilda patiently listened to me agonize over the “four vs. five” dilemma, and then shared with me a tidbit she had learned from a colleague of hers.
“You can take four classes and not worry you’re ‘missing out,'” she shared, “because Harvard is your fifth class.”
Here’s what I discovered she meant: while the classes at Harvard are fabulous, the learning does not end when you step out of the classroom. Every day, in fact, offers a buffet of options for additional seminars, talks, workshops, meetings, films, forums, etc. The real difficulty is not the finding of these extra opportunities, but rather finding the time to participate in them!
So, I took Rilda’s advice, and made Harvard my “fifth class.” I made space in my schedule and committed to attending at least one event a week to enhance my learning and growth outside of my regular course schedule. So far, I’ve attended several Dialogues on Diversity luncheons with my new classmates; an Askwith Forum on the topic “Is U.S. Public School Funding Fair?”; a student-organized section on how neuroscience informs classroom teaching; a panel at the Divinity School about a student trip to Ferguson, Missouri; Dean Ryan’s talk on his new book, Five Miles Away, A World Apart; an Oktoberfest celebration in Gutman Library; and a Zumba class (to work off the food I ate at Oktoberfest).
And this is not to mention the opportunities I’ve had to pass up, or the more casual lunches or frozen yogurt breaks with new friends. Over and over, I’ve been so overwhelmed (in the best possible way) with the opportunities HGSE has to offer. Whether I take four, or five, or six classes in the spring, I plan to continue to keep this space to participate in the richness that is this community.
(And Rilda, if you’re reading this, I promise I won’t really take six classes. And I probably owe you some frozen yogurt, so I’ll get on that!)
Sarah Stuntz is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Instructional Leadership strand of the Learning and Teaching program. As a former English teacher who plans to return to the classroom, Sarah loves learning about how literature and writing connect with adolescent development and social justice.