This week, I began teaching Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility at the High School of Finance and Economics as part of my volunteer work with Junior Achievement. I arrived ridiculously early to calm my nerves. I haven't been in a high school classroom in a LONG time.
As I was walking from my office, I tried to remember what it was like to be 14 years old. What if I got there and no one cared about the topic or wanted to pay attention? What was I thinking when I signed up for this - I'm going to teach a class of 30 high school students by myself? I was beginning to regret my decision to volunteer for this. For one second, I thought about turning around and saying I just couldn't do this. I have a horrible case of stage fright. I am great in one-on-one conversation with someone I don't know, but give me a crowd of two strangers and I clam up. Sometimes, I shake - visibly.
My flight impulse had nothing to do with not wanting to teach. I was worried that this group of 30 14-year olds wouldn't like me. I had reverted back to adolescent angst with no warning. And somehow that little fact calmed me down - I know exactly what it's like to be a 14-year old.
Once I was in the classroom with the kids, my nerves calmed down. I smiled - that's my nervous response to almost every awkward situation. We played a game that broke the class up into three groups: haves, have-nots, and a group in-between. The three groups had to figure out how to co-exist on a desert island. It was amazing how quickly some immediately thought to fight the other groups, while others were more interested in negotiating. The difference fell distinctly along gender lines: the boys wanted to fight while the girls wanted to bargain and negotiate.
We didn't even get through half the lesson by the time was up. Just as the conversation was really getting interesting, once the class was starting to get how complicated Ethics is, my time was up. It flew by - I needed more time. They were just getting it and I had to get back to my desk at work. Luckily, I have 6 more classes with them. I'm really glad I rose above the stage fright.