Contributing opinion writer
William Y. Yao
Reading memoirs of others, and in that process beginning to think about how we’d craft a memoir of our own, brings out those fondest, most formative memories that find a way to stand the test of time. Like the narrative structure of many memoirs, our lives aren’t always experienced chronologically. The salient, beautiful moments stand out, and we often glance back towards them as we move forwards. Where may these memories lie for you?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, in all their differences, shared a respect and appreciation for the institution and the people they so purposefully and dutifully served. They believed, unequivocally, in the power of their ideas, their voice, and their words. In that judgment, I concur without reservation.
Teaching asks us to challenge what we know and how our knowledge came to be. It forces us to probe what we take for granted as known and to perceive things through the lens of others. It’s been quite a year of screen sharing, mute buttons, and more technological snafus than any of us could possibly count. But each stumble is a bit of evidence that education is changing faster than ever, creating a new normal for teaching and learning, and new things to teach and learn.
If we all wrote down these stories we have, we’d each end up with a memoir of our own. But for now, let’s keep sharing them with each other. Don’t hesitate to discover mentors in the most unlikely of places. Learn from their stories; this sharing is essential to the vitality of our community. Like riding a bike (or skating), some of these stories will stick, and become part of yours — become part of you.
At Harvard, it’s so easy to feel like we are competing with one another. Indeed, in some curved classes, we do so by design, assessed not by our grasp of the course material but by our relative performance. Perhaps it’s resemblant of a mentality that got us admitted in the first place. I’ve certainly had this feeling, and it can sometimes be really hard to shake.