On The Other Side Of The Door On the other side of the door I can be a different me, As smart and as brave and as funny or strong As a person could want to be. There’s nothing hard for me to do, There’s no place I can’t explore Because everything can happen On the other side of the door. On the other side of the door I don’t have to go alone. If you come, too, we can sail tall ships And fly where the wind has flown. And wherever we go, it is almost sure We’ll find what we are looking for Because everything can happen On the other side of the door. - Jeff Moss
No doubt my favorite hour of my work week takes place from 12:45-1:45pm on Mondays. That’s when I meet with my advisory group: 12 students, who range from 9th-12th grade for check-ins, academic counseling, community building, and general all-around goofiness.
This Monday, thanks to the resources and inspiration provided by Gateway High School’s crack college counseling team, we spent the hour talking about college.
- Why go to college?
- What are the different types of colleges?
- How do you get in?
- What makes college magical?
One part of our conversation focused on graduation requirements at Gateway in comparison to the entrance requirements for the University of California system. I showed my students a brief video in which our college counselors outlined and clarified both sets of requirements side-by-side.
After the video ended, I asked my students: “What do you notice about Gateway’s graduation requirements in relation to the University of California?”
One of my awesome ninth graders, Amelia, piped up and said, “I notice that Gateway believes in all of us. You believe that we can all go to college and do great things. So our graduation requirements make sure we can go to a UC or anywhere else. I think that’s really cool.”
“I notice that Gateway believes in all of us. You believe that we can all go to college and do great things. So our graduation requirements make sure we can go to a UC or anywhere else. I think that’s really cool.”Amelia, Gateway 9th grader
Wow. That was a pretty great Zoom distance-learning moment.
The hardest part of the conversation was trying to convey what makes college so magical. I know that every person’s college experience is different. For some, college is the pathway to opportunity and a good paying job. For others, college feels like a continuation of the academic drudgery that came before it. For many, college exposes us to new people and new ideas and gives us the chance to begin experimenting with adulthood.
For me, college was a transformative experience. That is definitely not to say that I loved every minute of it or that I felt fully self-realized upon graduation. Instead, during those four glorious years, I made incredible friendships, I stretched and stumbled, I confronted and clarified my values, and I started to learn what I love as a thinker and doer.
Most importantly, I alternated between moments of total flow, feeling more confident, unencumbered and like myself than ever before, and moments of complete imposter syndrome, feeling like if anyone really knew me, they’d know I didn’t belong. At one point, I even bought fake eye glasses (frames with clear glass lenses) to feel smarter and project a more intellectual look.
No class better epitomized this back and forth dichotomy than 20th Century American Poetry. The class was, ironically, taught by a visiting professor from Whales. I am not sure which was harder, deciphering my professor’s thick and unusual accent or the dense poetry of T.S. Eliot. There were many moments when I felt completely lost and inept. I remember thinking, “Why am I even here? I could simply turnaround instead of walking through the classroom door.” But, in that class, I also met Elizabeth Bishop, Audre Lord, Maya Angelou and so many other poets who helped me see the beauty of words and the beauty within me.
One of the great gifts in life is taking the risk to go to the other side of the door.