The greatest teacher the world has to offer is life itself, and with all the different lives every single person at Northwood lives, it’s safe to say life has also never taught them the same lesson twice. As one of Northwood’s humanities teachers, Bryan Hoang has taught the nuances of history for almost 16 years, but that doesn’t mean he never stopped learning from life. In an interview with the Howler, Hoang tells us a little bit of what life has taught him.
Gabriel Dimaandal: Why did you want to be a teacher in the first place?
Bryan Hoang: Because I was 21 and idealistic and felt I needed to change the world. I wanted to go out, make life better for people and the planet. That’s how it started. I’ve obviously evolved a lot since then.
GD: Between when you started teaching and now, how do you believe you have changed?
BH: I realized that’s how a young 20-year-old thinks. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but at 20 you think anything is possible. Now that I’m 39, let’s just say that I scaled down my expectations and goals. The same things still animate and drive me, like the injustice and problems I see in the world, but I’ve settled for the idea that I’m not going to change anything in my lifetime. But, I can help kids grow and think and shape them in some way that they’ll go out and make the changes needed to make this world a better place.
GD: What is your biggest pet peeve about Northwood students?
BH: Cell phones as number one. For number two, the first thing that comes to mind is that I really dislike this divide between the Honors/AP kids and the College Prep (CP) kids. The CP kids feel like they’re stupid when they’re not. Most of the AP kids are nice, but some of them can be arrogant and condescending to their peers. I think that’s rude. Towards those same kids, I also feel bad for them, because they are so hung up on colleges and getting into the right college, but I think 99 percent of these kids have no idea what that means.
GD: Then why do you think these students are so fixated on the “right college?”
BH: They just know that it sounds prestigious, so they do the high school rat race; they take a bunch of classes that they don’t enjoy, and then they’re zombies.
GD: How would you define success then?
BH: Success at this point of my life is several different things. It means doing things that matter intrinsically to me. It’s having impacts on the lives of other people and most importantly it encompasses having strong relationships with people that matter. Success means having a healthy mindset, being happy with your life and having things that you enjoy doing.
GD: What’s a common misconception about success?
BH: Success is not waking up at 7 a.m. and going to a job that you hate, but it makes a lot of money for you. It’s not coming home, eating dinner with your family, watching TV then going to sleep and waking up and doing the same thing again for the next 40 years of your life.
GD: How should financial stability factor into success?
BH: Obviously money is important, I’m not denying that fact. Money allows for a lot of these other things to happen. It’s not cheap to eat healthy or have health insurance or buy a home or this and that, but money is just a means to an end. A college degree is a means to an end. It’s not the end.
GD: What do you hope your students will grow to become or achieve?
BH: I want you to grow up and be good humans, make good decisions and think of other people. When you guys are in positions of power, be ethical and have integrity. Be the kind of people I’d be proud of and say “Yeah, that’s my student.”