Ashton Takes on Teaching Role

Teaching Moments Head of Upper School John Ashton reads lines from Canterbury Tales to his sophomore students to spur class discussion during his E period class. Photo by Sydney

In his fourth year as Head of Upper School, John Ashton is now teaching a sophomore English class

After three years as the Head of Upper School, John Ashton finally has the opportunity to do that one thing he missed the most as an administrator—teaching. For the first time at Hockaday since 2003, an Upper School head will teach an English class. Ashton said he has been trying to teach ever since becoming the Head of Upper School, but each year presented new challenges, and his administrative duties took first priority. His first year, Ashton had to acclimate to the Hockaday culture and focus on his duties as head; his second, he took on more responsibility in the Resident Department; and his third year, he facilitated the transition of a new headmistress. “I am interested in learning what it’s like to teach here in the way that you all experience,” Ashton said. “It will give me a greater insight into your experience as students, and I will be even more connected.” Although having the Head of Upper School as a teacher might seem intimidating, sophomore Grace Zacarias said she was excited to have him right off the bat. In fact, she said, most girls in the sophomore class hoped to be in his English class. “Admittedly, some people were a little anxious, but that all went away after the first class when we knew it was going to be a great year,” Zacarias said. As the sophomore curriculum goes, Ashton will teach British literature and incorporate Wuthering Heights, July’s People, Macbeth and other famous British works into his course. But these materials are not new to him as he has taught a similar course at St. Mark’s. Although Ashton said he was excited to teach again, he admitted that he started out a bit nervous, not having taught in a few years. “I don’t want any ball to drop, and I’m committed to that. It’s about prioritizing the things I have to do,” he said. English Department Chair Dr. Deborah Moreland said the English department has benefited greatly from Mr. Ashton’s input during their weekly department meetings. “I can’t wait to visit his classroom, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from him,” Moreland said. One of the things Ashton said he looks forward to the most is building stronger relationships with the girls in his class on a one-on-one level. “I think it’s a wonderful way for students to get to know him better, those who are privileged enough to have him as a teacher,” Moreland said. Zacarias said she anticipates a fun, enriching year as well as getting to know her Head of Upper School as more than just a head. Ashton also said he is excited to finally be able to teach and hopes he will be able to continue this practice of teaching aside administrating for years to come. “[Teaching] is generative, creative. It’s fun. I love that work,” Ashton said.