Reflection on Teaching Entrepreneurship at SCI Chester

It was the first day of co-teaching a course on entrepreneurship at SCI Chester, and I didn’t feel quite ready. It wasn’t about preparedness—my teaching partner, Iola Harper, was leading most of the content in the first session, and I knew she was a phenomenal instructor. I had the typical first-day-of-teaching jitters, but it was more than that—I wasn’t sure how this class would play out on an online platform. Because even though the COVID-19’s hold on the U.S. had eased up a bit by June of 2021, we weren’t yet cleared to teach in-person in SCI Chester itself. Instead, we were holding our class sessions over Zoom.

After teaching virtually for a whole year, I was wary. Zoom fatigue can be real, and the pandemic had brought many people to the point of shutting down at the thought of an extended video session. In addition, we, the teachers, would be on Zoom, while the members of our class would be together around a table in a room that we would see in a little box on our screens. How, I wondered, would we engage our students in conversation? How would we keep anyone’s attention through video? How would we see each other?

I didn’t need to worry. Within minutes, we were moving from introductions to the first day’s content, and engagement was high. The best part, however, came when Professor Harper led an interactive exercise focused on thinking through how the revenue and expenses of a business might change month to month. She asked for a business to use as an example, and the class members quickly popped off their ideas. She ended up going with a barbershop, and as she led us through the exercise, answers came furiously. There was little fear or hesitation. Professor Harper responded easily, affirming some students in their answers, gently guiding others toward more accurate responses, and the energy was crackling. These students were not hindered in their pursuit of knowledge by a video screen. This screen provided all of us with longed-for connection and the excitement of teaching and learning.

As the class sessions went on into July, the men brought that same energy onto that screen each week. Whether the subject was marketing, operations, or cash flows, their attention to detail was evident, as was the time spent reading and completing homework. On the last day, each member of the class presented his business plan in a competitive session. The ideas were as creative as they were varied—a horse farm, a laundry service, a food truck, a real estate firm—and it was difficult for the judges to choose winners of the cash prizes. But I knew what I had “won” from the experience of teaching virtually in SCI Chester: inspiration from seeing the dedication and engagement of class members, and a renewed commitment to restorative justice through education.