School psychologist John Lee enjoys playing video games, dancing and teaching salsa. He and his family moved to the United States from South Korea when he was 5 years old. After working at Framingham High School and Lawrence High School during graduate school, he has come to the high school to continue practicing psychology in a school environment.
How has your time at the high school been so far? Do you have any memorable moments or first impressions?
My first impression is that this is a very amazing school to be at. At the same time, it’s also a school that, at least on its staff, definitely places very high expectations. And even though I am a professional, there are days when I feel like a freshman. Almost every day I feel like everything’s new; there’s a lot of new things to learn, lots of new routines to learn, programs to learn about. There’s many times where I feel like it’s not just the freshman who are having their first day back to school, it’s also really me.
How was your own high school experience?
I had a very different high school experience. I went to a private, Catholic, all-boys school, so a private parochial, and I had lots of good memories, but I felt it was very much structured in terms of a Catholic high school education, which I think is very different from a public high school education. In addition to that, one of the big differences is that there is just more diversity here than there was in my high school. My high school was mostly White. I was one of the very few students of color there, and so it was a lot of just learning to try and fit in there. So it’s really cool to be in an environment like this.
How did you get interested in psychology?
Being in a mental health field as an Asian American is actually pretty unusual. I think a lot of my friends were like, “I’m going into medical field, or finance, or business, or law and you’re going to go to MIT.” For me, I was always a little bit different. I wasn’t really interested in those fields, even though my dad is a businessman. And I think I had a lot of support from my family to kind of explore my own passions. For me, a big thing was always wanting to learn more about people: What makes them work and tick, what is it about the mind and the brain that is really unique? I feel like that is eventually what led me to the field of psychology.
Do you have any central goals or values that you always remember when working with people?
The biggest thing–and this is something I learned from my parents, something that they’ve always taught me and I’ve always maintained no matter where I go–is that I’m really no different from anyone. It doesn’t matter my education, it doesn’t matter my financial status, it doesn’t matter the color of my skin. What matters is that when you are working with people on the one-to-one or on any basis that there is this respect. You are another human being just like me. It’s really important that you always respect that and show them that respect even if you may disagree with them.
What intrigued you about salsa dancing?
I was a super awkward boy who was like, “Oh, I need to go out and socialize, but I don’t want to do that.” I’m very reserved, very introverted, but I wanted to do something that I felt like would really challenge me and just make me be like a physical person you know, just get out there. Dancing was always something I thought was really cool. I thought I was going to go in the hip-hop track, but I actually ended up going to a dance studio taking a ton of classes, and I watched people dancing salsa and I was like they are having so much fun, I want to do that.