John Wood - Upper School History Teacher - About - McDonogh School

John Wood, Upper School History Teacher

Photographer: Kyle Walton ’25

What inspired you to become a teacher? Why did you choose the subject area that you teach? 

I always wanted to study history and was planning on teaching at the college level when a history teaching position opened at McDonogh. It turned out I really liked teaching high school, and I'm glad that became my career rather than going on to college or university teaching.

What do you hope students will take away from your classes or your mentorship?

I hope they understand that history is complex and to be very skeptical of claims that history "proves" something or other. History helps us understand and reflect on the problems or issues we face, and in that way it is essential. But it does not provide some list of 'mistakes' or easy answers for what to do. What studying history can do is remind us to think things through, to consider that we might miss something or misunderstand, and to realize how difficult it is to accurately evaluate a situation and maybe to accept that we need to compromise.

Do you have a favorite place on campus? What makes it your favorite?

I really like my classroom and the chapel. I've been in the same room for 30 years now, and it has become very comfortable and familiar to me. The chapel because of its age and architecture, and for so many years it was the place where opening faculty meetings took place. I like the quietness and its association with the School's history and, especially, the connection to the people I've worked with who were in those many meetings and are no longer here. We no longer hold the opening faculty meeting there, but I always get here early that morning and sit in the chapel first.

Beyond the classroom, what are some of your interests or hobbies that you’re passionate about?

I enjoy cooking and even considered going to school to be a chef at one point. I also really enjoy playing music and listening to music, particularly operas but also other forms of music like symphonies or jazz from the 1950s and 1960s.

What are some of your favorite books, movies, or quotes that inspire you?

The books I've enjoyed the most and keep going back to are Faulkner's Absalom! Absalom!, The Sound and the Fury, and Light in August. I've also read The Lord of the Rings many times and will probably read it a few more times. My other favorite book is whatever random book I pull off a shelf just to read something; I like picking up a book that I have no real plan or purpose in reading except that it's there at the moment.