Monday, March 7, 2016

Shadow a Student Challenge...Check!

This past week, I took a day and walked in the shoes of one of our students.  This was a part of the Shadow a Student Challenge given to people who work for or in schools to encourage them to get perspective of the kids.

Any Volunteers?
The student response was overwhelming. In just a few days, I had over 70 students sign up to be shadowed. Using a simple Google Form and a QR code, students placed their requests. Looking at the list I knew this would not be an easy process. Up until the day before, students would find me in the halls and ask eagerly if I had chosen yet. I even received the kindest note from a student written on multiple sticky notes requesting I shadow them and leaving off with wishing my family well!  I was horrified at the thought of letting kids down. I ended up using an app to pick names from a hat, and even this was heart wrenching! I invited our lucky winner down to ask if she was still interested, and she was to-the-moon excited! I listened as she excitedly outlined our day and the things that I needed to be ready for, like a test in one class and a reminder we would have PE. I knew then this was going to be fun!

May I Have Your Phone Please!
Initially, I found myself thinking about all the other things going on that morning -- did we have enough substitutes, aren't those bells working yet, did we get all the information out about tonight's play? I even got my phone taken away first period as I was texting my office manager for some important information, and requesting some much needed coffee! It's hard being a kid! I had to know that one was coming! But, it made me realize, in a lot of cases, we as adults find it hard to focus because we are so connected all the time we miss out on some important things going on right in front of our faces. Having no access to my world as principal allowed me to shift gears, to live in the moment, and observe and enjoy the things going on around me. I have to admit it was a bit refreshing! Maybe I will lose my phone more often.

Our Kids Own Their World!
Viewing the world from the gym floor, or seated at the cafeteria table or from the back row of the class, gave me a perspective of the highly organized world in which we and they have built and how in each environment the comfort of each setting  was safe and supportive. I could tell that this was their world, they owned it! My host was very patient and understanding when I didn't understand something and was helpful when I needed to find something or didn't really understand how to do my math. Others around her were the same in this regard, and I got to see first hand that in their world, they are not reliant on just a teacher, but on one another. This is a great thing -- a great place for learning! 

Relationships Are Key!
Our kids are comfortable and confident! As each class progressed, I was excited to see the variety of tasks we as kids got to take part in and challenge ourselves with. Our kids are well adjusted, full of creative ideas and really thrive on being successful. The only disruption to their day was me, a strange lumbering kid in their classroom. We did, however, have fun making up my backstory -- where I did I come from, what's my favorite color and animal? These were hot topics! 

Though the day did not reveal any earth-rattling discoveries about education theory or practice, it did drive home the fact that relationships are the key to any successful school. I was able to witness that our students are not numbers or figures represented on charts or reports; they are unique living, breathing human beings, whom I believe we are blessed to work with.  

Until Next Time!
Would I do it again? I would do it again! And, I look forward to it! I got just one short glimpse into the life of being a kid at our school. I was able to hear from students some of the ways that kids perceive us as adults and their school, which is great feedback I feel is important to know. On this first challenge, my host was so very gracious, and I could tell she had a genuine love for school, which made this experience a treat. I do not pretend to think that every student of ours feels exactly this way, but I have a sense that with the culture our staff has created, one where kids come first, there are very few who are unable to make a positive connection to this thing we call school.

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