Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Being a High School Student for a Day

This week I was a High School Student for a day.  I shadowed a student for the whole day starting with 1st period going all the way to 8th period.  It truly was an enlightening experience.  It has really helped me appreciate the daily grind of our high school students.  This blog post is about the thoughts and ideas that this day has generated.  I hope that this will give you inspiration to ask your principal to allow you to shadow a student for a day so can experience it first hand.  

Why Shadow a Student for a Day?
While talking with a colleague Rob Porter last spring we pondered the question "What kinds of things do our students go through in a day?"  Out of that conversation we decided to ask our principal if we could actually shadow a student for a day.  He said YES.   We ended up shadowing different students on the same day this past week.  And yesterday we got to compare notes about our experiences.  It was a fantastic experience that I want to repeat at least every other year.  

Asking the Student
I couldn't ask one of my current students.  I would not want to be in my own classroom when there was a substitute.  So I had to ask someone else.  It turned out that I had just finished soccer season for my freshmen boys and Neil was on my team.  I decided to ask him.  He immediately said yes.  I told him he could think about it if he need to but he said that it was fine.  GREAT.  I then got a hold of his schedule and found out I would be in HONORS mode.  Neil is a smart student.  I asked his teachers and they all enthusiastically said it would be fine for me to visit their class.  And then I began to get worried about what I got myself into....   I really was a little worried about getting back into the classroom.  Things like what to wear and what lunch should I bring.  My worries were for naught.  It was a GREAT DAY.

1st Period   Honors English
2nd Period  World History
3rd Period  Honors Algebra 2
4th Period  Honors Chemistry
5th Period  Lunch
6th Period  Physical Education
7th Period  Spanish 2
8th Period  Study Hall

Here are some RANDOM THOUGHTS during my Shadow Day
  • I feel trapped in these fixed (non-swivel) chairs.  
  • I have warm classes and cold classes.  I'm glad I brought a extra fleece.
  • I find myself thinking a lot about food.
  • The teachers have so much passion about their subject.  It was clear they love their subjects.  
  • I remembered that I don't like to be called on until I have had time to think about the question that is being asked. 
  • I like it when the teacher introduced me.  I think all the students were wondering why I was there anyway so why not just answer the question early.
  • 4th period I sat in a swivel chair.  FREEDOM!  Wow what a difference it makes to be able to move freely.
  • I dressed and participated in Physical Education class and I can anticipate being sore because I have not lifted weights for a long time! 
  • I need to move more.  
  • The first few minutes always seemed to have the most energy and focus. 
  • I don't like being late for class.  The distance was too much to actually make it on  time.
  • Eating lunch with 15 freshmen boys was not so bad.   They did say their lunch conversation was 'different' because I was there.    
  • Teaching is a great profession.
  • I understand better why students want to look at their phones during class.
  • I'm glad I don't have to do the homework that was assigned today.  
  • I'm really tired.  My brain is drained.  I feel more tired than when I am a teach and am on my feet all day long.
  • I received so many papers today.  I have to deal with them all.  That is overwhelming   
  • I feel like I didn't create or accomplish much today.
  • If all these teachers gave me 40 minutes of homework each night I would be in trouble.
  • Time is easy to waste.
  • The teachers answered so many questions.
  • The teachers interrupted a lot  (i.e.  I forgot to tell you about....)  I do that too!
  • As a teacher I think I give too much homework!  I need to pair down my homework so that only the best problems are selected.  I don't want too much repetition.  
What do I take from this experience
Shadowing a student for a day has really helped me to empathize with what exactly our students go through. I realize I need to think about my student's whole schedule and not just his/her mathematics class.  I will be changing my homework expectations.   I learned some cool teaching techniques along the way.  I need to have my students move more in class.  I want to maximize the energy of the first few minutes of class.  I won't be embarrassed about showing passion  in the classroom because it is an important part of my job. This was a really wonderful experience. I think all teachers should shadow a student.  Thanks goes out to Neal and all the teachers that hosted me.  I learned a TON!

What do you think?   


Anonymous said...

I think this was a great idea. As a honors/AP student reading your thoughts I found myself agreeing. Especially your quote about being drained at the end of the day (it doesn't seem to matter how rigorous the work is that day I'm still tired). Please spread this idea to lots of other teachers; the students will be grateful for the change I can promise. :)

Anonymous said...

Great idea! I teach Algebra 1 and AP Calculus and I was really taken aback by the perspective switch. It is so easy to lose sight of all those realities and keep adding to the daily grind. Thanks for the refresher, I'll keep those in mind going forward.