This was just one of the many questions teachers came away with after shadowing a high school student for one full day of school. The shadowing initiative, which most teachers called "eye-opening", was developed and organized by Edge of Leadership students at Lincoln Sudbury High School.
Here is the story of how it began...
It started four years ago when Lincoln Sudbury High School (LSHS) teacher Amanda Klein and several of her students attended Edge Of Leadership's (EOL) High School Summer Program at High 5 for the first time.
Amanda, referred to by her students as Klein, is a true teacher champion, believing not only in her students but also in authentic youth empowerment, voice, and leadership. Klein was a perfect EOL fit and after a great first year, she returned with an even larger group of amazing students the next year. Among them, a 15-year old student named Heidi who, although nobody knew it at the time, would come to have a profound impact on the entire EOL program - and on the teachers and students at her high school.
The story continues...
Each year EOL high school students are asked, "What can you do to improve the community at your high school?" The students of LSHS identified a strong disconnect between faculty and students. They determined that their focus would be to build stronger student-teacher connections, but the question remained, "How are we going to do that?"
This is where Heidi comes in. Heidi had come across an article entitled "A Veteran Teacher Turned Coach Shadows 2 Students for 2 Days- A sobering Lesson Learned". The article is about the amazing insight a teacher/coach gained from shadowing students for two days. Inspired by the article, Heidi suggested the EOL group at LSHS organize a similar experience for their school's teachers. Heidi, mentored by Klein and supported by her peers, put her ideas into action. This was no easy task, but the EOL group crafted a plan and presented their proposal to the administration. High 5's EOL staff spent time helping students design an action plan not only for conducting the day, but also to capture and share the participating teachers' key learnings with the entire staff and administration.
In the first session, only 2 teachers shadowed students but their response to the experience was inspiring. The teachers were surprised how much their experience could improve their teaching. Through this powerful, student-led professional development opportunity, teachers gained not only insight, but also empathy.
After the success of the initiative at LSHS and in recognition of her leadership, we invited Heidi to return to the EOL Summer program to play a new role as a student facilitator. Heidi and two other students from LSHS shared their initiative with the other EOL groups attending from high schools across New England. Several of the EOL groups began planning similar initiatives, including our home team at Keene High School.
Recently, LSHS conducted another student shadow day but this time 9 teachers participated over two weeks. The success of the first session convinced LSHS administration to budget for substitutes and organize class coverage for a much larger number of teachers. Again, teachers responded that the experience was "eye opening."
To capture the learning, the team interviewed several of the participating teachers. The team is currently putting together a presentation for the entire faculty. During a recent site visit, Anne Louise and Ryan were able to do a mini-interview with students that you can view at the link. Below the link we've also summarized some of the teacher feedback following their experience.
You can watch the video here.
This is a perfect example of leadership in action and the goals of High 5's Edge of Leadership program.
Heidi has had a pivotal role in shaping how High 5 support schools after the EOL Summer Program. Her name will forever be part of EOL history - and part of the culture of student/teacher connection at Lincoln Sudbury High School.
Sampling of actual teacher reflections:
"The transition from one class to another, it was very challenging to switch mindsets from one subject to another so quickly (Physically and Mentally.)"
"It is easy to "check out" when I had trouble understanding the material."
"Physical switching, going from one building to another, getting to class on time, how quickly some activity was starting at the beginning of class; there was not a lot of extra time; feeling tired at the end of the day, exhausted mentally."
"The day seemed very long. How do students remember everything from the whole day? It seemed like the time between the first block and the last block was an eternity."
"I really enjoyed the experience overall, especially the free blocks. Now I see why students love and need them. I didn't expect that at all."
"Transition-- made me think about my own teaching style and what actually works for students/ audience. In the end, the class is not for me but the students. I'll now be much more aware. I'll start class with music to help students connect to the present class. I knew it before but never experienced it."
"Making sure that everyone is reached, not necessarily everyone talks, but that everyone gets engaged in different ways."
"Cognitive/ academic flexibility that is necessary for students. Have to be good at many different skills throughout day."
"I think that it is really important for teachers to see what a day looks like for students. It is busy, dynamic, frustrating, and takes a lot of fortitude! I will definitely keep that in mind as I plan my future classes."
"Makes you remember what you have forgotten about students' challenges and struggles. I make connections to my shadowing experience all the time while teaching."
For more info on Edge of Leadership, contact Ryan McCormick or Anne Louise Wagner at High 5 - 802.254.8718 or 877.356.4445