Many of you will know that I am at a new school this year and have made the step up to a Senior Leadership position. This meant that I jumped at the chance to take on the #ShadowaStudent challenge that was created by School Retool, IDEO and the Stanford d.School. What a great way to gain empathy for the student experience at Lynfield College – to really find out what it is like to be a student here.
I asked a student if I could shadow him for the day and explained why I was doing this. Let the teachers know why I would be in their classroom wearing a school uniform and got prepared for a day outside of my office!
First up I had PE so walked down to the Gym to find where my PE class was taking place – out on the field. Meet up with the Yr 10 student I was shadowing (he has asked not to be named online) and answer lots of questions from other students asking why I am in a Junior PE uniform. Our PE teacher was away on a camp so we had a reliever taking us for Ultimate Frisbee. This takes a bit of time to organise as the reliever doesn’t know the game, but the students eventually self-organise the fields and rules and we get split up into teams. I, along with many other students enjoyed the games but it was interesting seeing the reactions: who wasn’t into the game and tried to sit out, who got frustrated at others mucking up their game when they were trying to play etc. Before long it was time to pack up, get changed and head to period 2.
A rushed change later and I’m taking a seat in English. Man it’s hot after running around – it takes me about 20 minutes to cool down after PE. We have a sheet on using Imagery in writing shared on our devices so we can get started straight away. It is a really calm, encouraging atmosphere: students chatting quietly with person beside them while working away, teacher wandering around helping students 1 on 1. As I start to lose focus a bit (getting hungry after PE period 1!) we start having to share examples of our writing so far. Names are called out to read & I am squirming and a bit uncomfortable, hoping that I don’t get asked to read mine out loud. Real empathy moment here with some of the students! (Talking with the class the next day, many in the class like that they get called on to read their work out, it feels to the students like he is really wanting them to do well).
Interval passes quickly and we are back in English. I’m feeling fed and far cooler than when I first arrived here after PE. As we are carrying on from earlier we get stuck back into it and everyone seems to be very productive. Is this the joy of a double period (or schools with longer 80-100 minute blocks) that you have time to do the set up and then time for students to really delve deeper into their learning. It is all very individual writing but the teacher is helping, re-explaining and giving examples to those who are struggling. Some more sharing and now I’m feeling even more like I don’t want to read mine out – these students are doing some amazing writing!
Off to Electronics in Period 4 which I have been really looking forward to! Alas, the teacher is sick, so with a reliever we are doing theory rather than practical. The reliever is helped by another teacher from the Department to find the work while I look around the room and count 27 boys to only 2 girls in the class (note to self – potentially lots of work to do around girls in tech, this is a lot different than the gender ratios at my last school). The time flies by in this block as I get immersed in component functions and circuit diagrams. Only breaks are when I am wishing I could be making these circuits to test them out.
Lunchtime is spent chatting to lots of students. I’m trying to find out about their experience, yet so many of them are so interested in what I am doing. By this stage I have invitations to shadow a lot of other students later on. It could be great to do another day later in the year with a senior student to compare the experiences.
After lunch we are off to Business Studies. This 50 minutes goes by so quick yet there has been a video, a research task requiring textbooks and our devices, an online quiz and then another task in either pairs or on our own. I really feel like I have learned heaps in this period.
This class were all so motivated and the teacher was able to wander around and talk with every student at different times in the lesson. Some of the loneliness horror stories you hear of students going through a day without being spoken to just isn’t true at Lynfield. The teachers have all been great at speaking with everyone in the classes.
Into Maths for the final period of the day and a starter activity on expanding exponents is waiting. This is the noisiest I have heard a class all day although it is still not a bad level. It is last period and the students are back in their core class after 2 periods in options so many social catch ups occurring while doing the work. My partner is quickly answering all the questions and then talking away with me and his mates. He feels that I have seen a fairly typical school day, he enjoys being able to have a laugh with his mates and will then knuckle on with the tasks. Very few of his interactions with peers today have been learning based, they are primarily social. He is really good though at asking teachers to check his answers/understanding and teachers are always happy to oblige.
I’m getting uncomfortable on these chairs by the end of the day. Apart from PE and at break times I have spent the day sitting on hard plastic chairs with hardly any standing or moving around. By the time 3.10 rolls around I am looking forward to the end of this day.
Overall it was a great day, I saw some really good teaching, learned some knowledge and quite a bit about our students. Three things stood out as points to ponder though by the end of the day:
- How often we got started on something when we then had to stop – for whole class instructions, clarifications, end of lesson (50 minutes goes quickly) etc.
- How uncomfortable those seats were! I sat down more in this day than I do in a day when I don’t even have a class.
- How much time is wasted at the start of some lessons. This leads to boredom for some students, frustration for others. Many in-depth social conversations start in this time that last throughout the rest of the lesson.
I can now claim my Shadow a Student badge:
All that leaves now is the What Next? I have written the following after a few more days of reflection to unpack my learnings of the day. These have also been informed by more follow up conversations with my partner student and his classmates.
Highlights of the day:
- Quality teaching of content/skills in all the classes
- How interested our staff and students were in what I was doing
- More movement in classes, those seats are awful!
- More collaboration opportunities with a wider range of students. We have an incredibly diverse student population but most students primarily interacted with their close friends.
- Some more ability to move through the tasks at different speeds rather than having to wait for the next whole class instructions
- What is the ‘right’ balance of social vs learning interactions in a school day?
- Why can’t students charge their devices in classrooms during the day?
- How might we interact more with the quieter students who can slip under the radar in a busy Year 10 class?
Ideas Sparked to investigate further
For investigation, pd workshops, pineapple charts, ideation etc.
- Place/use/implementation of our Learning Charter dispositions
- How to use double periods more
- Charging Lockers?
A great day that has given me lots of material to work on, reflect on, learn from. I HIGHLY encourage other school leaders to get out and shadow one of their students!