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Shadow a Student Day Helps Create More Student-Centered Learning Environment

Shadow a Student Day Helps Create More Student-Centered Learning Environment

by Meghan Lawson, Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning

At some point or another, most of us can remember hearing our grandparents, or maybe even parents, reminiscing about when they were in school. Maybe you’ve heard things like “I had to walk uphill both ways,” or “There were no cell phones or computers when I was in school.”

The reality is, for many of us, it has been some time since we attended school. Even if you are a more recent graduate, I think we can all agree that the world — and education — has changed drastically in the past few years.

In West Clermont, we strive to think outside the box to ensure we continue to be an on the RISE district. That’s why we recently hosted a Shadow a Student Day. Five teachers from both the middle and high school shadowed students in grades 9-12. They were all in too — from playing basketball in gym class to taking tests if one was scheduled.

Both the students being shadowed and their classmates were entertained by the fact that teachers were engaging in class alongside them. One lunch table even joked that they “weren’t so sure about the new student transfer!”

The day was designed so that district staff can more deeply understand the student experience and support efforts to build a bright, student-centered future for West Clermont.

Teachers are in school every day, so they have immense wisdom about school, but many haven’t had the opportunity to experience PK-12 school from a student perspective.

Participating teachers captured plenty of notes specific to our system of school. While these teachers brought extensive knowledge to the day, they also said it was a powerful experience that fostered reflection about their instructional practices. While debriefing, one teacher noted, “Most of us haven’t been in school for so long, we forget what it’s like.” Empathizing with the student experience is the first step in the design thinking process. This allows us to ideate and design models for the future that best meet the needs of all learners.

Middle and elementary-level teachers will participate in a similar Shadow a Student exercise later this fall. This activity and the observations I overheard make me wonder: what will our students share with their children about school, and how will the decisions we make today impact their long-term success?

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