Thursday, March 17, 2016


Several months ago, my co-worker +Tovah Rasoi @TovahRasoiSLE sent me an article she found interesting. It was about educators walking a day or two in the shoes of students to really view things from the students' perspectives. I loved the idea! What better way to empathize and understand my students than to spend a day as one of them? Our Stargazers group decided to set a goal to shadow in each other's classrooms for a day, reflect, then get together to discuss our observations. Tovah submitted our proposal to our administrators to gain approval for participation and created a form to complete as we observed. A few days later, I was participating in one of my favorite Saturday morning chats: #leadupchat and came across the Shadow a Student Challenge from and I was pumped! This is EXACTLY what we were about to do and it would provide us with tools and a sharing platform to use, as well. How cool! The four of us signed up right away. We were all set!

The days leading up to my day as a 4th grader, I was so nervous! What would they say to me? I had not taught these students in the past so we didn't have a teacher/student relationship. Would they accept me? Would anyone help me? I found it interesting how nervous I was leading up to the big day. I shared the idea with my students for two reasons: I always tell when I will be out so my students know what I expect with a sub and I love sharing ways I continue to grow and learn to model that expectation for them. My students were so excited and supportive! I'm not surprised, they are amazing children! They laughed when I told them I would go to specials, recess and lunch with the students and, of course, they hoped I wouldn't have to go to PE. ; ) My own children were excited for me. They helped me pack my backpack and lunch so I could go back to school! I had my healthy snack, water bottle, charged iPad, pencils, and jacket all ready. I slept like a baby.

From the moment I walked into school, I took the role of a student. I went to the gym and sat in the 4th-grade line silently, waiting for the bell to ring. I was terrified! Everyone was so quiet but I saw my students and they smiled and gave me a micro-wave and I felt a little better. Why was I so nervous?! Once the bell rang, I followed the cues and got up at the right time for dismissal down the hallway. I must say what happened next was THE BEST part of my day. As I walked down the hallway, totally anxious, I felt so much better because I was being greeted by smiling teachers and staff in the hallway on my way to class. People, THIS made my day. I felt welcome. I felt safe. I felt happy! This was the ONE BIG THING I took away from how important ALL staff members are in a student's day. I thought how it must make others feel when they get dropped off, away from their parents each morning. Greetings make a difference! : )

When I got to my classroom, the teacher greeted me right away and my student buddy was there to help me as well. I felt all the anxiety melt away. My buddy helped me prepare for the day - she didn't do anything for me, just helped me know what to do. This helped me feel supported yet able to take care of myself. As the day began, I felt better. We had Circle Up right after announcements. I hoped the teacher wouldn't have me go first because I didn't know their routine but I did go first - and it was fine. The students were so sweet to me. I really was surprised and relieved how they treated me all day long. Not that I doubted our amazing students, but I think old memories of being rejected as a child came back - that would be another post - ha! After Circle Up, we did Math Workshop. Obviously, my coffee hadn't kicked in yet (plus I had to dump it when I got to school.... oh, my caffeine...) so I needed some help on some math facts. My buddy helped me solve some multiplication problems using a method I was not familiar with. WOW! I learned something new. : ) We did some math facts and played some math spiral review games. I enjoyed the environment and how everyone knew the expectations and helped me know what I should do, as well. Next in Science, students had to opportunity to reflect on their Science Fair Projects (I was able to walk around and make observations) and share learning with each other. There were so many fantastic ideas! I kept thinking to myself, my teacher is so kind and calm. She never raises her voice or makes me feel bad. She is constantly looking for the good in all students. This was such a nice feeling. Next, we lined up for specials.... and went to Art!

I loved being in Art. The teacher was in the middle of a project with students but filled me in quickly and got me started. I cannot explain how calming it was to paint and listen to music for those 50 minutes. We all just chatted at the table and painted. I enjoyed it so much. The Art teacher had such a soothing environment and everyone knew exactly what to do. She had a Blendspace on Classroom for us to work on after our paintings were finished. I loved the extra activities! I didn't want to leave the art room. It was a stress-free zone for me.

I went to Humanities next. Students were in the middle of working on completing a project so I helped a few students make things for their projects. I enjoyed working together to help someone. I even made a llama with fringe for a student's project. Coloring, cutting, working with paper... working together - that was fun and relaxing.

While students worked on writing stories, I fell into Teacher Mode and read their stories (um, peer editing??) because I want to know how to better teach writing to my third graders. I tried not to distract them but I may have been a pest. Soon it was time for recess and lunch. I was starving!

Recess was hard. The girls wanted to race me. Ok, look... I can be a 4th grader for a little while but my 40+ back says NO WAY to running so I declined and they had nothing to do with me after that. I turned the jump rope for a few kids to jump and talked to some former students while they braided hair. I realized recess in fourth grade is very social and less active than I expected. I finally went to the swing for a little alone time. I was feeling like I had not stopped for even a second all day and was suddenly feeling a bit overstimulated. Some time on the swing helped. Plus, it was a beautiful day!

Lunchtime was fantastic. Someone saved me a seat and I was so glad. I was worried about being excluded (how interesting ancient memories and fears can come back so quickly) We ate and talked and I wanted a nap more like a Thanksgiving afternoon. I was pooped!

After lunch we did some research. I joined right in because this is learning that I am used to - fill in these spots with this type of information - and I can do this. I sat down and did the entire assignment then another student said 'Erin is done.' (yes, I let them call me Erin all day and they LOVED it - I said they could only do it on that day - a few have let it slip with a smile since then and I don't mind) Others were shocked I was done. I said I just sat down and did it and explained how. They were in awe that I was done. Many were working in groups at that point but I think I had just needed to work by myself.

At the end of the day, we went to the Computer Lab for monthly assessments on iStation. My computer wasn't working right so I sat there and watched others do their assessments. I was so glad I wasn't having to think at that point. I was fried. How could they complete this assessment after working so hard all day? Do my students feel this tired every day? Do I ever give them a minute to catch their breath or read in quiet? Do they feel this overstimulated too? So much to think about. 

As school winded down that day, I had little time to think or reflect right away because I had a guest speaker for Code Club and had to kick into Teacher Mode as soon as the bell rang. It has taken some time for me to reflect since I just began my graduate work and I'm swamped with finding a balance between mom, wife, teacher, friend and student. Today, I felt my blog calling and these are the moments I recall without looking back at my notes. The next day I sent a Thank You card to the students I shadowed. They did so much to open my eyes as an educator. When I returned to my classroom the next day, my students were eager to hear all about it. I shared the highlights with my students. They nodded and smiled as I shared my key points: I loved getting greeted in the morning, I was worried others would not approve of me (even though I've been here for 16 years), I loved ART!, I enjoyed the variety of learning formats and I was exhausted by noon. 

We did not do this project to provide feedback for our peers but instead to learn how our students feel and gain perspective. However, I would be lying if I said I didn't steal some ideas to use in my classroom. ; ) Do teachers EVER not take an opportunity to learn from others? I think not. 

I highly suggest you #shadowastudent some time. Whether you are a classroom teacher, staff, administrator or stakeholder - you will gain insight to our students' lives and also gain respect for their kindness, responsibility and stamina. Try it out and let me know what you think. Remember to connect using #shadowastudent and check out Then you too can say:

1 comment :

  1. I loved this! Thanks for sharing your reflection. I can't wait to meet and compare all our thoughts and experiences. #shadowastudent