Teachers shadow students to gain perspective

‎Phoebe Mussman
Web Editor

By stepping into the shoes of those they teach, faculty members took a day last fall to experience high school from a student’s perspective through shadowing.

Principal Jon Clark sent an email to his staff and asked those who were interested in the experience on Nov. 3, to talk to him.

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English teacher Deborah Bohlmann is one of seven teachers who shadowed students. Bohlmann shadowed senior Stephen Harris. Photo by Diana Linsley.

English teachers Deborah Bohlmann, Anne Marie Brewster and Mike Schawacker, science teachers Chris Allen and Cici Faucher, and social studies teachers Nicholas Kirschman and Jason VanBlarcum took Dr. Clark up on his request.

“As underclassmen, kids sit a lot, and they have such little interaction with each other. I think for juniors and seniors, there are more fun electives to take and maybe even more lively teachers. [The upperclassmen] work in different group sizes, have big discussions and interact more. I want to tell the freshmen, it gets better,” Faucher said. She shadowed her niece, freshman Maggie O’Brien.

Student-teacher shadowing is a technique used by schools to give staff new insight into their teaching strategies and how they can be most effective in helping students learn, considering factors outside the teacher’s classroom.

Shadowing was especially popularized when one blog post from high school learning coach Alexis Wiggins went viral on the Washington Post: “It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of 10 things…” she said. Wiggins stressed how tiring the sitting was, as well as how much students were talked to and patronized by their teachers.

Bohlmann had a positive experience with the shadowing: “I found out that this is a really friendly community. The teachers didn’t pay a lot of attention to me, but the students were always helping me along. I was very touched by that.”

VanBlarcum sought to follow a student with a tough schedule; that person was junior Maddie Gegg.

“I thought it was great. Maddie showed me her flight plan for her schedule for the quickest ways to get to each class; we didn’t have any issues with being late,” VanBlarcum said. “There was a sort of camaraderie between the students in difficult classes, but I did notice often there’d be a group of people who engaged in class and a group that didn’t engage at all. There was no in-between.”

“My new insight basically was that I and the students aren’t that different…just like them, I felt nervous sometimes, didn’t want bad grades, didn’t want anyone to laugh at me…all the same feelings,” Bohlmann said. “All the teachers were amazing. In each class, there was a new, different opportunity to learn and it was all very interactive.”

Volunteering teachers participated and did the same classwork as the student but not the homework.

“Homework is basically the hardest part. Because the teachers didn’t have to do the homework that students are expected to do, I don’t think they fully experienced what we do every day,” junior Hannah Biggs said.

Faucher explained because of the shadowing, she is going to engage her students in activities involving them talking to each other and hearing the people around them. Faucher also wants to “give them a chance to transition and process through their day.”

“It’s a long day,” Faucher said. “Teachers go home after school, but students have sports, homework, maybe even a job. We need to keep all that in mind; there’s other stuff outside of school that kids have to deal with. They have seven classes- I can’t give them three hours of homework.”

VanBlarcum expressed similar thoughts: “We have to take into account everything else kids do, and what we experienced was only one day. I highly suggest any teacher to shadow.”


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