Earlier in the year, students had the opportunity to take a Stanford University survey that allowed them to reflect on their school schedules and workload. Many students were left feeling confused and frustrated after the survey because, after all, we have taken many school-related surveys that have done absolutely nothing to address our complaints and change the school environment. But I believe that this one was different.
After taking the survey, my AP Lang class had a fiery discussion. Kids expressed their anger at having to take yet another survey that they believed would lead to nothing. Many were outraged while others were simply discouraged. Our teacher Mr. Frabizzio was so impressed by what students had to say that he invited Vice Principal Mrs. Short to speak with our class. When I asked him why he invited Mrs. Short, he said, “I wanted to ensure that student voice wasn’t limited to the questions available on that survey. I wanted to make sure that you had the opportunity to say everything that you wanted to say that wasn’t addressed by the survey.” Mrs. Short not only listened to us, but also shared some ideas of her own that she believes could change the school.
The idea that caught my eye was the “shadow day.” It basically entails that a teacher will be assigned to follow a student around for the day to understand what a school day is actually like for a student. Because at the end of the day, teachers don’t know what students are truly going through unless they experience it themselves. Mrs. Short elaborated, “As adults, we often talk about learning like it’s the same education we experienced, but things have changed. The shadow day allows teachers the opportunity to really see the day through the eyes of the students and open up conversations with them.” I volunteered to participate in the shadow day because with my three AP course-load and honors classes, I thought I could be a good representative of what a typical, rigorous Rye school day is like.
A few weeks later, I received an email from Mrs. Short that my shadow day would take place on Friday, October 19 with Mrs. Charles, an AP World and AP Art History teacher. I was both excited and hopeful about what the opportunity would bring.
When Friday came, Mrs. Charles sat in on my classes for the entire day, taking notes, writing down homework, and observing the life of a Rye High School student. By participating, she was able to see from the perspective of a student. Afterwards, Mrs. Charles told me how impactful the shadow day was to her understanding of a student’s life and schedule. She said, “My biggest takeaway was to gain more compassion for my students after getting a better understanding of how intense their days are. It also made me realize how little time or space kids are given just to relax and connect with their friends. It was a really great experience and I highly recommend it.” Mrs. Short added that the teachers who participated were able to see “how their classes very directly impact the lives of the students who sit in front of them every day.” Not only is it rewarding to hear that something positive resulted from my shadow day, but it was also a great experience getting to spend a day with a teacher that I wouldn’t have otherwise interacted with.
Although the shadow day was intended to be a learning experience for the teachers involved, I also felt like I learned a lot. Before the shadow day, I had many misconceptions about the proposed schedule change. I believed it was a block schedule that would double our workload when, in fact, it’s not. It’s actually more of a rotating drop schedule in which the school day has six 52 minute classes rather than eight 40 minute classes. Now knowing what the new schedule truly entails, I believe that it actually is an idea worth trying.
It’s important that students are educated about this potential schedule because so many have the wrong idea of what it is. There needs to be more outreach to the students, and the shadow day experience was just step one. As Mrs. Short said, “The hope is that it continues to promote focusing on students as the adults in the building have conversations around scheduling.”