My Monday began in a new fashion, where I found myself curious about how my day would be. There were no meetings to attend, lesson plans to review or phone calls to make.

Today was new and quite different because I was going to school to shadow a 10th grade student and experience what a day is like in the shoes of a Pascack Valley High School student.

I was nervous yet excited to experience high school again but this time through the lens of an educator. What would be my biggest takeaways and what would I do differently going forward after such a unique experience?

Takeaway #1: High School is Hard.

With a seven-period day and common lunch, I found myself exhausted at the end of the day and luckily there were no clubs or sports scheduled after school. In each class period, there were different expectations and I had to demonstrate my knowledge in a variety of ways. I found myself to be quite challenged in my chemistry class but at ease in Honors Spanish (naturally 🙂 Each teacher found different ways to connect his or her students to the goal(s) of the lesson and I appreciated the collaborative classroom dynamics but also rigor I encountered from each learning experience.

Takeaway #2: The LMS works.

Canvas, an LMS or learning management tool, was used in almost every class which made it easy to access documents or links needed for the day. With all of my teachers using the same tool, there was no second guessing where to go to find what was needed for the day or week. I had immediate access to all documents, videos, links, etc. that I needed and this was a relief. I didn’t have to spend time searching or wondering where teachers placed our tools, it was simple to access and made me feel comfortable, being that it was my first time in that class.

 Takeaway #3: Our Kids are Happy.

Throughout the day and in my discussions with my new peers, students were positive and had comments of content/happiness with their high school experience. Students were open and honest about their schedules, exams and upcoming deadlines. It made me consider the mental wellness initiatives that the district has explored and the Wellness Centers made available to the student body and also the unique schedule. I appreciated seeing how the students respected their teachers and were able to joke around with many due to their comfort with the individual. It was clear that students felt at ease as we all shuffled together throughout the day and the rhythm that it is to be a PV high school student. It is a unique rhythm filled with opportunity, challenges, and comfort. 

As my day came to an end with the dismissal bell at 2:51pm, I began to process what I had experienced. I thought a lot about each of the above takeaways and how we can continue to do our best for our students and their futures.

Classes that inspired creativity and collaboration were my favorite of the day. When I was able to put either my hands or brain to work, I felt that the class period truly flew by. Starting my day with Culinary Arts was certainly refreshing! The accessibility of content and information through the district-wide LMS assisted me locate what I needed and what I had to do. This provided me with both comfort and a sense of ownership/time management skills. And finally, knowing that the school culture that I experienced was both friendly and positive, I felt proud to be part of such a culture.

So, as an educator, create lessons which will inspire creativity & collaboration amongst your students. No more spoon feeding or lecturing, let them discover the knowledge needed and use it to problem solve, create or justify their findings. The best classroom experiences were the ones in which I was able to work with my peers and learn with one another. The teachers made me feel comfortable and helped to guide me. The collaboration piece was empowering and I appreciated the dialogue that I had with my “peers”.

Looking ahead, examine your own lessons from the lens of a student- How engaged would you be if you were experiencing your own class? Would you want to be a student in your own class?  Take time to build positive, trustworthy relationships with your students and make sure that they are in the forefront of each experience you create, each day.

It is easy to forget what life is like as a high school student. I encourage all educators to get back in the classroom and take time to see what life is really like, from behind that student desk.

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*A special thank you to NZ for her patience and assistance throughout my day. She is an extremely respectful, kind and diligent 10th grader. It was an absolute pleasure to shadow and learn from her.