During the week following students’ return from Winter Break, Friendswood ISD District leaders were asked by Superintendent Thad Roher, who also participated, to shadow a student for part of a school day. Roher said he asked administrators and principals to participate in the activity in order to better understand students and what they go through while at school.
“We are learning together about components of authentic learning together and had brainstormed how learning should look, feel, and sound in an FISD classroom that fits our call to action,” Roher said. “I thought that asking our team to walk through a day and experience a day through the eyes of a student would provide an experience to measure our celebrations and challenges of our desired transformation of learning.”
Each District leader picked one student to shadow at random. Typically, the staff member would start by getting to know his/her student and ask questions like, “How do you like school?” and “What do you think could be better about school?” Then, they would then continue getting to know the student as they traveled from class to class, following the student’s schedule. The principals shadowed a student from their own campus, while central administrators opted to spread out throughout the District.
From learning about the transfer of energy in a Friendswood Junior High science class to hearing open conversations between a teacher and her students about the ways to tackle difficult word problems in math, the staff were able to learn about curriculum while also learning about the learning challenges both students and teachers encounter. When the group reconvened on Jan. 14 to discuss what they had learned, it was obvious that the assignment had been eye-opening for all of them.
“Viewing FISD through the student lens was a great way to remind us all of our ‘why’ and open our eyes to opportunities to better serve students and teachers within our sphere of influence,” Ashley Adair, executive director of the FISD Education Foundation, said.
Chief Financial Officer Amber Petree agreed.
“Shadowing a student gave us the direct knowledge of what a student experiences each day,” Petree stated. “The feedback [from students] gives us an opportunity to make changes to our approach in leadership to empower our teachers to provide engaging and authentic experiences to our students.”
Creating engaging and authentic experiences is part of FISD’s beliefs within its strategic plan.
Belief 11 of the FISD strategic plan states, “We believe relevant, authentic, engaged learning provides the best opportunity for true growth.” This is what District leaders said they are hoping to accomplish by observing classes to best meet students’ and teachers’ needs.
“Shadowing was a good exercise for constructional leaders because it gives them the learning perspective from the student’s point of view and the opportunity to make small and large changes in instruction,” Windsong Principal Guerra said. “It also provides connections for the leader who is not in the classroom daily.”
District leaders said the assignment was a positive experience that made them even more excited to continue making FISD the best school district in the area.
“To live a day in the life of an FISD student and take in their experience inspires and ignites our passions to create authentic and engaging opportunities for all students,” Lauren Ambeau, executive director of teaching and learning, said. “It’s our obligation.”
The District leaders said they plan to continue to fulfill their obligation to the students by continuing to put themselves in their shoes in order to provide the best possible learning experience for students of all ages.