Recently, more than 1400 educators from all 50 states and 30 different countries took the Shadow a Student Challenge.
They followed around a student for a whole day: riding the bus, working on science projects, doing jumping-jacks, eating lunch, performing in plays. All in the name of building empathy for what it’s like to be a student nowadays.
Ingrid Fournier, a 6th grade teacher in a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was one of them.
Mrs. Fournier says she was expecting the day to be a lot of “sit ‘n git.” In other words, there would be a lot of sitting around, with the teacher lecturing and pouring knowledge into students.
She says, at least at the 5th grade level, that wasn’t the case at all. “There was so much rich information that I couldn’t keep it all in my head,” Mrs. Fournier says.
And, Mrs. Fournier reports, there was little down time.
“As a teacher, I get prep time with a 30 minute block at some point during the day. I guess I didn’t realize how important that is to me…and to humans,” says Mrs. Fournier. She thought about kids who go home after school and close their bedroom door: they need alone time, like we all do.
The student Mrs. Fournier shadowed, 5th grader Nure Hamad, says she could use more breaks during the school day.
Looking back, Mrs. Fournier says she was shocked at how disjointed the classes were. And now she assigns little to no homework.
At the end of the day, a couple of students asked Mrs. Fournier how it went. “And I said ‘my frain is bried.’…They just all started giggling. And then one of my girls said ‘Well, welcome to our world.'”
The Shadow a Student Challenge is part of School Retool, a project of the Stanford d.school and Ideo.