This spring Goochland County Public Schools leadership answered the call to “Shadow a Student”, with twelve senior leaders taking a day to walk in the steps of our students throughout the division. The “Shadow a Student Challenge” was developed by the School Retool initiative, a professional development fellowship that “helps school leaders redesign their school culture” toward cultures of deeper learning through creating a community of change (http://shadowastudent.org/).
GCPS leaders, including Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Raley, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. Steve Geyer, and members of senior leadership from operations, instructional technology, finance, CTE, and exceptional education were paired with a student for a day as partners and observers. Staff members rode the bus to school with students, ate lunch, sat in on classes, and discussed the student experience.
Mrs. Debbie White, Director of Finance, spent the day at the Goochland Elementary Preschool Program. “After boarding the bus at Byrd Elementary at 7:45, I spent the day watching the teaching staff work tirelessly to engage each child with their very unique needs and observing how much they cared about each child. The adults were quick to cover for each other whenever it was needed to meet those needs. It is difficult to comprehend just how much work is done for our students unless you walk in their shoes”, she said.
Mr. Andy Armstrong, Executive Director of Business Operations, described his day at Randolph Elementary. “In my 13 years as an administrator, I have spent a lot of time making 30 minute observations, meeting with staff, talking about teaching, and engaging with students, but nothing compares to seeing things from the student perspective the way I did as a shadow”.
Lydia, partner student for Mr. Armstrong at Randolph Elementary
GCPS leaders who participated in the Shadow a Student challenge debriefed about their experiences and continue to integrate their observations into planning for continued deeper learning in Goochland classrooms as defined by School Retool: mastering rigorous academic content, learning how to think critically and solve problems, working collaboratively, communicating effectively, directing one’s own learning, and developing an academic mindset — a belief in one’s ability to grow.