Grant Wiggins, a renowned educator, writer, lecturer, and (and blogger) published this must read and has now gone viral blog post back in October of 2014.
We at Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP) Mayoral Academy were inspired. A group of us shadowed our scholars to see if our academic vision actually aligns with what our scholars experience every day, in the day-to-day. Our network team, which supports teachers and scholars across four schools-- two elementary, one middle, and one high school-- split up by school and paired with scholars from a range of academic abilities. The idea was to see if the “scholar experience” varies by grade and/or other factors. Parents and teachers were notified that our team would be observing with this purpose in mind, and it was emphasized that the observations were not evaluative in nature. At the end of the process, network leaders came together to debrief what they observed.
The takeaways, some of which are highlighted below, mirrored some of those originally reported in the original post. Others are more specific to BVP as a community. Although the observations were not evaluative, our debrief was structured to outline the positives and perceived areas of growth, filtered through the eyes and perspectives of the scholars we shadowed.
Areas of strength:
- Teachers were overwhelmingly supportive, positive, and patient and provided a lot of individual attention to scholars overall.
- Classrooms felt inclusive, even when it was apparent that teachers needed to address behavioral concerns.
- Scholars were engaged in learning, even when there was downtime.
Areas of growth:
- Teachers talked more than scholars talked.
- In elementary grades, there were a lot of transitions between lessons and content taught. On the flipside, in the older grades many of us took less than 2,000 steps the entire day (yes, we measured!).
- Teachers were attentive to scholars who required additional support, but more can be done for high achieving scholars to ensure they remain challenged.
We also walked away with the following questions/ pushes for our work:
- How do we celebrate/leverage all types of diversity to engage kids?
- How do we interact with scholars with whom we have close relationships versus how we interact with other scholars?
- How do we get kids to talk to/ engage with one another more during the school day and class time in meaningful ways? How do we get them to relate to one another and build relationships?
This process reaffirmed much of the work our team has done to address areas of growth. It also allowed us the opportunity to pick up on the more nuanced areas that only the opportunity to “walk in someone else’s shoes” affords. It was particularly powerful to shadow scholars during transition periods rather than simply popping into classrooms, which is how observations are traditionally structured. This “shadow” vs. “observe” distinction is an important one.
To read my personal experience of shadowing, check out my guest entry on Grant's blog.