Teachers who have been in the classroom for more than fifteen years might find themselves disconnected from the lives and experiences of their students. Mrs. Scioli, Social Studies teacher at LRHS, noticed and decided to bridge this gap.
Because of her current student teacher, Scioli was free to spend a day in the shoes of a student without leaving her classes unattended. “I wanted to follow a real student’s schedule,” Scioli explained. “But it made sense to follow my strengths in humanities, and not the fine arts and math.”
Her schedule consisted of Biology with Mrs. Dobbin, English 12 with Mrs. Dinkenor, Art II with Mr. Espinal and Spanish II with Senor Ross.
For most classroom instructors, teaching methods are gained by observing other teachers’ interactions with students. Since Scioli’s days as a student, class procedures and techniques have changed drastically. “When I graduated high school, we had six periods a day. There were very few handouts and class time was very teacher-centered. Because the school day is so different, I want to learn what education is like for today’s student so that I can better connect to my audience,” said Scioli.
The experiment took place on Monday, April 16. But even before the late bell rang that morning, Scioli was already feeling the stress of a student. “I picked up my homework ahead of time so that I wouldn’t be as lost in class on Monday,” said Scioli. “But I left my assignments at school over the weekend. By Sunday night, I was very stressed.”
Scioli arrived on campus early Monday morning in an attempt to catch up before classes began.
Teens and adults sense danger in very different situations. For students, most situation perceived as “dangerous” are those involving peer judgment. Even as a student for one day, Scioli felt these same pressures. “I found myself worrying about and remembering the fear of peer judgment,” said Scioli. “I asked myself, ‘What will I wear? Is my backpack okay?’”
Tuesday morning, Scioli reflected on what she had learned from her day as a student. “The big difference [between teachers and their students] is control. When you’re the teacher, you don’t have stress on Sunday night because you know what is going to happen in class the next day. As a student, it feels like you’re in a car going 100 miles per hour and you don’t know where it’s headed,” said Scioli.
After becoming acclimated to the technologies available to education, Scioli found her handwriting skills a bit worse for the wear. “I basically only use email and computers to do my job now,” said Scioli.
Adding to the technology boom, Scioli was surprised by the resources and support available to students. “[Students] have access to wikis, powerpoints, websites for genetic analysis… everything!”
Not only was Scioli surprised by support offered by teachers, she did not expect for students to be accommodating to an outsider – namely, Scioli. “I was welcomed into groups, invited to lunch, even invited to Prom!” said Scioli.
After one day in the shoes of a student, Scioli had reaffirmed her ideas about teaching for today’s student. From Mrs. Dobbin, she learned an effective way to control students who make inappropriate comments without causing that student embarrassment. “The key is to raise them to a higher level by saying something like, ‘You know better.’ The student realizes that they do and usually settles down.”
Mrs. Dinkenor, Scioli’s senior English teacher for the day, managed to keep a room full of seniors focused in class (despite both the time of the year and day of the week) by initiating discussion and group activities. Senor Ross employed the tactics of a fast paced class, giving students no choice but to stay on top of their work and pay attention to the lesson at hand. “I learned a lot of Spanish in just ninety minutes,” said Scioli. “I was surprised at how much came rushing back to me.”
The purpose of Scioli’s “day as a student” experiment was to assure that students were being educated in the best ways possible. Not only did her concerns disappear, but she was able to see first hand that teachers were doing their jobs – and performing them well. “The kids are alright,” Scioli said with a smile.