I’m a huge Star Wars fan and in thinking about my experience shadowing an 11th grade student, Diana Richard, I couldn’t help but think about the quote “The Force is strong with this one.” What a dynamic, caring, and outstanding young woman! The Force was not just strong with that one student….but with her peers, with the teachers, and within the school. “The culture is strong” would be an apt reference to my biggest takeaway from shadowing.
Walking in the shoes of a student gives one an opportunity to view the day-to-day interactions in a new way. As Diana said “Hi” to every student she passed and called them by name, the other students responded in turn. The best moment was when a student was walking by the classroom at the start of class and saw Diana, so she stopped and made a heart with her fingers in front of her chest before going on to the next class. I can’t remember the last time someone walked by me at work and was so excited that they made a heart-shaped symbol?
During the Help Desk in the morning, we had an opportunity to talk about what she liked best about school, what her favorite classes were, and what her goals were in the future. In P.E. class, we laughed as I tried to show my ‘mad’ skills in badminton during a tournament. At break, we hung out with all of the other juniors in the media center and I was schooled in professional wrestling and the students’ interest in watching that.
In math class, our teachers provided great scaffolding on our graphs, as we worked collaboratively in groups to work through the problems.
Before lunch, in English class we participated in a mock School Board presentation where two groups presented on whether or not to ban Huckleberry Finn.
As someone who has attended many School Board meetings over the last decade, this was probably one of the most educationally focused and friendly one I’ve ever witnessed!
After lunch, we analyzed some of the text of The Great Gatsby to determine evidence of Nick Carroway’s point of view and being an insider vs. an outsider.
In history class, we analyzed political cartoons from World War II to identify stereotypes, analogies, juxtaposition, captioning, and labels to get at the essential question of “What’s the human impact of war?”
While my biggest takeaway wasn’t necessarily the content presented as I have already analyzed The Great Gatsby, taught lessons on WWII political cartoons, mastered badminton and graphed math problems in my former life, the takeaway was the interactions that took place between the spaces of content. In each class there were opportunities for students to work collaboratively with one another, in pairs, in groups, and online. Teachers provided the perfect amount of support and scaffolds, like in the story of Goldilock (not too hot, not too cold, just right…). In each class, the teacher-student relationships created environments where students were willing to share their ideas, speak in front of the room, or even help the 40-something year old new student.
“In my experience, there is no such thing as luck” was what Obi-Wan told Han Solo after Han Solo claimed that there was no force controlling everything. I would agree with Obi-Wan that that it is not luck that creates such a warm, inviting environment that I experienced in my shadowing day, but a commitment of all members of the Nipmuc community in creating a safe, engaging, caring environment where “The Force is strong.”