Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Swiping Innovations: Jeremy Smith, Patrick Henry High School

As I look down and swipe the touchscreen of my new smartwatch, I am instantly reminded of how integrated technology is in our lives these days. Remembering back to my early days at Mechanicsville Elementary, I am reminded of trips to the library to use these things called “computers.” Now, two decades later, I’m carrying one around on my wrist. Watching students become absorbed into current technology has always fascinated me.  They are always finding more efficient ways to do things. They may not realize it, but they have access to an irreplaceable knowledge of these devices and the software that runs them, and with their help, Hanover County is going to see some major breakthroughs in technology over the next decade.

                Breakthroughs are happening every day, and in my second year of teaching English at Patrick Henry High School, I have witnessed this personally. The first day I reserved computers for my class, they came with a huge surprise. We opened up the doors of the cart and pulled the laptops out as we normally would. One by one, the students powered them on, each student carefully examining the device with which they were working. The first class noticed something peculiar about the laptops; they had a camera on the bottom. I will admit I initially had no idea why there was a camera on the bottom of a laptop. It was with true glee that my second class discovered the laptop could be folded in half and used as a tablet!

                Last year’s laptops were good, but there was something exciting about having a new set with touchscreens and extra cameras. Seeing the students flip the screens and scroll through word documents with a tap of the finger was one of those great moments in teaching where you know you’re reaching everyone in the room. Eventually, we began writing our essays and doing research for supporting strong arguments and theories, but that initial moment proved to me how important technology is to our students.

                Providing the most up to date hardware and physical technological innovations will always be a challenge, but providing the best software is equally as important. Things change on a daily basis, and we never know which smart board or tablet is going to affect student learning, but other integrated programs that improve connections and communication are what will matter more. Programs such as PowerSchool and Schoology are changing the way students can access their academic information in ways that have never been available. Students, parents, and teachers can all look at information in unison to ensure the best chance at academic success; along with those are other programs that can design entire houses or simply improve grammar while typing. Most importantly, these programs are providing students with exposure to the way computers will be utilized in their desired fields of employment.

                Real innovation though, lies not in hardware or software alone, but rather in how creatively and effectively they are used. By constantly updating knowledge and skillsets, teachers will be instrumental in helping students use all of the resources available to them. The tall task of being as integrated as the students must become is superseded by the necessity of delivering sound academic content. Though, both can be had with some creativity and a healthy amount of curiosity. By challenging ourselves to find different ways of doing things, we can open the doors for many different types of learners, making the pursuit all the more worth it.

                It is impossible to predict what technologies are going to be the most important to future generations, as they will be the ones to invent and perfect those innovations. Thankfully, I can report without a doubt that students are getting what they need. Little things like touch screens and academic software go a long way in providing relevant learning, and when I am able to synthesize classroom content into a technologically driven lesson, I know the students are accessing worlds that might not otherwise be available to them.

When the time arises that they need to use technology, they will be glad to find a familiar space previously discovered in a high school classroom. These computers, from laptops to smartwatches, have become as natural to them as a walk in the park. My only hope is that we will continue to embrace technology for the benefit of academia, and help usher in a new group of young and successful citizens. By bravely implementing the most up to date and available technologies in and outside of the classroom, a new age of learning will truly be available to all.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Rethinking Assessment: Dr. Stephen Castle, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

John Hattie’s work has been in the spotlight for educational leaders for nearly a decade.  When he published Visible Learning (2009), many educators learned that we are not getting the bang for our buck on a lot of the programs we hold in high regard.  It was an eye-opening publication that pushed a lot of leaders to reflect on the work we are doing and to assess the impact we are making with students.  (For more on Visible Learning visit https://visible-learning.org) 

One of Hattie’s mantras is “Know Thy Impact”.  Much of what he is saying can be summed up with one question, and it’s a question I often ask when I visit classrooms; How do you know the students are learning what is being taught?  Can they discuss with you the purpose for learning and what they need to do in order to be successful?  These might seem a little beyond the scope of some of our learners, but that’s the point Hattie is making.  When our learners are truly connected to the learning environment, they know the answer to these questions.  They can tell you why the information is important and what they need to do in order to be successful in learning it.

This is the direction we are attempting to move toward with assessments.  For years we have discussed the limits of multiple choice only assessments, but now we have the opportunity to assess students differently than we have in more recent years.  It is likely that you have heard about authentic assessments, performance-based assessments, project-based learning, learning portfolios, performance tasks, or simply performance assessments.  These labels of assessment styles are simply telling us that students need a more genuine way to show the skills they have learned.  It is a much better way for us to know our impact or to understand the level of mastery that our students have achieved. 

Hanover County has already started to work on our own performance assessments as we look to replace state assessments with a more authentic assessment tool.  This is not easy work and because of this, the state has not yet given timelines for completion.  I say this to encourage you to take risks as you think of how you might determine each student’s mastery in your classroom.  How do you really know what they know, and what assessment can you create that lets them show you in an authentic manner?  Is there a challenge they can overcome because of your teaching?  Do you have a way to connect them to an expert in the field as a resource?  How can you remove barriers to let them go further?  Does the format of the presentation matter at all?  These are just a few questions you may wrestle with as you begin to think of new ways to assess the learning in your classroom. 

We have been blessed in our county to have all of our schools reach full accreditation once again.  This blessing is also an opportunity.  It’s an opportunity for you to dig deeper into the content.  It’s a chance to explore new methods of teaching as you focus more on what students need in order to grow.  When you know your impact, you know exactly where you are making a difference in guiding students to their learning goals, and you know where they need additional support.  As you reflect on where you would like students to be, push yourself to discover new ways to make this happen and new ways to determine the effectiveness of your instruction.  If you make small changes each year, big differences take place over time.  Imagine where you can be in just a few years from now.

Dr. Stephen Castle serves Hanover County Public Schools as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction.  Having served previously a teacher, assistant principal, principal, Instructional Technology Resource Teacher, Educational Specialist (Research), and Director of Professional Development and School Improvement, Dr. Castle has experienced many opportunities to develop his perspective about working with students.  Dr. Castle has worked in education for more than two decades and still loves finding new ways to challenge students to think creatively as they find solutions to new challenges.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Importance of Feedback

“Hey dad, watch this!”  That’s a familiar line that I often hear from my kids when they are trying something new or have mastered something they are proud of achieving.  Similarly, I can also remember as a teenager looking to make sure that my parents were in the stands at my soccer or basketball games.  Afterwards, I would always seek out my father in particular to ask him how he thought that I had done.  He was always honest, and while I wanted a good report, I respected the times that he told me that I still had work to do in a particular area.

In the classroom, students value feedback as well.  Like all of us, they want validation when they have worked hard to improve a particular skill.  However, while they may not readily admit it, most also want to know both what they need to improve and how to go about doing it.

In an article by Marianne Stenger featured in Edutopia (https://www.edutopia.org/blog/tips-providing-students-meaningful-feedback-marianne-stenger), she highlights the importance of providing students with feedback and offers these simple suggestions in order to be most effective in offering feedback:

1.      Be as specific as possible.
2.      The sooner the better.
3.      Address the learner’s advancement toward a goal.
4.      Present feedback carefully.
5.      Involve learners in the process.

When examined more closely, Stenger explains that well-intentioned comments to students, such as “Great Job” or “Not quite there yet,” offer little to no value.  Thus, specific feedback is key.  This is true whether the student has mastered the content or not.  For instance, if a student has done an outstanding job, be sure to explain why you are so impressed and do so in a timely manner.  Otherwise, research suggests that students will not put feedback into practice when provided many days or weeks after the assignment.

Students must also understand how your feedback will benefit them long-term.  Demonstrating the connection between your input to a specific learning goal or class goal can assist in making it relevant to future work.  Finally, as the saying goes, “It’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it.”  In this context, perhaps it is what you say, but how you present the information is equally important.  Feedback should be presented in a supportive manner and, in most cases, provided one-on-one.  When students perceive the advice as constructive, as opposed to controlling, it usually aids in their growth.

When reflecting on these strategies, I believe they can work in multiple settings.  Whether interacting with adults, students, or even your own children, we all have a desire to know how we are doing and how we can improve.  Next time you hear, “Hey watch this,” remember someone respects you enough to seek out your feedback.  Don’t miss the opportunity to provide it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Commencement Address, June 2018

Good morning/afternoon/evening parents, grandparents, relatives, friends, distinguished guests, and most importantly, Class of 2018!  I’m honored to share in this special day of celebration and accomplishment with you.

You have taken the exams, passed the classes, and conquered the SOL tests.  In fact, you have succeeded in achieving every key academic challenge over the last thirteen years of your public education that has led you to this important moment.

Thirteen years.  That is a significant portion of your life spent in pursuit of one goal—a goal that you will reach very shortly.  I wonder, though, if you’ve ever stopped and thought, “What now?”  No, I don’t mean the more obvious responses, such as college, military, career, or even beach week.  I mean the question in a much larger sense, as in: “What does it all mean?”

Robert Fulghum wrote a book of short essays entitled, All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.  From the title, you might surmise that he is suggesting you have wasted the last twelve years of your life, and we could have held a similar ceremony when you were only five or six years old.  Although his message transcends this notion, Fulghum does, in fact, make a compelling case.  For instance, in one essay, he lists a variety of essential life skills that we learn.  The first ten go like this:

1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don't hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. Clean up your own mess.
6. Don't take things that aren't yours.
7. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
9. Flush.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

It’s hard to argue with any of this advice.  Will it be all that you need in order to be successful for the rest of your life?  Probably not.  I think that Fulghum’s larger point, though, is that the lessons we learned in our most formative years are applicable for a lifetime.  For many of us, we made some of the best memories of our lives while viewing the world through the lens of a child.  In the same book, Fulghum writes, I want to be 5 years old again for an hour. I want to laugh a lot and cry a lot. I want to be picked up or rocked to sleep in someone’s arms, and carried up to bed just one more time.”

Obviously, for him, those days were perhaps among his very best.  I, too, believe that we should strive to extend the innocence of childhood as long as possible, but I also feel that we can make incredible memories at any point during our lives.  When we were children, though, a wide range of emotions seemed more vivid and occurred with more frequency.  Perhaps, those who seek to reclaim their childhood, to be the Ponce de Leon in search of the fountain of youth, are really trying to recapture the vibrancy of life that is often experienced at a younger age.  What if we could do just that, though?  That is, experience life to its fullest every day.

The following setting is in stark contrast to an author reflecting on his childhood.  It was 1993 and Jim Valvano, former basketball coach at North Carolina State University, was accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the inaugural ESPYs.  He was also giving the final speech of his life that he knew was quickly coming to an end because of cancer.  The message he delivered that evening is among the most memorable of the last quarter century, and among the most impactful, as it launched his V Foundation for Cancer Research.  In several ways, it was reminiscent of Robert Fulghum’s desire to embrace the memories and simple lessons of his youth.  Coach Valvano said, “To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.”

Facing the end of his life, Valvano was trying to live every day to its fullest.  One might say, he appreciated it as a child might.  During the same speech, he joked about the fact that he was being given a cue to wrap it up so that the TV network could cut to the scheduled commercial break and get on with the show.  He continued speaking anyway, noting that those types of worries were no longer concerns for him.  It put things in perspective for all of those privileged enough to hear him, whether in person or on television, and, frankly, no one wanted him to stop.

Robert Fulghum was on to something in his book.  Kindergarten was a simpler time, with fewer cares and new experiences every day.  However, as important as that first year was, we do not learn everything we need to know in kindergarten.  So, what does it all mean?  It means that the 12 years that followed your initial year of schooling has molded you into the person you are today.  The lessons you have learned, the knowledge you have gained, and the experiences you have had can help you to approach life in a more meaningful way than when you were younger…if you will allow it to happen.

Now, as you prepare for the next chapter in your lives and begin to take on the mounting responsibilities of adulthood, I challenge you to take stock of what might appear important at the time versus those things that actually are important as Coach Valvano demonstrated.  Perhaps then, we can slow down enough to laugh, to cry, to think, and to experience many more of those “full days” that he was describing.  I also have to believe that some of those things that are truly important are the same timeless truths that Robert Fulghum described.  So, as you take your next steps, I also challenge you to play fair, say you're sorry when you hurt somebody, and take the time to enjoy some warm cookies and cold milk. 

Congratulations, Class of 2018.  May each of you enjoy many more full days, and may you impact others so that they may do the same.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zone: Caroline Bare, Hanover High School

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” ~Albert Einstein

The month of May is always bittersweet for teachers.  Over the last eight months, we built lasting bonds with students, developed engaging activities in the classroom, and collaborated with our peers.  By May, we are sprinting to the finish line (and waiting to hear that final bell).  As I near the end of my own race, May is the month I fear due to SOL and IB exams.  I know my students are prepared, but that doesn’t stop the second-guessing in my head on what I can improve for next year.  In moments of stress, I gravitate towards podcasts. After listening to the TED Radio Hour episode, “Comfort Zone,” I realized part of this end-of-the-year fear is beneficial because reflection leads to growth.  This podcast spoke about how we tend to linger in a “constant practice” zone, which is especially true for teachers.  Constant practice refers to the idea people find comfort in repeating the same routines (or in terms of teaching, the same learning strategies or assessments).  Our lives as teachers are busy and when we find something that works, why should we keep changing?  Our teacher’s toolbox might be differentiated, but is it evolving?  As we reflect these final few weeks before summer break, think about where you are today and where you want to be in a year.  How do we avoid the epidemic of plateau teaching, where we get comfortable with our “constant practice” and end up in a repeat/rinse cycle for years on end?
            In 2013, I fell into this trap.  I finished my tenth year of teaching and felt stuck, both personally and professionally.  I taught the same subjects for a few years and my days became routine.  Then one day I received an email about an opportunity to study in South Korea with a group of history teachers.  I immediately ran across the hall to a colleague and proceeded to go through all of the reasons why I shouldn’t apply.  Her response: “Do it.”  Every little alarm bell went off in my brain.  I was scared that my introvert self would have a hard time making new friends.  I was nervous about traveling to a country where I didn’t know their language or culture.  This fear made me realize how my students must feel sometimes. What are they going through each year walking into eight brand new classes?  After putting myself in my students’ shoes, I remembered how I’ve taken other leaps of faith in my life and ended up surviving.  I was such a risk-taker when I was younger, but as I’ve fallen into habits and routines as an adult, I forgot what it felt like to take a leap into the unknown. The two weeks I spent in Korea changed my life.  I discovered that even though you might feel uncomfortable from time to time, stepping out of your comfort zone is necessary and provides opportunities for growth.   On our only free day, I tackled the Seoul subway on my own (Google the map, it makes the NYC metro look like a breeze).  I was nervous but eventually made it outside of the city to witness life in a suburb, similar to where I live.  When I returned that night to the hotel and told the teachers what I did, I felt more confident to take leaps despite the risks.  Even in the midst of all this newness, I found myself drawn to my familiar haunts like Starbucks and Subway while in Seoul.  Sometimes all we need to do is set one new, challenging goal.  As we begin to reflect on our past school year (and daydream about not setting any more alarms for a few months), it’s time to explore opportunities to step out of our comfort zone.  Start small.  Kelly Pace said it best in her convocation speech with: “Try to do 1% better each day.”

Use the summer to try something new or explore a personal passion.  If you get a day to yourself, maybe even try and conquer a fear or weakness.  Think about a subject you struggled with during the school year and find a way to learn more through listening to a podcast, enrolling in a free online course, taking a road trip, or visiting a local museum.  Another opportunity for us to jump out of our comfort zone is through various professional development sessions centered around Hanover’s instructional goals for 2017-2018.  For the first time, innovation in teaching will be on display in our county’s #HCPSInspire Conference on August 14 with workshops led by creative and inspiring teachers.  If you are looking for more ways to support equity in the classroom, Allison Sampson-Jackson will be presenting “Trauma and Resilience Basics” on August 9.  We can all do more to provide more relevant experiences for our students.  This summer build your teaching toolkit with sessions on YouTube video curation, Infographics, Flipgrid, and many more.  Want to make connections with your colleagues while learning?  Take a field trip to the National Portrait Gallery, International Spy Museum, VMFA, or James River.  

            Most importantly, enjoy these last few weeks of school!  Sometimes we are so eager to reach the finish line that we fail to acknowledge the process of reaching that point.  We might have stumbled out of the starting gate, worried about how to juggle new preps or different personalities.  Mid-way through the race we might’ve hoped for a pause (or a small snow storm).  As we are rounding that corner towards the finish line, be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Remember though, another race lurks around the corner.  Who will you be when that starting gun sounds?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Follow Your Yellow Brick Road: Alicia Broughton, Laurel Meadow ES

As a small town girl from Upstate New York, there were a many traditions from my childhood that I still cherish today. As a family, we picked apples in the fall, watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade while we cooked Thanksgiving dinner, opened one gift on Christmas Eve, spent our summers in Alexandria Bay, and watched The Wizard Of Oz each time it came on television.  

As we were cleaning out our playroom recently, I came across our VHS copy of the movie and began reminiscing. There was something magical about waiting for it to air. Once a year, I watched Dorothy wonder if there was something new and better waiting for her. As she opened the door to a mysterious new land, she was mesmerized by a colorful world that would eventually challenge her to persevere despite setbacks and distractions. I immediately recognized a parallel between my favorite childhood film and the students in my classroom. Isn’t that exactly what we want for them? To be curious? To wonder? To to see things in different ways while challenging their existing thinking? To have experiences rich with color, depth, and complexity?

About a month ago, my own educational philosophy was challenged in the form of an article from Google. Based on their research (which shook me like a Kansas Twister), they asserted that STEM skills may not necessarily be as relevant to team success as the “soft skills” like cooperation and trust. How could this be? I had spent the past four years focused on transforming my classroom into a STEM space for our school to use. I had shared my experiences, hurdles, and resources across the division and at the state level, asserting we were preparing our kids for the future. Last summer I worked closely with my colleague and friend, Cammie Gemmill, and the STREAM Team at South Anna to help them define STEM and innovative teaching practices for their Innovation Studio. The Google article had me questioning whether or not what I had been doing was best for my students. Had I gotten it all wrong?

I spent some time soul searching and reflecting about my practice, and I came to a resounding and honest answer - no. I believe that the pedagogy behind STEM learning is still relevant because I’m not necessarily teaching my students about design and engineering so they can grow up and become engineers. If a student leaves my classroom wanting to be an engineer, that is a bonus! Like you, I am passionate about giving students relevant learning experiences. I want them solving problems, being flexible enough to adjust their ideas, working cooperatively in teams, and having grit and perseverance when things don’t go as planned. STEM lessons are just one route along the yellow brick road to my Emerald City - a harmonious classroom environment where innovative teaching and learning takes place.

Where does STEM, Technology Integration, Relevance, Soft Skills, the 5C’s, Servant Leadership, Growth Mindset, SCRUM, Mindfulness, etc. fit into our day to day classroom routines and grade level curriculums? The answer is everywhere, because that’s what innovation is truly about. Innovation is not “instead of,” or in “addition to” what we’re already doing each day. George Couros, from The Innovator's Mindset, said it best - “Innovation is not in lieu of best practice. The two should be connected.”  As educators, we should “be comfortable with not-knowing, but also have an urgency and sense of wanting to find out.” Similar to Dorothy leaving the safety, peace, comfort of her home - and like the characters from my childhood, I want to continue to find adventure with my students. By keeping an open mind and a sense of hope, we can focus not on the HOW, but the WHY of every lesson. Are we teaching students soft skills like resilience, self confidence, trustworthiness and social grace to be successful later in life? Are we providing opportunities for creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking? If you're doing this each day, then how they get there is completely up to you.

Do I get it right all the time? Absolutely not. Dorothy trusted her new found friends to get her to the Emerald City, the same way I lean on trust my knowledgeable colleagues, my Gifted Resource Team, and my PLN on Twitter and Instagram almost daily for inspiration, lesson ideas, and encouragement. Like the Cowardly Lion, we can be brave despite our fears about innovative teaching practices, even when we don’t know the exact outcome of a new idea. We are fortunate to work in a school division that values innovation and trusts us to let go of traditional classroom norms in order to provide students with a relevant, equitable experiences. They understand that just like the Scarecrow had a brain all along, the students do as well; they just need the opportunity to problem solve, think at higher levels, and to be creative.

I encourage you to follow the yellow brick road that leads to student success in your classroom. Whether you tackle new strategies, try a STEM lesson, learn a new instructional technology, or focus on building soft skills, take lessons from the Scarecrow, Tin Man, or Cowardly Lion. Successful teaching and learning takes place when we have brains, passionate hearts, and the courage to step outside our comfort zone. Just like Dorothy, we have the “power all along” to make a difference in the lives of our students - even amongst the flying monkeys and fields of poppies. I have a new perspective on teaching and learning because of my journey and remaining true to what I know and believe as an educator. Is there a rainbow for each of us out there? Of course there is - because at the end of the day, we do what’s right for our students.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Reflections on Shadow A Student Day

On February 23rd, several school and division administrators participated in the Shadow a Student Challenge.  This nationwide program is designed to encourage administrators to immerse themselves in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms to truly see “school” through the eyes of students.  I spent my day at Stonewall Jackson Middle School shadowing an 8th-grade student.  Being around 8th-grade students was certainly not a new experience for me.  I taught 8th graders for many years, and my son is presently an 8th grader, so having 13 and 14 year-olds in our home is commonplace.  Yet, prior to this experience, I can’t honestly say that I had ever put myself in the shoes of a student for a full day since I was a student many years ago.  I found the experience to be fascinating, as well as a good reminder that being a student can be stressful.

I saw some truly fantastic students, educators, and staff, and I enjoyed my time immensely.  The memories of trying to get to a locker before the bell rang, getting through the lunch line, and even getting “out” in a kickball game came back to me quickly.  It was more than that though.  Hearing student conversations, understanding what responsibilities they had at home, learning about the pressure of multiple assessments, and simply staying fully engaged for 7 ½ hours (even with rich instruction) helped me to see them more authentically.  After the day was over, all administrators who participated gathered at the School Board Office to debrief and share our experiences.  A new appreciation for our students and teachers alike was the predominant theme.

This activity served to augment the various and deliberate ways that we solicit input directly from our students.  We have expanded student advisory group meetings.  We have purposely added students to division committees when studying a new concept or possible policy changes.  Additionally, professional development opportunities include stressing student “voice and choice.”  What I have learned through all of this is that our students have a lot to say, and their advice is often wise beyond their years.

I have learned that our students crave hands-on experiences.  They crave knowing how new skills can be transferable and used in multiple settings.  They crave being asked their opinion on matters as opposed to only being told about someone else’s opinion.  They crave having input into how they learn, how they are assessed, and how they can demonstrate mastery.  They may not use this exact terminology all of the time, but I have also been surprised to learn that many times they do.

As I reflect, I often think of my days as an 8th-grade teacher.  I ask myself, “How many times did I ask a student how they learned best as opposed to how I am most comfortable teaching?”  I ask, “How many times did I give students a choice in how they demonstrated mastery?”  And, finally, “How many times did I ask for candid feedback on how I was doing with imparting the information that they needed to be successful?”

The honest answer to all of these questions is—not enough!  The inconvenient truth is that sometimes the way that students best learn and the techniques that may lead to more engagement may be at odds with the methods that make us (as adults and educators) the most comfortable.  Further complicating things is the fact that no single teaching style works best for all students.  As with any new endeavor though, it is possible to start small. 
For instance, using a learning styles inventory at the beginning of the year, offering multiple options for a class project that allow for more choice, or simply becoming more attuned to how many questions we ask versus how many questions we allow students to ask.  These are just a few simple ways to begin the journey into increased voice and choice for students.  As with anything new, letting go of the reigns a bit and changing direction may be difficult at first.  However, this shift becomes increasingly more comfortable with repetition and often results in students who appreciate the academic freedom extended to them.  Accordingly, this yields increased engagement, learning, and retention. 

The Shadow a Student Challenge was truly an eye-opening experience for me.  I was reminded of how quickly we can forget what it is like to be a modern day student.  I learned that similar to adults, students want to be heard, respected, and have some degree of input into the direction of their day and lives.  They also appear to want adults to take the time to appreciate the many challenges in their lives that may look very different than when we attended school.  By doing this and seeing the world through their eyes, we can strengthen relationships and achieve greater academic growth.