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Feature Story: A Day in the Life of a Student

What would it be like to walk in the shoes of a stu­dent for a day?

We were for­tu­nate enough to talk with David Noble, Prin­ci­pal of Aus­tralian Chris­t­ian Col­lege (ACC) Hobart who took part in the Shad­ow a Stu­dent Chal­lenge in June. The Chal­lenge is part of an ini­tia­tive called School Retool, a pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment fel­low­ship that helps school lead­ers to redesign their school cul­ture. This chal­lenge gives lead­ers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to expe­ri­ence what it’s like to be a stu­dent for a day, some­thing often con­sid­ered, but rarely experienced.
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Hel­lo David,

Can you please pro­vide us with some back­ground infor­ma­tion around why you decid­ed to under­take this adven­ture and describe for us your expe­ri­ence being a stu­dent for a day?

ACC Hobart decid­ed to par­tic­i­pate in the inter­na­tion­al Shad­ow a Stu­dent Chal­lenge, where prin­ci­pals and teach­ers from around the world are invit­ed to spend a day shad­ow­ing the activ­i­ties of a school stu­dent. Indi­vid­u­al­ly I thought it would be fas­ci­nat­ing to get an inside look at school life from a student’s point of view. I want­ed to get to know the stu­dents on a dif­fer­ent lev­el. I thought it would be par­tic­u­lar­ly ben­e­fi­cial to get to know one of the stu­dents that have come from anoth­er school this year and that I haven’t got­ten to know as well as some of the oth­ers that have been at ACC for longer. I was inter­est­ed in expe­ri­enc­ing the deliv­ery of the cur­ricu­lum and how it might have changed from when I was at high school. I espe­cial­ly want­ed to see what the blend­ed learn­ing mod­el of tech­nol­o­gy and teacher deliv­ery that we use at ACC was like. I want­ed to see how the use of lap­tops enhances the over­all learn­ing envi­ron­ment. Final­ly I want to get a deep­er under­stand­ing of the learn­ing envi­ron­ment at ACC Hobart. 

What were some of the most sur­pris­ing dis­cov­er­ies from your experience?

I was pleas­ant­ly sur­prised that there was­n’t a lot that we should change. I thought the cur­ricu­lum was clear­ly pre­sent­ed. The blend­ed learn­ing envi­ron­ment was suc­cess­ful. I found that the lessons were clear, well struc­tured, inten­tion­al and fol­lowed a com­fort­able pat­tern. The con­tent on Can­vas (the learn­ing man­age­ment sys­tem) real­ly com­pli­ment­ed the rest of the les­son and rein­forced the intend­ed learn­ing out­comes posed by the teach­ers. There was a high lev­el of engage­ment from stu­dents in the class, more than I can remem­ber at High School back in the eight­ies. I learnt that there was quite a bit of sit­ting and while the assem­bly was enter­tain­ing it was hard to sit with my legs crossed for an extend­ed peri­od of time, but per­haps that’s just my age. I real­ly enjoyed the Aus­lan class, I learnt the impor­tance of both using and notic­ing expres­sions when com­mu­ni­cat­ing in Aus­lan. I realised that sign lan­guage was not just use­ful, but lots of fun to learn.

Do you think tak­ing the time to do this has shift­ed your per­spec­tive? What were your key learnings?

Of course look­ing at things from a dif­fer­ent angle has got to adjust your per­spec­tive. I found that:

The pow­er of well pre­sent­ed and inten­tion­al­ly craft­ed lessons made the process of learn­ing much clear­er and pur­pose­ful. The impor­tance of hav­ing a clear learn­ing goal artic­u­lat­ed and then reflect­ed on at the con­clu­sion of the les­son was strong­ly reiterated. 

I learnt that the stu­dents and teach­ers at ACC work hard and are very focussed. 

There are few things we can do to improve facil­i­ties fur­ther. For exam­ple even though stu­dents were work­ing hard the room was echoey so we need­ed to lay car­pet squares in the Sci­ence room to increase noise absorption. 

Your first day at school can be a bit daunt­ing. Hav­ing some­one there with you to help you through was reas­sur­ing. I am won­der­ing if in the future, when new stu­dents start we could not only assign a men­tor stu­dent, but we could train up a few men­tor stu­dents so that the men­tor stu­dent could real­ly help new stu­dents know the rou­tines and com­mu­ni­cate spe­cif­ic pieces of use­ful infor­ma­tion. Sim­ple things like: Where to sit at lunch, where the best places to play are, how to nav­i­gate the LMS for the first time, where the toi­lets are and how to get to the office.

Would you encour­age oth­er school prin­ci­pals and teach­ers to have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to under­take this expe­ri­ence? If yes, why?

It was a great expe­ri­ence. I would def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend it. It was fan­tas­tic to see things from the stu­dents’ view point. I noticed that the stu­dents also found it quite moti­va­tion­al and enjoyed hav­ing a new stu­dent in the room even if he was a lit­tle bit old­er (well maybe a lot old­er). I thought expe­ri­enc­ing a whole day of lessons was valu­able, as often I vis­it a class­room for a short peri­od of time and only get a quick impres­sion of what is hap­pen­ing, but to be there from woe to go and expe­ri­ence the flow of a full day was dif­fer­ent. Things like when you start to get tired, what break times were like and the bus ride were valu­able to expe­ri­ence first hand.

Do you think there is any­thing that you will be chang­ing going for­ward, as a result of this experience?

I think we can con­tin­ue to invest in stu­dent facil­i­ties, espe­cial­ly eat­ing areas. I think con­tin­ued teacher train­ing on deliv­er­ing con­cise lessons with clear learn­ing inten­tions and then shap­ing lessons to flow towards mean­ing­ful con­clu­sions is extreme­ly valu­able. As men­tioned before, train­ing stu­dents to become expert men­tors so that the expe­ri­ence for new stu­dents on their first day can be described as not only friend­ly and wel­com­ing, but hav­ing clear direc­tions about some of the com­mon oper­a­tional expec­ta­tions from a stu­dent point of view.

Things I quick­ly recall from the day were:

1. That the blend of teacher instruc­tion, com­put­er deliv­ered con­tent and stu­dent inter­ac­tion to con­sol­i­date think­ing and over­all learn­ing was very well balanced.

2. The uni­form is comfortable.

3. The bus ride was a great time to chat.

4. It’s impor­tant to fol­low school rules like not hav­ing your phone in class”

5. That school yard down­ball is quite com­pet­i­tive, but extreme­ly fun!!

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