Administrators from Milpitas Unified School District were among more than 1,700 leaders from 50 states and 56 countries who participated in the Shadow a Student Challenge. Norma Rodriguez, Assistant Superintendent of Learning & Development; Trisha Lee, Principal of Zanker Elementary School; and Chin Song, Director of Technology, talk about what it was like to pack a backpack, throw on sneakers, and immerse themselves in a high school student’s life for a day.
1. Why did you decide to participate, and what were your hopes for the challenge?
Norma: I decided to participate because I am intrigued by the data for African American students, specifically males, and wanted to know what is like for them to be at school. I wanted to really walk in their shoes for one day.
Trisha: I have worked as either a teacher or administrator in our Milpitas Unified School District elementary, middle and high schools. My work has shifted with a focus on equity and I wanted to take this opportunity to return to the high school level to better understand the learner’s experience.
Chin: As a former high school teacher, it was important for me to connect with students in this way rather than as a district person observing a classroom or supervising. My hope was to get a different perspective from the shoes of the student and to gain greater empathy.
2. Why do you think this challenge is so important?
Norma: We look at data all the time, and we are encouraged to make data-informed decisions. However, the numbers represent real students with real lives, aspirations, fears, challenges etc., and I wanted to take the time for one day to have the opportunity to get closer to the student and learn more about those dreams and aspirations.
Trisha: Not only does this gives us us a different perspective but also more opportunity to develop empathy and understanding. I truly feel this should be a practice of all MUSD employees.
Chin: Shadowing a student allows a deeper connection and understanding - beyond anecdotes and data. It also allows us to see teaching in action and experience the conditions that contributes to our students’ successes and failures.
3. What would you like people to know about what you took away from the day?
Norma: The need for our teachers and every administrator to shadow a student and ask students what is like for them to be a student in this era of immediate gratification.
Trisha: Administrators, teachers, support staff, classified and certificated need to shadow students of their own and different grade levels. We are a UNIFIED school district.
Chin: Let’s set a goal to get 100 percent of our students to be successful. 100 percent of our students should have the ability to live a prosperous life here in Silicon Valley if they so choose to do so. The students who I spoke with shared their concern about their future of leaving their home (not by choice) for the lack of knowledge, skills, and competition. Let’s get our students more than competitive!