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Hiding in the Shadows: Project 180, Day 102

What would we find? What would we learn? If we stepped into our students’ shadows for a single day, how would that change the way we see the world? How would it change the way we teach the world? I suspect it would change it in ways beyond our current capacity of comprehension, for we would be stepping away from our narrow views of learning and learners, both on which we believe we have shed and shone sufficient light, claiming to know the right and the way, but what if that light is merely exposing that which we have sought, that which we have named? What if the “right and the way” lies beyond the light? What if it exists not in the lights we shine, but in the shadows they cast? And what if we stepped into the shadows? What would we find? What would we learn?

I don’t know, but the idea of the discovery is fascinating to me. Yesterday, I came across the article Shadowing a Student: Reinventing the School Experience in the Twitterverse, and it caught my attention, and it hasn’t let go. The article is a quick and worthwhile read. Apparently there is a global “Shadow a Student Challenge” right around the corner (see below). I am going to try to find a way to make this happen for myself, even if I have to take a personal day. But bigger, I want to find a way to make it happen on a grander scale. I think it should be something that all educators (teachers, principals, superintendents) do. More, I think it should be something we are required to do once a year.

The global Shadow a Student Challenge (designed by School RetoolIDEO, and Stanford’s can be particularly helpful and enlightening as it provides methods (including a free toolkit) and a network. The Shadow a Student Challenge is a journey that starts with seeing school through a student’s eyes, identifying opportunities to improve the school experience for students, and then taking action to create change. The Shadow a Student website provides resources that help to ensure that the shadowing experience will be meaningful, including email templates and permission slips. There are tips for creating learning goals for the shadow day, choosing a student, and coordinating with the student, parents, and staff.

The challenge is open to all school leaders – at any school, anywhere in the world. In 2016, 1765 education leaders signed up from 15 countries. In 2017, 2098 education leaders signed up from 67 countries. At my school, we have modified the challenge by asking classroom teachers to shadow a student for two lessons, including contact before school and during recess and lunch, and then coming together to reflect, debrief and plan next steps.

There is an open invitation to join the 2018 challenge, which will run from February 19th to March 2nd. Spread the word to your networks, and remember to share about your experience on Twitter and Instagram with #shadowastudent!


In my district, we are working on a number of initiatives to improve our kids’ learning experiences, and in that work we are shedding light, but that, too, means we are creating shadows. What if we found not only the courage but the means to step into those shadows? In education, we talk a lot about the necessity of keeping students at the center of our decision making, and while I think we make concerted efforts in that regard, I think that our efforts fall short because we never really put them at the center. This it seems is a way to truly make that happen. I am going to email this post to all the administrators in my district. I am going to challenge them to consider the possibilities that this opportunity could have on our work. Unconventional? Yes. Many logistics? Too many. Possibility of a profound impact on the lives of our kids? Beyond measure. Difficult? Absolutely. But that’s why we should do it. We can stay in the light where we find comfort and familiarity, or we can step into the shadows where we may find what truly matters. Never know if we never try. Let’s, together, find what’s hiding in their shadows.

Today’s Trail

Along today’s trail we will…

…begin with Smiles and Frowns.

…Finish Life is Beautiful and share what we found through our lenses.

…end with a Sappy Sy Rhyme.

Happy Wednesday, all.

Do. Reflect. Do Better.


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